Conservative Christian: I’m All for Stopping Bullying, but Teaching LGBT Tolerance to Children Goes Too Far!

In Emily Bazelon‘s new book Sticks and Stones, she writes about the issue of bullying, why it’s a big deal now more than ever before, what bullying is and isn’t, etc.

To no one’s surprise, she spends some time talking about the bullying of gay and lesbian students and suggests that one way to fix the problem is by introducing children to books such as Heather Has Two Mommies and My Princess Boy — both of which depict LGBT people as perfectly normal — at a younger age so that they see LGBT classmates as peers, not victims who deserve to be bullied. (Even if you’re not fans of those particular books, the idea is that we need to educate all students to be respectful of those who may be different from them in some way.)

Also to no one’s surprise, conservative commentator Heather Wilhelm sees this as government promotion of sexual behavior:

… When it comes to the bullying of gay or lesbian students, for instance, she writes, “research shows that schools have to teach not just tolerance of an alternative lifestyle — the old code for keeping homosexuality at arm’s length — but acceptance. They have to teach, early and often, that there is nothing wrong with the sexuality of gay students or with the lives they lead.”

To do that, she argues, we should start them young, putting “books such as Heather Has Two Mommies or My Princess Boy on the kindergarten or first-grade bookshelf.”

You’ll have to excuse me for a moment, as I believe few dozen capillaries just ruptured inside my head. I think we can all probably agree that the bullying of gay and lesbian students is unconscionable. I also don’t care what consenting adults do in the bedroom, and I don’t think the government should care either. But I certainly do care if you try to promote sexual content to my 5-year-old while he’s at school. (I guess the good news, if one can call it that, is that many government schools can’t teach kids to read. Take that, Princess Boy! You might as well be written in Farsi!)

This is really the problem with conservatives talking about homosexuality: We see these books as promoting love and respect and strong families… and Wilhelm sees sex. Only sex. Nothing but sex. (Though, she later contradicts herself by saying “This isn’t, of course, really about sex.”)

Then, just to dig herself into an even deeper hole, she keeps going:

Do we also need a copy of “Bobby’s Daddy Hasn’t Showered in Sixteen Days, and He’s Bingeing on Cheetos, and That’s OK”? (By the way, I am by no means equating being gay with being overweight or odorous. This should be obvious, given the large number of gay people who are trim, well-groomed, and well-dressed, but you never know.)

It’s a good thing she added that parenthetical or I might have accused her of being a bigot who generalizes from her own ignorance.

Eventually, she says we should teach kids that all human beings are worthy of respect — and she’s right — but that’s exactly what these programs are trying to do. The problem is that LGBT students (or children of LGBT parents) are disproportionately bullied — and the umbrella approach to tolerance has left them out far too often. What’s more, many religious parents and pastors — especially evangelical Christian ones — go out of their way to preach against homosexuality (and, whether they admit it or not, homosexuals), making it very difficult for children to be both respectful to everyone while harboring some sort of irrational fear of same-sex relationships.

Wilhelm even admits as much when she refers to one passage in Bazelon’s book:

“You’re asking a school to do something differently than what’s done at home and church,” Whitney Pellegrino of the Justice Department tells Bazelon. “It’s a long process.”

If that quote doesn’t scare you, nothing will

See?! The government is indoctrinating your children and turning them into kind, loving, decent human beings. WE CAN’T HAVE THAT!

This whole idea of accepting and respecting homosexuality at a young age, says Wilhelm, is just an example of liberal/government overreach:

You could also teach kids that all human beings are worthy of respect and love and should not be tormented, but that might be too simple for the people who brought you Obamacare. Plus, it’s just not as fun as social engineering.

Obamacare! Yes! Somewhere, Wilhelm is checking off a box on her list of Things All Conservatives Must Mention in Every Article, Even if it Makes No Sense. (I’m amazed she didn’t find a way to work “Solyndra” in there.) I wonder what else she can check off…

It’s about the government’s incredible and growing reach into our lives (Michelle Obama at the Oscars, anyone?) and a prime example of classic governmental “problem solving.”

Check!

I remember that moment. Michelle Obama appearing on the Oscars ruined my life. How dare she appear on TV. She was in my newspaper the other day, too! And on the Internet! When will the madness stop?!

It must have slipped Wilhelm’s mind that Ronald Reagan also appeared on an Academy Awards telecast… I’m worried about her. She might want to get those capillaries in her head checked out. They’re hurting the way she thinks.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Witchgawd

    any article with “Conservative Christian” in the title automatically sends up a red flag as warning that what I’m about to read will make me feel stupider.

    • Theseus

      Oh c’mon. Don’t you know that they are the (self proclaimed) “rational” side of things as opposed to all those evil “secular progressives”?

