"Don't Say Gay" bill advances

Tennessee tries to eliminate homosexuality from education in an effort to make it disappear

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published April 18, 2012 6:30PM (EDT)


Shhhhhh. If we just don't talk  about things that make us uncomfortable – like evolution or homosexuality – they'll magically disappear! Because that's worked so well for, I don't know, all of civilization. But you keep rocking, Tennessee.

On Tuesday, the state moved closer to passing House Bill 229, better known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which will prohibit "teaching of alternative lifestyles." The state already bans sex education for grades K-8, but that's not enough for some. The bill's Republican sponsor Rep. Joey Hensley explained this week that "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 ... Even though the state board disallows this now, I'm afraid it does happen and sex education is talked about in a way that it is acceptable."

Wow. Where to begin? First of all, just because you don't agree with things doesn't mean they shouldn't be acknowledged. A moral education is one that exists within reality. Kids are taught all the time about things we don't agree with. It's called history.

Second, and more significantly, pretending gay people don't exist won't make them disappear. As Born This Way blog creator Paul V. told Salon Wednesday, "I grew up in a completely heterosexual society, and it didn't take."

I could go on all day about the lunatic idiocy of this kind of thing, but instead I'll just let the wonderful, recently departed Adrienne Rich explain it. "Whatever is unnamed, undepicted in images, whatever is omitted from biography, censored in collections of letters, whatever is misnamed as something else, made difficult-to-come-by, whatever is buried in the memory by the collapse of meaning under an inadequate or lying language," she said, "this will become, not merely unspoken, but unspeakable." Sure, there are those who'd prefer that homosexuality remain unspeakable. But what a sad, hateful and, ultimately, utterly pointless excuse for "education."

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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