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Flawed Laws: Tennessee and Uganda

Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

Let’s get something straight here.  We’re straight.

We’re not gay, lesbian, transgender, bi, or questioning our sexuality in any way.

We’re the heterosexual people who discovered the person we married is gay, or the person we’ve been in a “significant other “relationship with forever is gay.  We’re not part of the “gay agenda” by a long shot.  In fact, for many gay people, we’re highly inconvenient.

It appears that our children may soon become highly inconvenient in Tennessee, if the bill to restrict teachers from mentioning homosexual lifestyles in grades K-8 passes the state senate.  Tennessee’s family life curriculum only mentions heterosexual lifestyles, and many parents, including straight spouses, want to keep it that way.  This  legislation takes it further, forbidding teachers, counselors, and school staff from speaking ABOUT the gay lifestyle.

Hmmm.  If the curriculum ain’t broke, why does the legislature see fit to “fix” it?  No one in Tennessee is teaching the gay lifestyle.  At present, children of gay and mixed orientation families can still come to teachers and counselors with family issues and be heard and counseled, even though they are in families that are outside the curriculum.  Bullies can be told to STOP bullying them for having a gay parent, and the reason can be discussed by the teachers and counselors whose job it is to end bullying.

Funny, no one is putting a muzzle on the bullies who make our kids lives miserable.  But when our kids want help because someone is hassling them for having a gay dad or a lesbian mom as well as a straight parent, well, no one can discuss the gay lifestyle with them – or with the bullies who persecute them.  HEY BULLIES!  FREE PASS!  YOU CAN TORTURE A CHILD WHO HAS A GAY PARENT AND NO ONE CAN TALK ABOUT THE REASON BECAUSE SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THOSE PEOPLE!!!!!

When  our kids have difficulty adjusting to their parents’ divorce because one of their parents is having sex with someone of the same gender, or adjusting to their gay or lesbian step parent’s house rules, will they be able to speak to a teacher about their problem – and have the teacher speak back?  Or will the teacher or guidance counselor be silenced by law from acknowledging the problem, because it’s not allowed to be discussed?  What happens when the other kids discover that a child has two mommies – and are told by their parents that they can’t play with that child – and this affects the playground?  Oh, teacher, mommy says I can’t play with him but I can’t tell you why.  Teacher, the other kids won’t play with me because I have two moms, or two dads.  Teacher, I went to my dad’s new house on Saturday and he has a new friend who sleeps in the same bed and it’s all so strange.

Silence by trusted adults tells our children that THEY are strange, and that they have an (cough cough, sputter, ahem!) UNMENTIONABLE family.

So those of us who are straight spouses and ex spouses of gay people, and our children, will just have to buck up and take it.  After all, this doesn’t happen to NICE people.  If your mom remarries a guy who is verbally abusing you, the school can help.  That’s a step family issue of course, and pretty common among NORMAL people. But if mom lives with a woman who is her lover who verbally abuses you, well, tough, kid, we just can’t talk about families like yours.  (Unless she’s sexually abusing you, then it’s open season of course) You could pretend your lesbian stepmom is your aunt, and then we can all be legal.

At least the lawmakers in Tennessee and the rest of the USA have not quite gone as extreme as Uganda’s parliament.  The Ugandan bill we told you about last October that would make it a crime punishable by death to be gay was supposed to be voted on today.  After over 2 million signatures on global internet petitions and a threat by the United States to withdraw foreign aid if it passes, the bill mysteriously disappeared from the agenda. Then it appeared rescheduled for Friday, minus the death penalty clause.

Imagine this:  Teacher, I don’t like the guy my dad is dating.  Well, ok son, we can fix that.  We’ll just hang em high.

OK, we know, that’s Uganda, not Tennessee.  But we wonder – if school counselors are muzzled from acknowledging the family life of students in informal situations, or directly addressing the cause of student distress over bullying or family dynamics, how much more violence, abuse, and harassment will continue against heterosexual  spouses and children of gay people without so much as a word to turn it away?

