My family roots go back to “The Old Country” on my father’s side and the hills of Tennessee on my mother’s side, so it is no surprise that my ears perk up whenever news comes from the Volunteer State. Lately that news has been disturbing. The legislature of Tennessee has crafted what is being called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It is a measure that would eliminate any discussion of LGBT people in Tennessee classrooms of any discussion of sexual activity that is not related to “natural human reproduction science”. The good thing is it won’t become law because it will not come to a vote.
Now the Show Me state has taken up the cause and is pushing a similar bill that would make LGBT topics illegal in public schools and prohibit teachers from addressing bullying based on sexual orientation. You can expect Texas to follow suit if these bills are signed into law.
Though they would seem just another attempt by the prudish people to impose their stiff morality on everyone else, they are actually something much more insidious. The people writing these bills, and trust me it is not the legislators themselves, are trying to erase LGBT people from history.
It’s no secret that the younger generation of American’s is much more accepting of LGBT people than their parents. They have been raised in a world where they can see everyday examples of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender folk all around them. Because more and more LGBT people choose to live openly and proud, their lives are visible examples to everyone. That growing acceptance sticks in the craw of bigoted people, who realize that their prejudices are going to die off with their generation. That’s what these new laws are really about, perpetuating prejudice.
They are trying to make LGBT people invisible again, just as they were in the 1950s and 60s. They want to marginalize us in the minds of their children so that we will seem strange and frightening.
It’s all about loosing one of the last bogeymen the right wing has left and that is vitally important to their survival. The movement which masquerades as “conservative” today is in actually a far-right fear-based religion. They cling to a belief that the world is one of evil and good, black and white and for that kind of system you need clearly defined roles.
Naturally, they assume that they are the good and righteous folks, therefore anyone who is remotely different or outside their norm must be evil. It requires a scapegoat, someone to embody the bad and since it has become culturally impossible to use racial minorities like they once did, they turn to us. To the people writing these laws, LGBT people are a threat and we must be eliminated, of not in reality at least in perception. They have to keep us invisible to continue to affirm their righteousness.
If you want proof, just listen to Representative Joey Hensley (R), the Tennessee bill’s sponsor. “I have two children - in the third and fourth-grade - and don’t want them to be exposed to things I don’t agree with.”
The key word there is “agree”. Teaching about LGBT people means believing we are part of the fabric of our nation. He doesn’t agree with that idea. The problem is we are here and a constant reminder that whether he believes we exist or not, our rights are every bit as “self-evident” as any other American’s. He wants his children to live in the same cognitive dissonance that he does. Rep. Hensley and others like him want to make our very existence a matter of opinion.
The good news is that if this whole thing is boiled down to opinions, the more LGBT people who are visible, the harder it will be to maintain the illusion that we don’t exist. The good news is that children are a lot smarter than these yokels think and no matter how much smoke and how many mirrors they try to throw up, we are not going away. Kids know this and eventually they will begin asking why mommy and daddy can’t see the gay people like they can.