      Yeah, I suppose the vast majority of the western world ( including japan) is completely off it’s rocker, but a fringe and disproportionately politically powerful has all the correct answers. Right. Lol

      • Michael Corry

        And they genuinely believe this; that’s what’s so scary about America today.

  • curtcameron

    Why, just last week my elementary-school son came home with a book about a boy who lived with his mother and father. How dare the school push sexual content like this onto my small child!

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      My kid’s books seem to have a large number of non-white people in them. And even a kid in a wheelchair!

      • Theseus

        Wow. Radical stuff! LOL

    • Miss_Beara

      Remind me not to send my non existent child to that devil school. Trying to indoctrinate our children with those heterosexual “relationships.” Next thing they will want is to get “married” and what will our children do then? This country is turning into Sodom and Gomorah!

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        whatever you do, don’t give your non existent child a “bible.” you would NOT BELIEVE the sexual content of that pornographic text. it’s disgusting. a man with 700 wives. fathers having relations with their own daughters! concubines, rape, sex with non human beings… Hustler is much more family friendly, by comparison.

        • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

          Ezekiel 23:20

          20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

          • Theseus

            OK I’m suing you! You just made me squirt DR. Pepper out of my nostrils and all over my keyboard and good pants!

            • coyotenose

              The horrifying part is that that quote is actually from the Bible. Ezekiel was so very obviously writing fap material and camouflaging it with God. Why do they not realize that?

              • Theseus

                “The more things change the more they stay the same” (sorry, I don’t exactly remember the French spelling).

                What’s funny is conservative Christians act like the Bible is a wholesome book, and that people didn’t have such “perverted” thoughts back then.

                • McAtheist

                  “plus ca change plus ca meme chose”

                  Is that what you are looking for?

                • Theseus

                  That’s it!

          • Octoberfurst

            Wow, now that’s an image I really didn’t need to have put in my brain. That Bible–it’s so pornographic! Why do we let kids read it? ;-)

          • Bdole

            I never understood that passage fully until I visited Red Rock once. Ooooh!

          • baal

            I win bets with xtians with this exact verse. Most haven’t read it and are shocked when you point it out to them.

  • A3Kr0n

    Is it just me, or has your website been hacked? I keep going to some music xray place

    • blasphemous_kansan

      I got the music xray thing just now, also

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      if on windows, try opening a command prompt and:

      ipconfig /flushdns

      • A3Kr0n

        That helped. Thanks. I don’t think I’ve used that command in over a decade!

  • ckblackm

    “They’re hurting the way she thinks.” …. Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence!

    • coyotenose

      …that she thinks?

  • blasphemous_kansan

    So when the wife of the president appears on television at the Oscars, this represents “the government’s incredible and growing reach into our lives”

    And yet actual governmental actions that:

    -place suffocating ‘regulations’ on legal medical procedures for women

    -disallow certain people from adopting children if they happen to be non-hetero

    -enshrine one religiously inspired view of marriage

    -ostracize and demonize (either implicitly through exclusion or explicitly through assholery) those with differing or no faith.

    Would probably be okey dokey with her, right?
    Only in whatever passes for thought in the mind of a social conservative. I’d like to see evidence that they are capable of having thoughts other than “Why can’t those weirdos just be more like me?! WAAAAAHHHH!”

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    To computer programmers reading this blog. Challenge: Make a random meme, talking point and word generator that is indistinguishable from a pundit. Bonus points: Get an column published in WND or Fox.

    • xeno

      I seriously want to try this now.

  • Blacksheep

    I’m not a fan of HW, but when did she say that “teaching LGBT tolerance goes too far” I couldn’t find that – i may have missed it. Seems more like she’s fine with teaching tolerance, just disagrees on How to do it. (Books in classrooms, etc.)

    • blasphemous_kansan

      No, she is not having a disagreement on how to teach ‘tolerance’, she is frustrated because she’s ignorant of what the actual definition of ‘tolerance’ is, which is that you have to tolerate different kinds of people, even if they’re icky.

      Dictionary.com’s #2 definition seems to be the best: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own. You really think that her problem is just with the books, and not with this concept as it pertains to GLBT? Given the ferocity of her comments, that’s quite a stretch, I think.

      She may have not used the exact verbiage “THIS GOES TOO FAR!!!”, but it’s painfully obvious that what has her frothing at the mouth is not the conceptual teaching of tolerance in school, but that they might learn at school that those icky gays are actually people, and this would contradict the hate-speech that she would feed her own children and anyone within earshot at her own home.

      Sympathy for her position and respect for her opinion: %0

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Headline rhetoric. I think “including examples of LGBT people in general coursework is going too far” is a bit too long.

