Here at Casa de Karen, I do not have a television. There are a few shows that I keep up with on my laptop, but this has its limitations and flaws. One of these limitations is that I am at least a week behind in watching Glee. So I had not seen last week’s episode yet when I had a conversation with a local teacher on Monday.
This conversation took place because this teacher had come to one of my introductory meetings for parents before they enroll their kids in my middle school class. I was interested in her feedback, and she kindly agreed to talk with me. At one point our conversation drifted to another sexuality educator and her work. The teacher pointed out that this other educator is very adept at talking with people from a wide range of political, religious, and other backgrounds. She was clearly suggesting that I ease my message somewhat, be more accommodating to less-open perspectives on sexuality. As an example, she said the other sexuality educator would speak with groups who were not willing to talk about gay and lesbian issues, who did not consider homosexuality a moral or acceptable choice for their young people. From the teacher’s mannerism, it seemed she thought this was a good idea on behalf of the educator, that she was willing to make accommodations in order to move people forward at their own pace.
When someone is giving me feedback, I typically just listen. But at this point, I interrupted. “That is not something I would ever be willing to do.” She seemed taken aback – why would I not be willing to speak with a group who was unwilling to consider open conversation about sexual orientation? “Too many kids are killing themselves over this. Too many…” She seemed further taken aback by the passion in my voice. She nodded like she understood, cut me off, and changed the subject. Now, looking back, I wonder if she did understand.
Sexual orientation is something that is inherent to who a person is, and the kind of hate that is pounded into some young people is astronomically difficult to live through. Last week’s Glee showed a high school student attempting suicide after what appears to be one day of harassment and hate because of his newly discovered sexual orientation. Far too many young people live through years of such treatment, and some of them attempt to kill themselves – or do kill themselves – because of the experience. The ones who don’t go to such extremes still experience deep, and sometimes lasting, periods of emotional pain.
I’m glad to see Glee taking on, again, this issue of teen suicide because of sexual harassment based on sexual orientation. I am disappointed, deeply disappointed, to hear of a colleague who is willing to sweep this issue under the table. I want to take the world by the lapels and force it to collectively watch the It Gets Better Project video by the Fort Worth City Council Member Joel Burns (watch below). I want it to watch the It Gets Better Project video by 14 year-old Jamey Rodemeyer from last spring (this video is not available for embedding, so you’ll need to click through to YouTube to watch it.). Then I want to tell the world about Jamey’s suicide last autumn and tell it how, at a dance after his death, a song was dedicated in his name, and his classmates and peers chanted, “We’re glad you’re dead.” And I want to look the collective world in the eye and ask if it still thinks it is acceptable for any group to say that sexual orientation is off the table as a topic of conversation.
In my classroom, that would be an unacceptable answer.
For more information on the It Gets Better Project, visit their website.