Yes.  We exist.  We really do.  And right now, we are not part of ANYONE’S agenda.

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Whose Agenda is This Anyway?

Posted by on Oct 8, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

The attention to pressures on young gay and lesbian people and on bullying in general in the past two weeks has been unprecedented. It’s clear that with the leadership of such media stars as Dr Phil, Ellen DeGeneres, and Anderson Cooper, colleges and schools will have a much more difficult time turning aside complaints, requests for room changes, and defending the policies they already have in place which are often ineffective.

We’ve also noticed a strange attitude that says that bullying isn’t just about gay people, it’s been around for years, but now only gets attention to  “further the gay agenda”. To that we say “Enough is Enough!”

Meantime, school boards, colleges and universities object to new oversight, because after all, they already have policies to prevent bullying or harrassment due to sexual orientation.  The policies in effect are clearly not working, and it is time to examine why that is so. Could it be that the procedures are so unclear that the students don’t know how to seek assistance? Could it be that the climate of fear, ridicule, and repercussion is so severe that students are afraid to report incidents, or feel that seeking help might further endanger their safety?

We believe that putting an end to bullying in general, and in particular the harassment of people who are gay or perceived to be gay, is not just a matter for the “gay agenda”. It is a matter that affects us all, and needs to be on ALL our agendas.

Straight spouses come to our organization for support with their own issues about having a gay husband or lesbian wife. However, those issues go beyond the relationship; they extend to family, to children. In our confidential settings, the following incidents are composites of stories that have been shared repeatedly by many:

  • A. A father comes out, and is open about his sexuality in the general community. He’s seen at school events with his new partner. Both of them come to parent meetings, football games, to show support of the middle school age son and daughter, who live with their straight mother. The son tells his father to never bring his partner to football games, because he hates him. While those are his true feelings in reaction to the divorce, the son is also getting razzed by teammates about being gay, just like dad.
  • B. A 20 year old girl feels she has to “warn” every guy she becomes romantically involved with that her mom is a lesbian, in a committed relationship. She loses a lot of potential relationships that way. Finally, she meets a guy who tells her he’s in love with her, not her mom. It’s a huge realization to her that she doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, or a “warning”.
  • C. A college freshman has profound anger over his parents recent divorce, and needs time to adjust to his father’s marriage to a new gay partner. College is a chance to get away from all the stuff in his household, and have a new start. He’s assigned a roommate who is openly gay, and realizes he isn’t ready to deal with gay culture and activity in his dorm room. He requests a room change and is lectured about homophobia. The room change is denied. He is given no options for alternatives. By the end of the semester, he has shut down so completely he flunks out.
  • D. A group of students target another student for “jokes”. They set up a series of “gay dates” to meet the student in public places or at his home, even though the student says he is not gay. Over a few days, the situation escalates, and when the student attempts to walk away, the group corners him physically so he can’t get away. The student reports the assault, which results in arrests. The student is afraid to report that the harassment is gay related. No one knows that one of the bullies has a closeted gay father with a history of spousal abuse. No one knows this, but no one asks the bullies what their problems are.

We believe it is time for every school, from preschool through university, to not only adopt rules against bullying and harassment, but to also specify that bullying, intimidation, and harassment of another student for their sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, or a family member’s sexual orientation is not to be tolerated. This needs to be specifically mentioned, not just swept away in a nicey nicey statement about “respect”.

We believe it is time for colleges and universities to effectively communicate their policies to their students. This means that students should know what the next step is AFTER they tell the RA who either does nothing or responds inappropriately. This also means that colleges should pay attention to WHY someone is bullying a gay student, and consider that the bully may indeed be gay, or struggling with unresolved issues toward a gay parent or sibling. It isn’t just “homophobia”.

We believe it is time for our world to end the of harassment and intimidation of gay people, their families, and those who are perceived as being gay as a human issue, not just a gay issue.

Safety, freedom, respect, healing, sanity.

That’s our agenda, and we’re sticking to it.

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