By Damon Krane
February 2, 2001
In his third letter to the editor concerning the inclusion of GLBT positive literature in school libraries, Peter Lehman writes that his opponents are still failing to understand his obvious points. Before Lehman can quote any more former US presidents, let’s see if I can understand what those points are.
Lehman argues that to place in a school library a novel in which the main character has romantic feelings for members of the same sex would be the same as stocking the shelves with issues of Hustler magazine. For that to be true, however, a novel for young adults in which a boy has a crush on a girl, or vice versa, would have to be equivalent to gay porn. I wonder why Mr. Lehman hasn’t made the argument that way?
Unlike his opponents, who Lehman says offer only “emotionally driven” arguments that “have indeed let their biases shine through,” Lehman insists upon the idea of a public/private distinction, as if it was somehow as much a natural fact of life as the morning sunrise. Instead of providing any argument for why sexuality should be kept in the closet, Lehman informs us, “What we are talking about here is a PRIVATE and
But sexuality is about more than how you like to have sex. It’s about agonizing over asking someone out on a date, learning what healthy romantic relationships are, falling in love, sharing your life with someone, knowing when the person on the other end of the phone line is smiling, and trying to make sense of all that and more. For anyone who isn’t heterosexual in our society, it unfortunately also has to do with homophobic slurs, discrimination, and physical assault.
“No matter what a person tells you,” Lehman says, “the entire homosexual issue… all comes back to the fact that what they are protesting for is the freedom to tell you how they like to have sex.”
No, it has a lot more to do with the idea that people should not have to be afraid to hide their sexuality for fear of persecution. But even if it was safe for everyone to bring their sexuality out of the closet, I still don’t think sexuality would ever fit in the neat little box Lehman wants to confine it to.
Regardless of whether we’re gay or straight, our sexuality is not “private” or “public,” it is simply a very important part of who we are. If schools act like it doesn’t exist, they may as well act like students don’t exist –- at least not as living, breathing — and yes, sexual — human beings.
Finally, Mr. Lehman wonders if the members of the Safe Communities and Schools Coalition “would approve of religious books, detailing why many Christians see homosexuality as being something prohibited by the teachings of the Bible, being placed in schools alongside their material.”
As far as I know, books explaining various religious beliefs and practices are available in school libraries, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be. However, I doubt any teenager would need to read one to know how Christians most often regard homosexuals. Lehman’s snide, idiotic comments, like “Two plus two can equal three, Johnny, and it’s great if Heather has Two Mommies,” make it clear enough.
But alas, Lehman and his opponents aren’t the only ones weighing in on this issue.
Lane Tracy would make an excellent science fiction writer. But to seriously suggest, as he does in his February 1 letter, that this whole debate is “misinformed and short-sighted” because a pill hasn’t been invented yet that would allow us to choose to be either gay or straight is like saying that Pete Lehman and I are both overlooking the highly relevant point that we don’t yet have ray guns like they do on Star Trek.
True, in time anything may be possible. But in the meantime I suggest that some of us beam back down to earth. Instead of imagining futuristic scenarios or clinging to hateful religious doctrines, we ought to be a bit more concerned with how our actions hurt or help other people in the here and now.