Dear Senator Campfield,
I am e-mailing you in response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. While I appreciate your passion for protecting students, this matter is not one that I can say I agree with you in the slightest manner.
First let me start off with telling you a story. It was 1993 and I was a 6th grade student at New Providence Middle School in Clarksville, Tennessee. As you are well aware, the AIDS epidemic was fiercely on the rise at this time. I will never forget going to the school’s open house with my mother, and my science teacher, Mrs. James, telling the parents that she would have to have permission from all of them to talk about AIDS in the classroom. All of the parents were ok with that…all but one. At the end of our meeting with the teacher, one of my classmate’s parents told the teacher that she didn’t feel such topics were appropriate for the classroom, and that this was “truly an issue for gay people only.” I cried when I left the open house that day. I was 11 years old and I knew what she said was not true, and her ignorance was depriving us of the ability to be properly educated on the subject. That year Mrs. James did not teach about AIDS because of one parent’s ignorance of the subject.
My reason for telling you that story is several fold. We now are well aware that AIDS is not just a “gay issue.” AIDS affects individuals of every race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation and creed. It is not a biased virus. However, because one individual chose not to educate herself properly about the illness, many children were not allowed to learn about it. While I am still bothered by that day, I am thankful to this woman. If it were not for her ignorance, I would not be such an advocate for the rights of all, including those of the LGBT community.
It is out of sheer ignorance that we were denied proper education of a very serious matter, and the bill you have proposed does the very same thing. You are denying the children of Tennessee the right to learn about what it means to accept others, and you are essentially breeding more hate in an already fragile community of students.
It is hard being different. It’s even more difficult to be different when the state says you cannot discuss your differences. You cannot talk to your guidance counselor about being gay. What if the only stability a child has is their teacher?
Your bill does nothing but further fuel the fire of hate and further deprive our young children proper education and skills that will help them understand that no matter our differences we are all people deserving equality.
I am fully aware that educating teachers on how to properly teach and or counsel students about homosexuality will take time, but it is worthwhile. I also understand that you’re concerned that teachers are already overloaded with math, science and English. We teach to a test. Whether you choose to admit it or not, that is in essence what we do in the state of Tennessee. Why not make the investment to teach to the test of life? These are skills that children will carry with them throughout their lives, both socially and professionally. Furthermore, to address your concern that a teacher might “do more harm than good” when addressing the subject of homosexuality, why not make this a part of guidance class? My son has guidance at least once every other week, and nothing would make me happier than knowing that he is learning social skills that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
Also on the subject of teachers potentially doing “more harm than good,” if there is a teacher that is so ignorant and expresses such a lack of control that he or she cannot keep their personal feelings out of the classroom, than they need to be counseled and/or removed from their position. The classroom is not the place for a teacher’s biased opinion. Teachers cannot teach my child that one religion is better than another, or that one race is greater than another no matter their personal feelings. I think it is time that we add no sexual orientation is greater than another to that list.
I am also aware that you have made mention of the anti-bullying legislation in your arguments that students are protected from bullying because of this bill. To my knowledge, the anti-bullying campaign is not available in all schools. My son’s school just started it this year, and I know that last year there were only three or four schools in Montgomery County that it was made available to.
The anti-bullying campaign educates students about being responsible and respectful, however it cannot stop bullying. It can attempt to prevent it, but it cannot stop it. While I understand that you co-sponsored the anti-bullying legislation, you have just sponsored a bill that contradicts it. At a time when the suicide rates of our young people are growing each day because of bullying, I cannot believe that you would even consider proposing such legislation.
Whether you are for or against the rights of the LGBT community, one matter that is ridiculously obvious is that you have shamelessly ignored separation between church and state. I understand that you are a Christian. I am a Christian as well, and I find it deeply disturbing that while we are called to love others as ourselves, you would propose legislation that promotes ignorance, misinformation and hate. Your bill is making it obvious to the rest of the world that Tennessee has missed the mark, that we are behind the rest of the country in our educational practices and that we are not concerned with the well-being of LGBT children, or children who come from LGBT homes.
I want more than anything to be proud of the state that I live in, but this simply isn’t possible if we continue to wallow in our ignorance of the LGBT community. It is my hope, and ultimately my prayer, that we will live out Mark 12:28-31 and love our neighbors as ourselves. With your proposed legislation, we are denying our teachers the right to speak freely and answer our children’s questions. This will only result in continued ignorance and intolerance of the LGBT members of our society.