Exposure To Gay Families As Part of Diversity: “The Times They Are A-Changin’”
Recently three incidents have occurred regarding gay storybooks in schools. All three collectively serve as an introduction to how our society—whether we like or not—must deal with the move of homosexuality into the mainstream of American normalcy (whatever that is…). I would highly suggest (1) that we pray for God’s directions as we deal with these emotional issues and (2) that we review the lessons learned from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. This issue represents another form of civil rights that our communities must deal with in the same way. These are the three cases that I know of:
- David and Tonia Parker suing the Lexington County School District (Massachusetts) over the issue of the inclusion of a book called Who's in a Family? within their five-year old child’s take-home diversity storybook set. School officials have rebuffed his efforts to compel the school district to inform him whenever homosexual issues are discussed in class. For more information please check out the story here: http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/05/05/gay.book.ap/index.html
- A second grade teacher at (surprise) Massachusett’s Joseph Estabrook Elementary School (the same school district as the previous conflict) receiving criticism by parents for reading King & King, a book about two princes who get married. For more information please check out the story here:
- Two branches of the Savannah, Missouri library system moving a picture book, And Tango Makes Three , from its children’s book section to the non-fiction section after two parents checking out the book discovered its gay-tinged story. Please go her to read the story: http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-flap05.html
For the record, I stand in line with God’s Word and will quote His teachings as inspirationally written by the Apostle Paul in the Bible (Romans 1:18-32):
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Quoting the entire passage shows the complete thinking: God (and I) see homosexual feelings as manifestations of desires in the heart of a person out of touch with Him. Again, I see these desires as unnatural just like God sees them as unnatural. I see the results (marriage, sexual relations, romantic love for one of the same sex) as unnatural. Whatever God sees as unnatural, He sees as out His will and out of his teachings. I will yield to his direction and see it in the same way. I think homosexuality is a sin. I believe marriage is between a man and woman only. That represents my stance on the core issue.
With that said, we must now consider the other side of the issue and the application of its many perspectives. Everyone does not consider himself or herself a Christian. Many who consider themselves Christians see homosexuality in a different light. Many people claim other religious preferences that either hold similar beliefs, opposing beliefs, or “no comment”. Still others—the nonreligious ones—see the issue from a human rights or democratic rights point-of-view. We must wrap around these individual perspectives the ribbon of history and our struggle for equal opportunities and rights for the minorities in our population (ethnic, gender, religious, and otherwise).
First, all of these viewpoints must come together in the name of the law. We must abide by the government put in place both in practice and in protest as the US Constitution directs us. For the Massachusetts cases, the law speaks for itself: homosexuality represents an acceptable lifestyle in regard to two people using it as a basis for a legal union. It must, therefore, stand as a part of society and as the culture of the state. In the name of multiculturalism, schools must teach what the society is (both good and bad). These laws were created in recent history under much controversy. Society, to their benefit or detriment, will adjust to them as a reality that they must deal with. Do we truly believe that when the US integrated schools, no controversy like this erupted? Do we truly believe that people did not jump to defend segregation using the Bible, the US Constitution, or whatever else they could find to stall this inevitable shift in societal worldview? The same will occur with these issues regarding these storybooks and teaching the analytics (either directly or vicariously) of the gay lifestyles in schools. In Massachusetts, the law stands on the school board’s side, unfortunately. Everyone else will eventually catch up and absorb the reality of the situation.
In Missouri, since no law exists, those parents can put forth some form of an argument of complaint; however, it may turn into an incident of over reaction. I’ve read all of the books in these three cases. While I don’t see any really big issues about the books, the book (And Tango Makes Three) at the center of the Missouri case represents the most harmless of the bunch. We should not get mount aversion for this book just because two male penguins take care of a baby penguin within the story. Analogously, we could also say that Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenburg, and Ted Danson (of 1987’s Three Men and A Baby) live as gay men just because they raise a child in the absence of a female in the household. How about Paul Reiser and Greg Evigan in the TV show My Two Dads? No, we cannot simply ASSUME that all of the men in these stories are heterosexual just because we know about the story’s exposition. In the same way, we cannot ASSUME that the penguins in this book are perverse just because two daddy penguins raise the young penguin. The issue in all three of these examples answers the question: must a family have two opposite sex parental figures to be considered a quality environment for growing up? For And Tango Makes Three, we should see it in this positive way. Moving the book to another section of the library shows cowardice and disrespect for the diversity that homosexual families will inevitably bring to society (whether I like it or not). Besides, all parents may not see it as a so-called inappropriate piece of literature for a young child. Some may take it as just a sweet story, nothing more and nothing less.
Second, let’s look briefly at the bigger issue. Those of us like me who disagree with the gay lifestyle must see the practice apart from the person. We must still treat people in the same way that we treat ourselves. Would we want the school system railing against us—either silently or loudly—about the immorality of our lifestyle? Would we find it disrespectful to teach children year after year this rejecting perspective about our chosen lifestyle? I doubt it.
We should always strive to teach the positives of our beautifully diverse society, especially in the young years. Children are more impressionable during these years than ever again in their lives (Brewer, 2005; Feeney & Freeman, 2005; Morrison, 2006). We must strive to tell them positively about the parts of life they must figure out, not about the life that we wish them to live. We can’t control the life that we wish them to live; we can only instill in children the skills and tools that will best prepare them to live an upright life and work their way through it over time in the healthiest and most engaging way possible.
Again, I disagree with homosexuality. I reject marriage between anyone other than a man or a woman; however, I won’t lie to my children by pretending it doesn’t exist. If I do that, then it means its okay to lie to my children about out of wed-lock kids or siblings with different daddies or pedophiles or gang bangers or prejudice (not just racial). Why do we believe that exposure to these things will scar (or not scar) our children in a different way than opening their eyes to the new diversity of families?
All the above problems about so-called gay books have arisen because the parents may not have a system (or the confidence) to DIALOUGE in a developmentally appropriate way with their kids’ teachers or with their kids about this issue. Whenever we interact with young children about any issue, we cannot simply drop them into the middle of the dessert of an issue without a guide expecting them to self-reliantly find their way to the nearest oasis of truth and perspective. They constantly need a guide to help them because they have just begun to set up systems and categories in their minds. They need someone for talking, for ranting, for joking, and for pondering new ideas (Vygotsky, 1978). When it comes to homosexual lifestyles, young children (and most adults for that matter) must decide either to assimilate (fit homosexual marriage into traditional man/woman marriage) or accommodate (put homosexual marriage into a category unto itself) within their minds (Piaget, 1969). We cannot force them to think one way or another, we can only guide them along the re-establishment of contentedness about the issue so as to give them the smoothest ride that we can. Reading about gay lifestyles within a positive context (i.e. as a part of the diversity of children’s homes) serves as a strong, inexpensive developmentally appropriate way to begin talking to kids about it as kids receive exposure in everyday interactions as well as in school. Todd Parr’s The Family Book serves as my favorite book to use.
Think back to the beginning of integration. Like Bob Dylan said “The Times They Are A-Changin” whether we like it or not.
Brewer, J. A. (2005). Introduction to early childhood education: Preschool through
primary grades. New York, NY: Allyn & Bacon.
Feeney, S. & Freeman, N.K. (2005). Who am I in the lives of children? New York, NY:
Morrsion, G.S. (2005). Fundamentals of early childhood education. New York, NY:
Piaget, J. & Inhelder, B. (1969). Psychology of the child. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and society: Development of higher psychological processes.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Press.