The “Don’t say gay” bill. No. Really.

Yes. There really is a Gay Street in Knoxville, Tennessee. Will no one think of the geography students?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a child in possession of a word must be in want of a lifestyle.

Or something.

What I’m trying to say here is: Members of Tennessee’s state Senate appear to believe that if they can prevent educators from “discussing homosexuality” in schools prior to 9th grade, they will be able to prevent… what? People being gay? Children knowing that homosexuality exists? Gay people knowing that children exist? I’m not clear on what they think they’re actually going to accomplish, because it’s so fucking stupid that my brain has broken.

In fact, it’s even stupider than that, because homophobic, teacher-muzzling laws already exist in Tennessee. Behold:

A Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill that will prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality in kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms.

The measure (SB49) is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, who unsuccessfully pushed the same idea – nicknamed the “don’t say gay” bill – for six years as a member of the state House before he was elected to the Senate.

As introduced, the bill would have put into law a declaration that it is illegal to discuss any sexual behavior other than heterosexuality prior to the ninth grade.

But when it came before the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, contended current law already prohibits such instruction by deeming it a misdemeanor to teach any sex education that is not part of the “family life curriculum” adopted by the state Board of Education.

Tracy proposed an amendment to rewrite Campfield’s bill to require the Board of Education to study the issue and determine whether any teaching about homosexuality is occurring and, if so, recommend what should be done about it.

Campfield contends homosexuality is being discussed in classrooms. Spokesmen for the Board of Education and the state Department of Education told the committee they are unaware of any such activity.

The Tracy amendment passed over Campfield’s objections.

But then Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, proposed to change the Tracy amendment. The revision declares that, after its study to be completed by Feb. 1 of next year, the Board of Education “shall adopt” – as part of the family life curriculum – a ban on discussion of homosexuality in the same language used in Campfield’s bill.

That amendment was adopted, too, and the revised bill was then approved 6-3 and sent to the Senate floor. All no votes came from Democrats.

(emphasis mine, and if you live in Tennessee, please write to those Democrats to say thank you). (And by the way, I have to wonder if the Tennessee state Senate is also planning on tackling the actual-factual problem of kids yelling “gay” and “faggot” and “queer” at each other in hallways and locker rooms. Just, you know, curious).

Meanwhile up here in Illinois, just last week, my 6th grade son took part in this year’s National Day of Silence, in which middle- and high school students take a vow of silence for a day, “to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools.”

Which is to say: My 11 year old boy is smarter — and a frankly better human being — than the Tennessee state Senate.

Because in refusing to allow teachers to discuss the lived reality of millions of Americans (not to mention the lived reality of many other critters in the animal kingdom), these elected officials are not only denying reality on the scale of “the earth is flat, I say!” — they are being unutterably cruel. They are being bullies.

If you’re not LGBTQ yourself, close your eyes for a moment and imagine some central characteristic about yourself, something that you have known to be true your whole life — or think, perhaps, of the person you most love or admire, the person who allows you to be safe, or who inspires you to be your best self.

Now imagine a law passed for the express purpose of telling the world that that very part of you, or your love for that person, is so essentially wrong, so inherently immoral, that merely discussing it with children would damage them. Children must be protected from who you are.

Half of the folks with whom I blog at Angry Black Lady Chronicles are in the LGBTQ community, but I’m not among them. I’m just a straight person who thinks that treating people like dirt — that telling human beings that the mere knowledge of their existence is a threat to children — is stupid, is blind, is sadistic, is an affront to common sense and American values, and is, finally and frankly, ungodly.

The good news is that it’s also doomed to failure — Americans all around us are getting over their homophobia, shedding it as the old, ill-fitting skin it has become. Just yesterday, in fact, we learned that a majority of the American public now believes that gay marriage “should be recognized by the law as valid.”

But there are people for whom that change will not come quickly enough. Adults who grew up surrounded by hate, teenagers who are battling brutality every day, 3rd graders who are learning that they, their very selves, are despicable, unsupportable, insufferable, a threat to the common good. So awful, they cannot be given a public name until their fellow students are old enough to get into a PG-13 movie on their own.

As I’ve written in this space before, one excellent way to improve our society would be to see to it that fewer kids grow up scared and ashamed — and one excellent way to achieve that would be to stop behaving as if LGBTQ people should live their lives wrapped in self-loathing. Just as, you know, a start.

There is, however, some genuine shame that should be felt here, deep and in the bones — by every single hateful fool who voted in support of this bill.

These immoral buffoons should be well and truly ashamed of themselves.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.


  1. Darth Thulhu

     /  April 21, 2011

    Preach it, sister!

    And a happy Passover / Easter / Ridván to you, as well.

  2. dmf

     /  April 22, 2011

    for friday, the earth, and lovers of our vital natures:

    I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
    And what I assume you shall assume,
    For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

    I loafe and invite my soul,
    I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

    My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil,
    this air,
    Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
    their parents the same,
    I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
    Hoping to cease not till death.

    Creeds and schools in abeyance,
    Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
    I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
    Nature without check with original energy.


    Houses and rooms are full of perfumes…. the shelves
    are crowded with perfumes,
    I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it,
    The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

    The atmosphere is not a perfume…. it has no taste
    of the distillation…. it is odorless,
    It is for my mouth forever…. I am in love with it,
    I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
    I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

    The smoke of my own breath,
    Echoes, ripples, and buzzed whispers…. loveroot, silkthread,
    crotch and vine,
    My respiration and inspiration…. the beating of my heart….
    the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
    The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore
    and darkcolored sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
    The sound of the belched words of my voice…. words loosed
    to the eddies of the wind,

    A few light kisses…. a few embraces…. reaching around of arms,
    The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
    The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along
    the fields and hill-sides,
    The feeling of health…. the full-noon trill…. the song of me
    rising from bed and meeting the sun.

    Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned
    the earth much?
    Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
    Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

    Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin
    of all poems,
    You shall possess the good of the earth and sun…. there are
    millions of suns left,
    You shall no longer take things at second or third hand…. nor
    look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres
    in books,
    You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
    You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.

  3. Adam Browne LPN

     /  April 22, 2011

    Thank you for this post. Why some folks think that they are more or better than others is just baffling to me. We strive to be the best we can be and to have morons like these telling people that we are wrong and less is, quite honestly ungodly. The fact that this is coming from the belt buckle of the bible belt does not surprise me one bit. Keep the church out of my crotch.

  4. greennotGreen

     /  April 22, 2011

    People like members of the Tennessee legislature who voted for this deeply stupid bill are frightened by life, by its shades of grey, or, perhaps more appropriately, its rainbow colors. They are no different than fundamentalists everywhere who attempt to impose order on a world that is too complex for them. As a Tennessean, I am embarrassed by their repetition in another form of the Scopes Monkey Trial (Look! We’re from Tennessee! We’re really, really ignorant!), but I know that they’re trying to hold back the tide with a cardboard box. Ironically, this bigoted bill was approved in Nashville which has a thriving gay community.

  5. greennotGreen

     /  April 22, 2011

    Ooh! Just read the caption on the photo that accompanied this post. There’s a Gay Street in Nashville, too!

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