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Watters: “Don’t say Gay” misses the mark

Arabella Watters, Columnist

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There are a lot of liberal cities in America. Urban epicenters like Seattle, San Fransisco and New York city are hospitable places for people of all sexualities. These metropolises are what every city in the country should strive to be like. Unfortunately, not all parts of our country are so open to homosexuality. It seems as if for every stride we’ve made forward concerning gay rights, we take one huge one backwards. Many state governments push discrimination through meticulously planned political agendas.

I’m currently disgusted by a bill that Missouri’s Republican representatives are trying to pass. The bill, known colloquially as the “don’t say gay” bill, would prevent education about sexual orientation within public schools.

The representatives are very specific that the bill is not only targeting education regarding homosexuality, but regarding heterosexuality as well. The rationale they are giving is that students should be learning about core topics like math, science, English and history in order to prepare for the workforce in this rough economy, instead of focusing on what the Republican representatives seem to think are petty issues of sexuality.

Yes, I agree that preparing young people for the real world of employment is valuable and extremely important, but it is incredibly narrow-minded to think that an education about sexual preference will take away from an education.

The bill is presented as not specifically targeting homosexuality. I don’t buy that for a second. This bill is just another example of our government trying  to push homosexuality to the fringes of society. In the 1950’s while Communism witch hunts swept our nation, homosexuals were also quietly being targeted as criminals and terminated from their jobs in the government. The U.S. has quietly been marginalizing its gay community for decades and what’s worse is that nobody really knows about it. This bill would make it illegal to teach such aspects of history alongside the Red Scare in Missouri history classes.

The “don’t say gay” bill is far more public than the Lavender Scare was, and yet the legislators behind it are still trying to deny the isolating effects it will have on gay people in Missouri.  Simply not speaking about homophobia doesn’t make it better. In a lot of ways, the refusal to acknowledge homosexuality as a legitimate and authentic way of life is far worse. By pushing issues of homosexuality to the side the government is essentially ending all avenues of conversation.

By forbidding students from even having an honest discourse, how is the constant tension circling sexual orientation ever going to be resolved? The more the topic is sidelined from discussion, the farther from being reconciled it becomes. This bill will stifle students’ awareness and make it nearly impossible for the next generation to have the education it deserves concerning issues of gay rights.

Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, chairman of the Missouri House Small Business Committee, is one of the main supporters of the bill and believes that sexuality is something that shouldn’t be taught in schools, but rather covered at home and by doctors. I’m sorry, but we aren’t still living in Puritan America. Sexuality should no longer be taboo whether you are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, or any and all in between. We don’t need to be tiptoeing around issues of sexuality and pretending it isn’t a prevalent part of society. Teaching children, when it’s age appropriate, about all facets of human sexuality within schools can assure a thorough education on the subject.

If sexuality were solely addressed within the home, the only education a child would gain is his or her parent’s biases. To take away sex education in schools under the guise that it is detrimental to a child’s learning in this economy is delusional and wrong.  The Republican Party in Missouri shouldn’t get to choose what people can and cannot learn. After all, that is part of the beauty of a well-rounded, liberal education.

What’s more, I don’t believe a word that is said about the policy not being inherently homophobic. Trying to hide homophobic tendencies under the façade of trying to ban “all sexualities” is transparent. In a particularly insulting moment, Scharnhorst said, “I’m not bigoted. I have friends who are homosexual.” Just because you have friends who are homosexual doesn’t mean you aren’t a bigot. Deigning to socialize with gay people doesn’t sound tolerant. It just sounds like Scharnhorst is making excuses for himself. The fact that Scharnhorst is looking for martyr status because he happens to have friends who are gay is insulting in itself. Homophobia is only perpetuated through generations because of dumb and ignorant policies like this one. Trying to marginalize homosexuality into something dark, scary and frowned-upon only makes it more of an enigma to children growing up.

Issues like this are extremely frustrating to me. I get a lot of flak for being conservative on fiscal issues yet extremely liberal on social issues. I feel a great deal of conviction and support for the Republican party towards their plans for the economy, yet I cannot summon up the same fervency for their social policies. Bills like this one take away from all the social progress we’ve made in the past few decades and cast a black mark on American history.

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