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School Board Bans Book for Mentioning Gay Families Exist

4 Jun

Me, circa 1982.

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and I knew from a very young age that I was different from the other kids. My story starts off like many of yours. I read all the storybooks you read, saw all the Disney Princess movies you saw and I knew there was a reason I liked Bo & Luke so much more than Daisy.

When I was 10, I started performing in musicals and at 11, I was in a Longwood Opera production of Gianni Schicchi. At the cast party, a very tall slender African American man was talking to my mother. Another man came up next to him and was introduced as his “lover.” Of course I knew what they meant, but I’d never seen someone who was gay. Not in any book, or Disney movie or TV show. This was a first for me. It was the first time in my childhood I didn’t think there was something wrong with me.

In Erie, IL yesterday, the Erie School Board voted to ban Todd Parr’s “The Family Book” from it’s elementary school. The book tells young children that families are different. It speaks of large and small families, families with of different ethnicities, single-parent families, families with adopted children and then of course…the most terrifying of all “Some families have two moms or two dads.” It’s this single line which caused such a stir in Erie, Illinois, that the school board has taken the book off the shelves. Parents called and complained that children that young should not be taught this kind of material. It’s okay if it’s taught to older children, but not younger kids who are potentially picking on other kids because they have two moms or two dads.

It seems that due to the complaints of just 4 parents, the Erie School Board, led by School Board President Charlie Brown decided to ban the book.

Brown additionally took to Facebook to endorse putting “the Bible back in schools,” as seen here in the screenshot:


I spoke with Zach Wahls, the young man from Iowa who courageously defended his own lesbian parents and their family about this story and he responded:

“As the grown son of a lesbian couple who attended public K-12, this is both frustrating and frightening. For the board of a school district to say that my family structure is an ‘issue’ that shouldn’t be included ‘at the elementary school level’ not only fails to explain why that’s the case but also alienates the students in that district who do have two moms or dads. This is another startling reminder of the fact that not all bullies are just adolescent kids: some of them grow up to be school board presidents”

Erie School Board President Charles Brown

Additionally some educators from the elementary school where the book was banned made statements. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they feared they couldn’t do so publicly without risking their jobs.

“As an educator at the elementary, I am very disappointed that the GLSEN materials and Todd Parr books won’t be used again. They were excellent resources for the diversity unit and completely age appropriate. At no time was there anything mentioned that was inappropriate. The elementary level is the perfect time to teach acceptance and respect for everyone and all types of families. I am also very disappointed that these materials were taken away from everyone due to a small group of parents that opposed it. The best option would have been to leave the materials in place and those that wanted their children to opt out do so. By banning materials and books, we are not moving in the right direction. I am very saddened by the whole situation!”

Sean Leeds, a former student in the district, has started a petition at Change.org. In it, he requests that the school board reconsider their actions. Please tell School Board President Charles Brown that all families matter. As of now, more than 100 Erie parents have signed another petition asking for the reinstatement of both the book and other anti-bullying educational materials.

VIDEO: Anti-Gay Ministry Hired to Speak at Iowa High School

13 Mar

We’ve spoken here before about Bradlee Dean, the violently anti-gay rocker/radio host who sued Rachel Maddow and MSNBC when Maddow played a clip on her show. The clip was Dean’s voice, quite clearly claiming that it is moral to execute homosexuals. Dean sued because she didn’t also report a disclaimer he’d posted essentially denying his own words.

Anyway, Junkyard Prophet, a project of Dean’s anti-gay “You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide” Ministries, was asked to “perform” at a public high school in Dunkerton, Iowa last week. For the past few days, we’ve been reading some pretty scandalous reports of the things that were said. Dean and his ministry has even gone so far as to argue that they didn’t say the things that are being claimed by students and teachers that were present for the assembly.

According to Dunkerton High School teachers and administrators, the group was supposed to present on anti-drug, anti-violence, anti-bullying themes. Instead, they divided the junior and senior high school into boys, girls and teachers and proceeded to present them with images of aborted fetuses, and dying AIDS patients. Those who tried to leave were shouted down and mocked by members of the group. One student claims she was told to “sit down and shut up” by one of the group’s leaders.

The group of course denies many of the accusations, but last night doubled down on their message. They claim that the average lifespan for homosexuals is 42. This comes from a widely-debunked “study” done by Paul Cameron and the anti-gay Family Research Institute in the 1990s. He based his research on reading a few obituaries each day for a few months and not any actual cumulative, statistically representative research, i.e. – he made it up.