      She’s fine with teaching ‘tolerance’ but not with some specific examples of tolerance. So what lesson do you think the child of same sex parents takes home when the class talks about tolerance, and probably talks about some ways people are different, but carefully avoids the elephant in the room that everyone knows about. We should respect people who look different, or use wheelchairs, or stutter, or can’t see, and, ahem, yep, that’s it! Ok, class dismissed!

  • Theseus

    Hmmmm. Even in her own tipsy turvy way, she does highlight a very real dilemma; namely how do you teach tolerance to children of devoutly religious folks that are in turn taught that homosexuality is wrong and sinful.

    Is it feasibly possible to present a particular lifestyle and sexual orientation as just a diverse, but normal way to live, and at the same time condemn said lifestyle/sexual orientation as immoral and harmful? I would say no.

    This is the dilemma confronting most evangelical conservative Christians. To most of us, this is a good idea; however In their minds (conservative Christians), teaching children tolerance and acceptance of an alternate lifestyle is akin to normalizing and promoting it as a good thing. And you know what? They are right. I don’t see any other way around it. This is just another example of not being able to have it both ways in the public square.

    Either conservative Christians sign on to the fact that their children are going to be part of the greater society at large in terms of not tolerating intolerance, or put them in their own private schools ( which unfortunately opens up a whole other can of worms itself).

    • Claude

      however In their minds (conservative Christians), teaching children tolerance and acceptance of an alternate lifestyle is akin to normalizing and promoting it as a good thing.

      The notion that black people are entitled to equal rights under the law was also a struggle for many to accept, but they just had to deal with it.

      These people are freaking out because the rate of change with regard to gay equality has been so fast. Did you think ten years ago that gay marriage would be supported any time soon by a president of the United States? The rising generation supports equality; it will happen. Political scientists will be all over how the gay community drove a sea change in public opinion in record time.

      • Theseus

        Yeah. This whole notion of true progress being made in slow increments is total horse shit. One shouldn’t have to “ease” into basic human rights just because a segment of society can’t handle it.

    • Blacksheep

      I go to this, from Matthew:

      “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

  • rupi capra

    I kept getting sent to musicxray. But the URL was patheos.com.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I had that once before too, but by the time I told Hemant about it, it worked again. I suspect they share the same host as patheos, and someone is messing up the DNS entries.

    • Mario Strada

      Yes, I had the same problem but it corrected itself rather quickly. But for a few minutes I was very puzzled. It is indeed a DNS issue.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
  • Chris B

    “You could also teach kids that all human beings are worthy of respect and love and should not be tormented…”

    Exactly! So why can’t we get the bible out of schools again?

  • http://twitter.com/maxbingman1 Max Bingman

    “I am by no means equating being gay with being overweight or odorous.” Yes! Yes you are! You just did one sentence ago! You’re ashamed of your own ignorance! You can’t even own up to what you said twenty seconds ago!!

  • jose

    You know what I don’t understand, why is the T alongside the L, G, and B? LGB are sexual orientations; T isn’t. Regarding transsexuals and transgender, there are gay ones, straight ones and bi ones. It’s a wholly different, unrelated issue. Why do they belong to that collective?

    • blasphemous_kansan

      I always thought that the ‘T’ is included because many people who are T have likely been lumped in for demonizing and abuse along with the G, L, and B. If we were playing the game of “which of these things is not like the others”, then I agree that the T would be the one. But I think that T belongs in the collective because the collective is meant to indicate a population of people who are subjected to needless vilification and straight up violence based on how they sexually express themselves.

      My own opinion, anyway.

      • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

        Personally, I think you’re right. But I had the recent misfortune to run into a lesbian who was upset with the inclusion of trans people in gay-and-bi rhetoric. After all, being trans is a choice.

        I pointed out that perhaps feeling sexual desire for women, as she did, was an ingrained part of her psyche, but acting on those desires and living as a lesbian was a choice as well. She refused to get it.

        • blasphemous_kansan

          That’s really interesting!
          Yeah, I think the inclusion of trans in all the rhetoric on the part of the allies is reactionary to the way that transsexuals were made victims along with Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals. I keep thinking of Ed Wood: “I like wearing women’s underwear. What?! No! I love having sex with women!” It’s just hard to tell someone who doesn’t really know that much about sexual orientation that a man who wears a bra might not necessarily be gay or bi, but I think it’s getting easier.

          I guess I can understand the resentment that some might feel with the inclusion of trans from a “Born this Way” perspective (argumentum a la Gaga?), but I think your friend fails to realize that it was the discriminators, not the allies, that lumped them in there to begin with.

