I grew up in a small Appalachian town in East Tennessee. I came out to friends when I was 13. From the time I came out, I was called names, ostracized and later made to turn my head away any time one of the teachers passed, because she didn’t want me to look at her.
I couldn’t tell anyone because teachers were clearly afraid to talk about it, making me too uncomfortable to get the help I needed.
Sexual orientation is one thing that can’t be legislated out of anyone, not even state Sen. Stacey Campfield. Even with laws, even with the threat of a misdemeanor, there will still be gay people, gay kids, gay siblings, gay friends, gay parents and gay celebrities. Kids will talk about it, even if they don’t tell their teachers. And as I learned, some kids and even teachers, unrestrained, will be very cruel.
It’s already a misdemeanor in Tennessee for teachers to teach anything outside the “Family Life” program. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill further encourages teacher silence by threatening them if they discuss homosexuality at middle or elementary schools. This means that we would be back to the silence of the 1970s and before, back to students having to be silent about mistreatment because their teachers would be too afraid to talk about it.
Maybe Sen. Campfield reads his Bible too literally when it says, “Suffer the little children,” because that’s exactly what this bill will do.