Gays in School

Both the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times published articles about gay issues in public (government) schools last Friday (Feb. 20). If that isn't a sign from the empyrean that I should write about that, I don't know what one would look like.

The Tribune story was about gay students at a high school in suburban Lincolnwood holding a "high kitsch" mixer for gay students but open to all students at area schools.

There are the predictable objections from the anti-gay sector. For instance, schools shouldn't take sides in the culture wars by sponsoring gay events. But it is, after all, the students who are sponsoring the event; the school is merely allowing it. Then too, schools have long been taking sides in the culture wars by sponsoring a heterosexual institution. It's called "high school."

Social conservatives also object that schools can shield students from discrimination without mixers and dances. But this the schools utterly fail to do. Ask any out-of-the-closet gay or lesbian student if they were shielded.

The New York Times story was about a school in conservative Orange County, California, that was going to put on a toned-down version of the Broadway show "Rent." But the principal objected to the presence of two gay characters and a prostitute in the show.

Her position was that a high school show should be appropriate for people of all ages, including children. But one would think it mainly needed to be appropriate for high school students, a pretty worldly group, you'd think, what with the Internet, easy access to porn, and-for goodness sake-television.

The principal's second objection was that "Rent" could offend school alumni and others who come back to see the Broadway shows each year. So maybe it is those older adults that she had in mind when she referred to "people of all ages." But you would think a simple warning sign about "controversial content" would handle the difficulty adequately. No such luck. And there have been similar objections in other cities.

Obviously we would all like to help gay and lesbian high school students and help promote just a bit of openness and acceptance. What could help this along?

More gay parents and parents of gay students need to come out and be actively supportive.

Those parents need to consider running for school board. Principals are responsible to the school boards that hired them, so gay-supportive school boards are an important pressure point. Remember that the Religious Right urges parents to run for school board to promote their issues such as creationism, sex-less education, and opposition to gays.

More gay teachers need to come out and be supportive, so long as they have tenure and a supportive unions.

More heterosexual high school students need to be organized as supportive, which is why Gay/Straight Alliances are so important to have in more schools. They provide a way to do that safely.

Gay-supportive community leaders and clergy need to step forward to be more vocal on behalf of gay students-attending mixers, dances and controversial plays, and speaking out in public.

Here in Chicago, a new wild card has been thrown into the mix with Mayor Richard M. Daley's appointment of his former Chief of Staff and Chicago Transit Authority head Ron Huberman to be head of the school system. Huberman is gay and has publicly disclosed that fact in print.

Huberman is a Daley loyalist and will have his hands full trying to improve Chicago's dismal public schools, so he probably will not make any bold initiatives on gay issues. But the very fact that he is gay and holds the position he does may provide encouragement at the level of local school operations.

4 Comments for “Gays in School”

  1. posted by Jen on

    “More gay parents and parents of gay students need to come out and be actively supportive.”

    Absolutely! How do you get them to do that? They must come out of the closet and get over their fear. They need to be role models. Not an easy thing to do but incredibly important.

  2. posted by Bobby on

    “schools shouldn’t take sides in the culture wars by sponsoring gay events.”

    —That’s not a problem, them problem is when straights are FORCED to attend gay events. I have no problems with schools allowing gays to meet, but whether it’s African History Month or Hispanic Month or Gay Week nobody who doesn’t want to participate should be forced to participate.

  3. posted by Jorge on

    Not a parent but I’ll stay tuned.

  4. posted by Regan DuCasse on

    Hi Bobby,

    Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel the need to qualify the perception of being forced.

    Gay children are forced to endure a lot more FROM the hetero culture than heteros care to equivocate properly.

    Schools are an EDUCATIONAL environment. It’s an opportunity for young people to learn from as well as involve themselves directly with those different from them who have almost ALWAYS been isolated.

    And for no good reason.

    Can any adult, especially those who ARE educators, say truthfully that encouraging a positive and HONEST interaction wouldn’t bear sweeter fruit than the tradition of distrust and ignorance?

    There shouldn’t have to be ‘gay events’, nor a month set aside for black history either.

    But if the dominant culture hadn’t spent SO MUCH TIME, controlling the information and revising it in negative and damaging ways while silencing and rendering invisible the minority in question, there would be no need to set aside CORRECTIVE situations.

    When an SB in CA was introduced to eliminate the ‘straight washing’ of important gay and lesbian figures, people were up in arms about such information being inappropriate.

    Well why?

    Because many grown people don’t think gay people EVER accomplished anything or contributed to the greater good of any given society.

    If anything, they firmly believe just the opposite and cite the fall of Rome as an example.

    Perhaps Rent isn’t the best choice for a high school musical.

    But I remember an oldie but goodie ABOUT teens, called “The Me Nobody Knows”.

    Not a sugar coating at all of what teens go through in life, but one that’s appropriate and relevant to any teen’s situations.

    When adults treat reality as something that they can hide from young people, they do a disservice to them, to the truth, to more positive social interaction, and most of all…to their own cred.

    Adults CANNOT LIE to young people. They will check the hypocrisy and validity every single time.

    They might confuse, they might be gentle…but lying is so much worse.

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