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Op-ed

Reflecting spectrum of relationships does not ‘groom’ children to be LGBTQ+, it teaches them to respect others | GUEST COMMENTARY

In this Wednesday, March 11, 2015 photo, author Leslea Newman displays a copy of her book "Heather Has Two Mommies," in her hometown of Holyoke, Massachusetts. The book, about a little girl named Heather and her two happy mommies, was one of the country's most banned in the 1990s when it was written, and it is still being challenged today. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Kudos to the senators who voted to protect “same-sex” marriage, especially those who are members of the GOP. I know it is a lot to ask, but I have another request for Republican supporters of the bill: Please ask your colleagues to stop attacking inclusive education that reflects positive examples of all people and of all types of families.

Teaching that some families have two mommies or two daddies is not “grooming” children to be gay or trans or anything else. It is simply conveying the message that there are different types of family structures and people in the world.

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I grew up in the ‘60s, and the only examples of family life depicted in textbooks and on television showed white, middle-class families with a mom and dad (only dad went to work), and two or more kids. They lived in tidy suburban houses. And mom and dad slept in twin beds, but at least they got to be in the same room. I certainly was never aware that there were any other acceptable “family structures,” let alone any — gasp — “gay” people.

I didn’t question much as a young child, I simply absorbed what was taught and the other unspoken messages that surrounded me. Anything besides being “heterosexual” was not acknowledged, and I learned such things could not be said aloud and were best not even thought of. I had years of intensive “heterosexual grooming,” and yet, I still ended up gay.

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It wasn’t easy learning to accept myself and to believe that I was a good person. As I got older, I learned that people, especially teachers, could be fired, for the mere suspicion or an accusation that they were gay. As a result, there was no one who could openly be a role model or tell me that I was OK. In high school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I also fell in love with my best friend. What little I could find then to read about such things confused me. I didn’t hate men. I didn’t feel “sick.” I didn’t understand how loving someone my age, who loved me back was wrong, but I couldn’t tell anyone. We knew we had to hide our love for each other. In a few more years, I eventually found others like me — in the shadows, in the gay bars. For most of us, loving meant hiding who we were from the rest of the world. How much easier might it have been for me, had I seen that there were other ways of being and other people who were like me?

I remember when “Heather Has Two Mommies” first came out over 30 years ago; it was groundbreaking. It tells a simple story of a child who goes to a play group and initially feels out of place because she has two mothers and no father. Through the story she learns that there are many kinds of families, that families are special and that love is what makes a family. How is it that decades later, such a book can now be banned in some states? What can be so dangerous in portraying different kinds of families so that children from all family structures can feel included?

Too many in the GOP have adopted platforms that include accusing LBGTQ+ people of being “groomers” and worse yet, any supportive family members of being “criminals.” Such rhetoric does not pull the trigger in mass shootings of gay people, but it surely throws gasoline on the fire in the minds of those who are motivated by hate. If our leaders spew hatred, it becomes more likely for followers to resort to violence. The shooting at Club Q in Colorado is just the latest example. Given today’s divisive and hate-mongering environment, I applaud the senators who supported this bill. Now, would you please get your colleagues who disapprove of same-sex marriage to respectfully disagree without the hateful and incendiary words? Those words can motivate others to pick up sticks and stones, and, sadly, far too often, guns.

Melissa Falen (mfalen@verizon.net) recently retired as an associate professor at Notre Dame of Maryland University.


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