A case in Texas in which a teacher was transferred from an elementary school to a high school in her district after showing students pictures of her with her same-sex partner points out the need not merely to not discriminate against gays but to actively pursue a gay agenda in America’s classrooms, according to a story published this week at Slate.
After the teacher showed her 4th-grade class a photograph of herself and her fiancée dressed as characters from the movie “Finding Nemo,” as part of a slide show telling them about her “family,” parents accused the teacher of promoting a homosexual agenda.
The school district said the teacher had violated guidelines on how “controversial subjects” should be taught and moved her to a high school.
The teacher’s story is “part of a longer history of discrimination against gay and lesbian teachers in the United States,” the Slate piece states. “Over the past 60 years, anti-gay activists have argued that having a closeted or overtly homosexual teacher increases the likelihood that a child will become gay. They have repeatedly used this argument to contest gays’ and lesbians’ demands for full civil rights and social equality.”
There was the campaign in Florida in the 1950s to rid the state of gay and lesbian teachers, the Anita Bryant campaign during the late-‘70s that began as a campaign to repeal a nondiscrimination ordinance in Dade County, Fla., and mushroomed into a national campaign, and a ballot initiative in California in 1978 that would have prohibited the hiring of gay teachers.
But much has changed, Slate reports. The school district “has not alleged that [the teacher’s] lesbianism in and of itself disqualifies her from serving as a grade school teacher, as it would have in the 1950s. In fact, the [school district] claims it has been an ‘inclusive, supportive environment for LGBTQ staff for decades,’ and that there has never been a problem before with [the teacher’s] ‘open sexual orientation.’”
But in talking about her own sex life and the nature of relationships among artists and gays, she has raised the concern of the school district that she has “discussed homosexuality as a normal facet of human sexuality and culture.”
Parents continue to object because they continue to fear “that exposure to LGBTQ teachers will put their children at greater ‘risk’ of becoming LGBTQ themselves,” Slate reported.
As Anita Bryant is quoted as saying in the story: “Homosexuals cannot reproduce – so they must recruit.”
The answer, the Slate story suggests, is for gay teachers to stop cowering and fight for their place in the classroom.
“LGBTQ teachers have tended to respond to these fears by denying that we are any different than straight teachers,” Slate reported. But they are different, and they should affirm this. They do not belong in the classroom merely because they are “just as good” as straight teachers but because they have “particular perspectives” they can bring and because of the “particular meanings” their “presence can have.”
Then, the story seems to concede the parents’ worst fears.
“Openly LGBTQ teachers can show children and young adults that it is OK to be different, and that there is more than one way to live, to love, and to build a family – which, of course, is a realization that could be helpful, even life-saving, for those students in the room who are already queer,” Slate concluded. “This embodiment of difference is what frightens those in favor of maintaining the status quo. It is also what makes [teachers] such powerful forces of social change.”