I was introduced to AIDS, and subsequently, gay people at the age of 6, following the death of a relative. The words gay or homosexual weren’t the terms used to describe same-sex lovers, though. The word faggot was, which from its very utterance of the word in all its hate-filled tone, instilled a great fear in me that would last well into early adulthood.
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It would be years before someone bothered to declare that gay people, which I knew secretly included myself, were just folks with a sexual orientation outside of the norm. Such is a lesson I wish was instilled in me much sooner in my life, which is why I find it rather pathetic that Republican lawmakers in Missouri are going out of their way to prevent such not-so-outlandish facts from being shared with school children – particularly at a time when little by little gay Americans are inching toward wider acceptance.
Yet last week, a group of 20 Republican Missouri state representatives introduced a “Don’t-Say-Gay bill” to stop the teaching of sexual orientation in public schools, with the exception of courses pertaining to human reproduction. The Huffington Post reports that this group includes some key members of the Missouri legislature, including House Speaker Steve Tilley (R-Perryville), Majority Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) and the chairs of the Rules and the Ways and Means committees.
State Rep. Steve Cookson, who is a part of the Interim Committee on Strengthening Missouri Families, dismissed accusations that the bill is discriminatory. He released a statement Tuesday morning, saying the bill simply wants schools to focus on what matters – like math, science, and reading – and leave other matters “in the home at the discretion of parents.”
He also writes:
It’s also important to point out that my bill does not target a particular sexual orientation but instead says instruction or materials related to any sexual orientation should not take place in our public schools. This would not prohibit a student struggling with his or her sexual identity from talking to a school counselor or cause any of the other issues that have been misreported by the media. Instead it would simply ensure the focus of our public schools is on the curriculum parents expect their children to learn when they send them to school each day.
So the bill isn’t discriminatory, but another instance the GOP is acting as if sex should be barred from any form of discussion? Even if I was to believe Cookson’s assurance that this bill isn’t about keeping gay people invisible – and trust me, I don’t believe him given that Republicans in Tennessee are considering their own “Don’t-Say-Gay bill” – that wouldn’t make this bill any less acceptable and completely unnecessary.