Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Apostles of Hate

This week California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) legislation passed by California’s State Assembly and Senate. The new law requires public schools to teach students about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. "History should be honest," said Brown. The law takes effect in January, but state textbooks probably wont' be updated until 2015.

“The FAIR Act “[a]dds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, persons with disabilities and others to the list of groups of people whose role and contributions shall be accurately portrayed in instructional materials and included in social science instruction, and adds sexual orientation and religion to the list of characteristics that shall not be reflected adversely in adopted instructional materials.”

Almost on cue, a group has already announced plans for a ballot proposition in California to invalidate the law and effectively avoid mentioning LGBT persons (as such) in California classrooms. In an impassioned editorial piece in the Daily Beast, author Michael Medved attempts a litany of “common sense reasons” why such legislation is erroneous, flawed and ultimately sacrifices academics on a “PC” altar. Although this particular author may not be of national significance, the arguments he makes will most probably be invoked by those who wish to force LGBT people to be invisible and thereby deny them not only of their Civil Rights, but a place at society’s table.

Let us consider some of the arguments put forth by Medved. He opens his editorial by saying,

“Thanks to California’s newly enacted “gay history” law, William Rufus Devane King will finally receive the comprehensive classroom attention that previous generations of educators had so cruelly denied him.”

Medved then attempts to make his point,

This thoroughly obscure Dixie [is alluding to “Dixie” an attempted manipulation by Medved of socially conservative African Americans?] politician left behind no major accomplishments or stirring speeches, but he represents precisely the sort of forgotten figure the Golden State legislation means to emphasize in retelling the story of America for an enlightened new generation.

Medved seemingly argues that LGBT persons have, “left behind no major accomplishments or stirring speeches.” Medved ignores Alexander the Great, the Roman Emperor Hadrian, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Joan of Arc (charged at her Church trial with dressing as a man), Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oscar Wilde, and John Maynard Keynes each of these is a noted LGBT historical figure.

Can it be that Medved is sincerely ignorant of these famous figures and the fact that they were LGBT people? Possibly; however, that seems improbable. That improbability raises a more sinister and disturbing specter. Medved deliberately selected an obscure LGBT person as if he were the only known LGBT person in recorded history. This suggests that Medved does not wish to acknowledge that LGBT people have, in his words, “left behind [any] major accomplishments.” In effect, Medved is arguing, that LGBT people have added nothing of significance or value to human history.

Medved apparently bristles at the idea that Walt Whitman, and Abraham Lincoln were gay. All this despite stark evidence that they were, for example this piece in the New York Times published on 16 December 2004,

“Was Abraham Lincoln a gay American?

The subject of the 16th president's sexuality has been debated among scholars for years. They cite his troubled marriage to Mary Todd and his youthful friendship with Joshua Speed, who shared his bed for four years. Now, in a new book, C. A. Tripp also asserts that Lincoln had a homosexual relationship with the captain of his bodyguards, David V. Derickson, who shared his bed whenever Mary Todd was away.”

Medved makes his argument clearer when he says,

“Or consider the beloved classical composer Aaron Copland. Although he made few efforts to hide his homosexuality, he never alluded to it in any of his musical compositions, in either of his bestselling books about music, or in countless articles and interviews. Except to satisfy a prurient fascination with a great artist’s private affairs, why should any middle-school or high-school student learning about American music spend precious time on an aspect of Copland’s life that the composer himself clearly considered unimportant?”

Medved, of course, is unable to refute the fact that considerable numbers of LGBT persons have been pivotal historical figures who have contributed significantly to politics, economics, science, literature, music, art, religion and changed human history. Therefore, he now attempts to dismiss their sexual orientation as “unimportant.”

Imagine if the same approach was suggested for any other minority group. Would Medved suggest that Albert Einstein’s Judaism, Susan B. Anthony’s gender, Dr. Martin Luther King’s race, was “unimportant?” Members of those groups would rightly be outraged and would instantly recognize that Medved was attempting to marginalize, subordinate and dismiss them both as groups and as individuals.

What is particularly offensive about Medved’s arguments is that they attempt to reinforce and reinstate a closet mentality in LGBT people. The American Psychological Association states the following on their official website,

“Is sexual orientation a choice?
No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.

Can therapy change sexual orientation?
No; even though most homosexuals live successful, happy lives, some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so. The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable. However, not all gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who seek assistance from a mental health professional want to change their sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people may seek psychological help with the coming out process or for strategies to deal with prejudice, but most go into therapy for the same reasons and life issues that bring straight people to mental health professionals.”

Therefore, a student in a classroom discovers their sexual orientation as it emerges in early adolescence. Medved is arguing that student should not be presented with any positive role models of other LGBT people.

As the APA states,
“some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so.”

The results of this form of child abuse were seen in last year’s spate of suicides of LGBT young people. The Center for Disease Control, Youth at Risk study of 1999 found that one third of LGBT adolescents attempt suicide.

Evidently that is a price that Paulo Sibaja of the conservative “family” organization, Capitol Resource Institute is more than willing & happy to pay. Apologists for such thinly veiled hatred, such as Medved seem eager to be their messengers. Such irresponsible editorials threaten to promote hatred of LGBT people in general; and even more egregiously make targets of LGBT students.

The real world results as the Center for Disease Control study stated are astronomical LGBT youth suicides. Not specifically documented in that study, but logically suggested, are increased incidence of bullying of LGBT students, depression, alcohol and drug abuse and divide families. Ironically, all of these evils done in the name of “Family Values” and “God.”


colkoch said...

What if we started bringing out all the studies which point to the dysfunction and depression inculcated in youth who were raised in abusive, divorced, or dysfunctional heterosexual relationships? The numbers would be staggering and maybe, just maybe, our bishops and their followers would see gay marriage for the drop in the bucket it is in context of failed or corrupted marriages.

The fact they don't, says to me they are no where near dealing with their own misogynistic and homophobic issues. Oh, and God forbid they piss off randy heterosexual males.

Renshaw said...

In a state like California, how can anyone ignore Harvey Milk? In the northeast, esp. Massachusetts, can we ignore Barney Frank? Frank has been instrumental in much legislative action that has brought tremendous benefits for all Americans. Harvey Milk raised the very important issue of gay youth, the need to come out of the closet, and that gay Americans are not in some ghetto somewhere but in the mainstream of society. The Teamsters didn't collapse when they joined with Milk and the San Francisco community in the Coors beer boycott. Truckers didn't stop working when gay men were hired to drive trucks.

This curriculum is important and necessary. Medved is scared and, like many Americans, he hits the panic button before he gives it a chance. I hope that no such ballot initiative passes!