Sunday, October 17, 2010

Teacher Dismissed for Talking About Gay Marriage

the Daily Kos via AlterNet:

A gay student teacher was dismissed from a suburban Portland, Oregon, school after discussing gay marriage with a fourth-grader. Seth Stambaugh is enrolled in the Master of Education program at Portland’s Lewis and Clark College, the practicum of which had him student teaching at the Beaverton School District’s Sexton Mountain elementary school. As reported by KGWNews:

He was leading a writing lesson when a fourth-grader asked him if he was married. Stambaugh said no. The student then asked why. Stambaugh replied that it would be illegal for him to get married because he would be choosing to marry another man. The student then asked if Stambaugh hanged out with guys and he said yes.
Stambaugh was told that his comments were inappropriate, and Lewis and Clark was told that Stambaugh would not be allowed to return.
Beaverton School District spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler said that the district honors diversity, including sexual orientation. Wheeler said she could not talk specifically about the conversation, but noted it took place with “a fourth-grader, and that’s a nine-year-old.”

“We do not discriminate,” she said. The district has gay and lesbian employees and high school clubs that promote diversity, including sexual orientation, she said.
Sure. The district doesn’t discriminate, it just seems to think that young children need to be protected from knowing about something against which it doesn’t discriminate. Perhaps someone should ask Wheeler why the child’s age seemed relevant.


Right. This is, in fact, discrimination. Stambaugh got fucked. What's arguably more fucked up, however, is this unquestioned notion that there are just some topics and ideas to which children should not be exposed. Usually the taboo nature of such topics has far more to do with parental neuroses than it has to do with age-appropriateness.

Years ago, back in the early 90s when I was a student at the University of Texas, the school's gay and lesbian organization had a "kiss-in" event on the Main Mall. Simple concept: same sex couples would publicly kiss each other in order to demonstrate that social decorum disallows gay people from engaging in innocent activities enjoyed by straight people constantly, always, all the time. The student newspaper, the Daily Texan, played along, and the next day printed on the front page, above the fold, a photo of two men kissing each other for the event. Many students were outraged, and the letters-to-the-editor section was a place of indignant hetero-anger for nearly a week. "Why should we have to see this?" people wrote. "Sure, I don't care what they do in the privacy of their own homes, but this is obscene, and the Texan is just irresponsible for running such a picture." Or something to that effect.

Years later, a few years into this century, I saw Bill O'Reilly interviewing a lesbian activist of some sort, asking her why lesbian women were publicly kissing each other at WNBA games. Great response: "Well, Bill, they love each other." Bill acted as though she didn't understand his point, "I just don't know what I'm supposed to tell my kids about this stuff." She acted as though she didn't understand his point, "Tell your kids whatever you want, Bill." Then they cut to a commercial, and did not pick up the subject again after the break.

The point is that when gay people hold hands in public, or hug each other, or, god forbid, kiss each other in front of children, a substantial segment of the straight population here in the US reacts as though they had seen men wearing nothing but leather chaps pull out a vat of Crisco and start to fist each other's ass right out in the street. When straight people do these things, no one notices. I mean, seriously. No one even notices. Same thing with talking about relationships. Straight people talk about their significant others all the fucking time. They talk about getting married and people congratulate them. Elders harass youth about when they're going to find a good woman, or man, and settle down. Politicians get caught screwing prostitutes and pull their wives out to the podium in front of the reporters like they were props in a play.

When you're straight, you're expected to be in a relationship. You're expected to talk about it, and you're hassled when you don't. And you're rewarded when you do. But if you're gay and talk about your relationship, about how you're finally moving in together, or how you went shopping together, or how happy you are because you're in love, you might as well be talking about sucking cock at the glory hole.

Needless to say, this is fucked up. It's also strong testament to the prurient nature of straight people in our society. That is, if straight people are uncomfortable hearing gay people talking about their relationships, that's their problem. A peck on the cheek is obviously not the same thing as bare backing. If you equate the two, then that's your problem, you sleazy perverted dirty piece of shit.

Get the fuck over it.

So, the bottom line here is that the nine years olds who heard Stambaugh casually mention that he was gay, which means that he is legally forbidden to marry a person he loves, it is extraordinarily likely that their reaction was not the fucked up perverted kind experienced by their teachers. Probably more like, "Oh, okay." Kids need to be taught this stuff. Gay marriage is a huge social issue, and kids, even four and five year olds, already have half the story deeply embedded in their understanding of how the world works--they already get "mommy and daddy," already understand the strong role that coupling plays in our society. It is educationally irresponsible to shut down the conversation because homophobic parents, teachers, and administrators like to picture hot and slimy wet sodomy when they think about gay people. This travesty in Oregon is unacceptable bullshit, and it is probably much more widespread than one might imagine.

Sigh. It is very sad to think that the schools are some of the most censored places in the country.