Think of the children.

You know what the world needs? Fewer kids growing up scared and alone.

Honestly. If we were to make that a real priority in our social struggles, I think that half of our troubles would fall away in a generation or two.

And you know what would really help with that? Less shame.

When kids grow up ashamed of themselves, it usually doesn’t play out very well later in life — for the adults they become, or for the world around them. Shame is a hell of a motivator, it’s true, but not necessarily in the right directions.

So the other day, over to the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan wrote a little something about the fact that President Obama’s safe schools “czar,” Kevin Jennings, is under attack by the GOP as a “radical homosexual activist.” Sullivan’s focus was on the editorial umbrage being taken by the Washington Times over the fact that Jennings wrote the forward to the 1998 book Queering Elementary Education.

Ok, so, first of all, full disclosure: I didn’t know. There is so much anger and umbrage being taken all over the place, what with the world going to the dogs and your whatnot, that I missed this one.

But now I know, and (aside from the fact that I sure as hell hope that Obama doesn’t cut Jennings loose), I have found myself thinking a lot about the passage that Sullivan quoted from the Washington Times piece (and no, I won’t be linking. They can get their own damn page views):

Mr. Jennings’ foreword explains why he thinks it is important to start educating children about homosexuality as early as activist-educators can get away with doing so. “Ask any elementary-school teachers you know and – if they’re honest – they’ll tell you they start hearing [anti-homosexual prejudice] as soon as kindergarten.” And “As one third-grader put it plainly when asked by her teacher what ‘gay’ meant: ‘I don’t know. It’s just a bad thing.’ “As another author in the book notes: “Any grade is ‘old’ enough [for the proper education] because even five-year-olds are calling each other ‘gay’ and ‘faggot.’

And that’s the bad thing about this Mr. Jennings, apparently.

Here’s the thing: What kids do matters. How kids talk, about each other, about themselves, and about the world around them, matters. And if a gay kid, or a kid who might be gay, or a kid who has a two moms, or a kid with a gay uncle, hears “gay” used as a pejorative all the fucking time, that kid will get one message, loud and clear: “Gay” is bad — indeed, it is laughably bad.

It matters that we raise children to become good adults, but it matters first that they be good children — we need to teach them to treat each other well, at every age and stage. I know that the right would have us believe that conversations about gay people are conversations about sex (and nasty sex at that), but they are, in fact, conversations about love, and identity. Who you are is who you are. And our children need to learn that shaming people for who they are is a bad thing — and the sooner, the better.

A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, my son told me that last year (when he was 9), someone in the school library said “That’s so gay!” — and he told the kid to cut it out. I almost fell over from the pride.

Our kids can be part of the problem — or they can be part of the solution. They don’t need to talk about sex, to learn that there is no shame in being who you are. They don’t need to be introduced to topics beyond their ken, to learn that kindness and acceptance are the building blocks of a healthy society.

And if we teach that, fewer kids will grow up in shame, alone, and frightened. And this country will be a much better place — a more perfect union — indeed.

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In a related matter, just look at this! 50 Years of Pentagon Studies Support Gay Soldiers.

I think my favorite line is this, from the 1988 study:

Studies of homosexual veterans make clear that having a same gender or an opposite-gender orientation is unrelated to job performance in the same way as is being left or right-handed.

Being left-handed was once considered unnatural and indeed “sinister” (go look up sinister – definition #4 in my American Heritage: “On the left side, left”). Children had their left hand tied down in order to force them to change to a more “natural” right-handed life. Is it possible that the day will come that gay people will actually just be treated like a somewhat rare kind of person, like the 7-10% of the population that is left-handed?

One has a right to dream.

(Full disclosure, again: I posted this information and my response to it earlier today, on Balloon Juice. So, I cribbed from myself, is what I’m saying).

3 Comments

  1. So THAT’S why I was jealous of my sister’s left-handedness: I wanted to be sinister!

    See what desires can be provoked by allowing the open display of such filth?

  2. Strange how language changes so fluidly. A little over a hundred years ago, to be “gay” was a good thing — you were happy, care-free, ebullient. Flash forward, and now “gay” has been imbued with negative connotations — it is considered unnatural, against the laws of Man and God, shameful. I wonder where the transition was made?

  3. Homosexuality is normal behavior. What is not normal, or at least should no longer be considered normal. is the villification of someones sexualty. Here in northern New England we have three states that have passed marriage equality legislation. So sometime in the future my girls will encounter kids from same-sex households and I want them to understand that love is love and having two moms or two dads is just as “normal” as having a mom and a dad. My wife and I just recently discussed this issue and we have decided to sit both of our daughters (2nd graders) and discuss this issue with them. I don’t think we are going to go into all of the “birds and bees” right now but some age appropriate discussion of same-same relationships is certainly in order. (Molly, my wife, has already introduced sex and the proper names for male and female genitalia.) This became an issue when my daughters and I were discussing why people get married, and one of them made an off-the-cuff remark that boys and girls get married and that it would be wierd if boys married boys and girls married girls. When I asked her why she thought that, she responded by saying something to the effect that she had only seen opposite sex marriages. They have a fairly small world right now. but it grows daily. I want them to know that just because they haven’t seen something first hand doesn’t mean that its wierd or wrong.

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