Today, we learn that you can run, but you can’t hide from students with video cameras in their phones. Please watch this clip from what was presented to public high school and junior high school students in Iowa. I can’t help but wonder why not a single teacher or administrator didn’t walk up on stage and end this.

(h/t: Good As You)

What if your parents were gay?

25 Oct
Our conversations that have been pushing our movement forward so expediently most frequently revolve around rights and protections for ourselves. The conversation is most always focuses on why we can’t get married, violence against us or own rejection from our families, friends and society. It’s time for the conversation to change.

The Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress released a new MAP (Movement Advancement Project) study today which is the first comprehensive and thorough study of LGBT-headed families in the United States. Their findings not only change the conversation, but they blow apart the last walls of defense for those who continue to propagate bigotry and hatred.

The most devastating conclusion found in the report, which needs to be shared around this country – is that the discriminatory laws of this country are actually harming children. Here is a sampling of some of the staggering statistics:

  • There are up to 2 million children in this country being raised by LGBT parents.
  • Across 18 years, sams-sex parents will have an added $219,262 financial burden which heterosexual parents will not have.
  • Children of binational parents live in fear that one of their parents may be deported.
  • Children of LGBT parents may be denied health insurance if a parent’s employer requires documentation of legal adoption in a state which does not allow same-sex parent adoption.
  • LGBT parents may not be able to take time off work to care for a sick child or spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act.
  • LGBT families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty.
  • 18 states treat LGBT partners and non-adoptive parents and their children as legal strangers. This means if a parent has to take a child to the hospital, they have no right to make medical decisions.
  • Children of LGBT parents are denied financial protections should a parent die or become disabled.

These and many other findings in this groundbreaking report have the capacity to become game-changers. With a half-million children in this country living in foster care and 30 years of competent research stating that children of same-sex parents are just as happy, healthy and well adjusted as those from heterosexual parents, the laws need to change.

Those who so frequently claim that they are “fighting to protect children” as their primary defense of heterosexual-only marriage, can no longer claim that. We now have the facts to support the opposite. This is no longer about us working for our equality. This is about our children who face devastating inequality through no action of their own.

The Family Equality Council has put together a comprehensive website which includes not only the findings of the report, but the next action steps we can take to be certain this report is getting the attention it needs.

On the site, there is a place for LGBT families to “Tell Your Story.” I highly recommend that if you or someone you know is an LGBT family, that you take advantage of this. It is through stories like these, that we will best see these gross inequalities represented. Nothing is going to change if no one knows something is wrong.

Please enjoy the photos below from this morning’s panel on LGBT families and please share the following video wherever you can:

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler

Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress

Jonathan Capehart

Bryan Samuels

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

The panel on LGBT Families

Jonathan Capehart

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Bryan Samuels

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Ineke Mushovic, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Ineke Mushovic, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress

Aisha Moodie-Mills, Center for American Progress, Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Reverend Dennis Wiley

Jeff Friedman, Andrew Zwerin and their son Josh with Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Capehart

7-Year Old Transgender Child Refused Proper Bathroom Visits in School

25 Aug

Tommy Theollyn’s son is transgender. The child’s doctor has confirmed this. Despite female genitalia,his son identifies as a boy and all the students know him as a boy. But Dr. William A. Hunter – the Superintendent of his school has demanded he use the girl’s room. On top of that, he has threatened Tommy with a call to Child Protection Services.

Here we have a parent who has worked with his child’s doctor and clearly done what is right for his son who is transgender. And here we have a school superintendent overstepping his bounds into what is quite clearly dangerous territory.

In addition to not allowing Tommy’s son to use the bathroom of the gender with which he identifies, he will not even let the child use the unisex bathroom in their school because it is a faculty restroom. This is a child who would not feel safe using the restroom which does not apply to his gender. This is a case of a school administrator bullying a child.

Tommy has started a Change.org petition targeting the McIntosh County School Board as well as the Superintendent and other members of the faculty and staff, demanding that all students be allowed safe access to bathrooms and other facilities.

Sign his petition here and add your name to the quickly growing list of people demanding protections for our youth. Ask yourself how you would feel if your child was denied access to a bathroom in school, how you would feel if your child was punished unjustly, how you would feel if your child did not feel safe and protected by the very people who are charged with molding and shaping your child’s future. When you’ve asked yourself and you have an answer, go sign the petition.

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