Oh For Heaven’s Sake, California, Studying Alcohol Didn’t Make Me An Alcoholic

This is just a fact: learning that something exists, or that people engage in certain practices, is not the same as learning to engage in those practices.  Learning what a condom was did not cause me to lose my virginity the next day.  Learning what “proof” meant or that a glass of wine contains the same amount of alcohol as a beer did not make me an alcoholic.  Studying Spanish did not in fact make me Hispanic, nor did taking a class on Buddhism cause a sudden conversion.

Similarly, studying the contributions made by LGBTQ people will not cause students to announce they are homosexuals and immediately begin engaging in gay sex.  This is just not a logical jump to make.  Which begs the question: why have so many people in California come to this rather ridiculous conclusion?  And why are we suddenly in danger of losing the FAIR Education Act that was passed in California over the summer?

I know: just when you thought I couldn’t possibly have more to say on the subject of gay children in California, given that I have not mentioned this in over a month now,  it turns out, I have PLENTY more to say about this.  Why?  Because as my blog’s original statement of intent indicated, I believe that gay people are people too.

The Great State of California

For those of you who don’t live in California and have better hobbies than following random education-related laws in states that are not your own, don’t worry, I’ll catch you up: California passed the FAIR act requiring schools to discuss LGBTQ contributions to history AT SOME POINT, IN SOME WAY, and conservatives freaked out, decided that California was trying to indoctrinate children to become gay, and was forcing teachers to teach material that they find morally repugnant.  Then they proceeded to start a petition to put this to a public vote to get it repealed (because you can do that in California) and…it’s not looking so great for the FAIR Act right now.

Obviously, I think this is absurd.  Racist teachers still have to teach about the civil rights movement.  Sexist teachers are still required to discuss women’s suffrage and the sexual revolution.  Antisemetic teachers are not allowed to extol Nazism in class.  So what, exactly, is the problem with having teachers discuss contributions of LGBTQ Americans to history?  I’m just not seeing it.

So why do we have to mention that they’re gay, you ask?  Well, their LGBTQ identity really only matters in the case of activists.  But since our culture (well, many cultures, really) feels the need to include the LGBTQ tag when describing negative contributions, such as crimes, etc., it only seems reasonable that we should have to recognize their positive contributions as well.

Unfortunately, if this actually does come to a vote, it seems unlikely that the FAIR Act will actually remain on the books.  For starters, the LGBTQ community is a minority community.  The appropriate response here should be something like, “what about straight allies?” and that would be completely reasonable…but there is a problem.  The LGBTQ movement in California has a history of being somewhat disorganized and even timid, lacking the momentum needed to defeat things like Prop 8, which had to be overturned in the courts.  This doesn’t mean that the referendum to eliminate this history requirement WILL pass, just that it will be an uphill battle.  Personally, I hope it does not come to that, and if it does, I hope the LGBTQ community in California realizes that with every small battle it cedes, it makes the war that much harder to win.  And since schools are THE number one place to fight things like prejudice and intolerance, this is definitely one law we want to keep on the books.

Fortunately, I do have SOME good news to report alongside my ravings about the actual curriculum, and that is a victory on behalf of LGBTQ students in California.

Dear California, I apologize for my previous insinuations about the state of your schools for gay students; after this, you will NEVER be Ohio.  Congratulations.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s still totally okay.  California (very) recently passed a law called Seth’s Law, named after 13-year-old Seth Walsh, who committed suicide in 2010 after being bullied for being gay.  This is a tragic story, but not nearly as tragic as is the fact that it is so non-unique: there were a rash of similar suicides around the same time, and countless incidents of anti-gay bullying that have been undocumented and unexamined by the public.  But they happened.  And California finally said that enough was enough.  As soon as Governor Brown signs this bill into law, all schools in California to create policies to deal with bullying, and to include in those policies that  bullying on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation will NOT be tolerated.  This may not seem like much, but it holds schools accountable for dealing with incidents and requires them to take it seriously when students complain of harassment.

Thirteen-year-olds should not have to die.  They should not have to feel like they have no other option besides death to escape the hatred that they confront on a daily basis.  And I’m glad that California, at least, is trying to do something about it.

Ohio, get on the Golden State’s level.






~ by Randi Saunders on September 5, 2011.

2 Responses to “Oh For Heaven’s Sake, California, Studying Alcohol Didn’t Make Me An Alcoholic”

  1. Hey, this is a good blog you have. Keep up the good work.

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