Don’t Say Gay in Tennessee

I gather it’s not easy being gay in Tennessee. If you listen to country music, most of it seems to be about the value and nobility of small town life — hard labor, cheap beer, and church on Sunday. There’s not much room in there for difference, let alone anything not considered manly. It seems the rest of the state isn’t much different from Nashville’s music. The state senate has recently approved a bill that would prevent teachers from discussing anything related to homosexuality before the ninth grade.

While one could argue that sex education is best left until kids are old enough for it to be relevant, this bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, may very well prevent any discussion of issues related to homosexuality — including with children of gay parents or who might themselves be gay. And just to make things worse, the law could prohibit any discussion of the family life of children of gay and lesbian parents. That could mean singling out children to keep them from participating in a family tree project or a birthday circle.

In all honesty, not talking about something won’t make it go away and, especially in this case, may very well bring the issue of LGBT rights and protections to the forefront when it wasn’t there before. The measure has spawned at least one significant response — George Takei, Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu, has offered his name as a replacement for the word “gay”. He notes in his video that “Even homophobic slurs don’t seem as hurtful if someone says, ‘That is so Takei!'”

What makes this bill so especially heinous is that the only way to rid our society of the hatred and bigotry and injustice that LGBT folks face is by educating people — something this bill actually prevents. Schools need to teach kids to accept and deal with reality, not to sit in their seats squeezing their eyes shut, covering their ears, and shouting “la la la la”.

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