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02/01/2008

Tennessee: Please stop driving your gays out of the state!

by Jeremy Hooper

Tn-10-1Oh, Tennessee, Tennessee, Tennessee. Yesterday came word that two state lawmakers were proposing a ban on adoption for gays and unmarried heteros. Now comes the frustrating news that Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) has filed a bill that would bar public schools from allowing "any instruction or materials discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality":

Don't Say "Gay" [Memphis Flyer]
(H/t: Towleroad)

Alright, so as someone who was taught within the Tennessee public school system, let this writer just say of this proposed bill: it's probably not the best idea. Because ya see, within my own childhood head and within the worldview that I always found to be real and true, my childhood homosexuality was never at odds with anything. It all made sense. I liked dudes. In fact, despite much goading towards the XX chromosome set, I had never for one second had an attraction-like thought involving the ladies. And guess what? I was totally fine with it!

However, within the Volunteer state environs that I called home, LOTS OF PEOPLE seemed to have a problem with my little secret. And I'm talking a RAGING problem, too. Like the sort of problem that made me think I had no choice but to hide my truth, so as to not get my little tushie kicked. The sort of problem that made me question if all that I had ever known was somehow wrong. The sort of problem that filled me with shame. The sort of problem that would rob me of casual ease, forcing me to always be conscious of my every interaction so as to not seem too queeny. The sort of problem that never portrayed gay lives in anyway close to favorably.

School, a place to learn and grow, was not a place where I was fully able to do either. Instead of a breeding ground for understanding, the homophobia surrounding me often made school in my rural Tennessee town feel like a gay-shaming incubator. I even eavesdropped on some teachers, my supposed guiders, making comments about the evils of gayness. The spectrum that was conveyed to me as acceptable did not include the type of person that I knew I was. It was like a mental war between my own in-born intellect and the mind-fuck that was being fed to me from the outside.

So Mr. Campfield, I'm sure you would consider it reprehensible to teach kids about gay people and the many contributions that they have made to society. But you know what I find reprehensible: That society has leached off the creative fruits of gay people for all of time, yet never given them the proper credit. Rather than provide role models for gay kids, our society continues to hide truth behind a heterosexist smokescreen. While that may seem fine to a heterosexual male Tennessean who never has had to struggle with acceptability, there are most certainly other young Tennesseans who are right now wondering why they don't see themselves in the sort of society that is being presented to them as normal. And It is not righteous to put out hurdles over which gay kids may or may not overcome if they have the wherewithal! I was a lucky one. Some of my queer peers were not.

Please reconsider, Mr . Campfield.

**SEE ALSO: Campfield is no stranger to controversy involving minorities. Check out this 2005 AP piece:

White lawmaker excluded from black caucus -- Angry politician compares Black Legislative Caucus to KKK [AP via MSNBC]

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Your thoughts

Sheesh ... I thought Arizona took the cake for stupid laws when the legislature here passed a law allowing guns in bars. Luckily Nepolitano vetoed it. This one seems it could be just as deadly for gay youth.

Posted by: Shane | Feb 1, 2008 6:16:35 PM

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