          • Theseus

            Unfortunately, there is also blatant bigotry within these groups (like every other demographic) as well. It’s not a secret among the gay community that a some gay guys and lesbians can’t stand each other. On some gay men’s part, they feel that lesbians jumped on a band wagon with them, even though they (lesbians) didn’t suffer any where near the same level of discrimination and oppression that they (gay men) had.

            • blasphemous_kansan

              Wow, I find that really interesting! This is probably really naive of me, but I had no idea that these kinds of modern resentments existed on a large scale within the community. I’m interested in learning more about this, I have some friends I can have some pretty good conversations with, but do you recommend any reading, books, or blogs that examine or try to deal with these issues within the community?

              After really thinking about it I think my original comment, while maybe true in the historical sense and for some people, is probably way too simplistic. I’d definitely like to learn more and reconsider my opinion.

              • Theseus

                These resentments exist in every community. Humans are flawed, and there are going to be certain individuals in each particular demographic that harbor animosity.

                Native Americans, Latinos, black Americans, gays etc. all have their own internal issues with each other; however, this is considered “dirty laundry” by many and it’s not usually aired in out in public among other groups. For example, with blacks there is the light skin, dark skin thing, and the “black people vs. n*****” thing; with native Americans there is animosity going back centuries with tribes that were former enemies and rivals. I could go on but you get the drift.

              • baal

                blasphemous_kansan – the questions of ‘what gender am I?’, ‘what gender am I attracted to’ and ‘what physical biology should i have?’ are separable. The most interesting (well for me) proof of this parsing are the folks who are born with intermediate genital development (google intersexed). Historically (and too often modernly) these children were assigned a gender and sex at birth and taught to conform to one gender role. Turns out that works out ok in some cases and really poorly in others. Most of the difference is accountable once you check the assignment and chromosomes. I.e. if the chromosomes are xy and the assignment was female, odds of body/gender dissatisfaction goes way up. When you talk to those people, they say “Regardless of the surgery you did, I’m a boy.” It’s a small step from there to understanding the same type (though not necessarily same mechanism) of issue underlying transfolks.

        • John (not McCain)

          The lesbian in question is wrong. Being trans is not a choice. Deciding what to do about being trans is a choice.

          • Therseus

            Right. Most gays are very comfortable with their particular gender. It’s totally different with trans people. Sexual attraction is secondary with these folks; they are completely uncomfortable with the gender that they are born into and they cannot be “cured” of it. This is a strong feeling they have since early childhood.

            • coyotenose

              Yes, I remember it as early as the age of three. My very first memories are of that discomfort, and of it easing a little when playing dress-up with my sister. It doesn’t go away, you don’t get used to it, and there’s no choice involved.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Can I just point out that us bisexuals cop a fair amount of shit from both the straight community and the gay community?

          • baal

            The world is about to end, I’m in full agreement with wmdkitty.

    • Kengi

      Unrelated? Gender and sexual orientation are unrelated? Are you sure you meant to say that? They aren’t necessarily correlated, but they certainly are related.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I’ve actually liked the acronym as it’s gotten bigger. GLBTQQIAA is a mouthful, but it gets across the point that there are a lot of variations in sexual orientation and identity and that’s fine.

      Gay
      Lesbian
      Bisexual
      Transsexual/transvestite
      Queer
      Questioning
      Intersex
      Asexual
      Ally

      People on the interwebs somewhere are talking about adding letters for polyamory, pansexuality, and other sexual identities, but at this point I think “humanity” covers it best.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I’ve actually liked the acronym as it’s gotten bigger. GLBTQQIAA is a mouthful, but it gets across the point that there are a lot of variations in sexual orientation and identity and that’s fine.

      Gay
      Lesbian
      Bisexual
      Transsexual/transvestite
      Queer
      Questioning
      Intersex
      Asexual
      Ally

      People on the interwebs somewhere are talking about adding letters for polyamory, pansexuality, and other sexual identities, but at this point I think “humanity” covers it best.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I have a friend who is pushing for QUILTBAG. And I couldn’t begin to name all of them. Luckily the internetz helped me http://queerdictionary.tumblr.com/post/3899608042/quiltbag

        • Anon

          Quite possibly the best acronym I have ever heard is FABGLITTER AVENGERS

          It stands for Fetish Asexual Bisexual Gay Lesbian Intersexed Transgender Transsexual Engendering Revolution AND Verily, Everyone Now Gets Equal Rights, Savvy?

      • jose

        But transsexual/transgender/transvestive and intersex aren’t sexual orientations. Not to mention allies.

        By that logic, why not include native americans, too? That’s another identity.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Sexual orientation and sexual identity. Those are two different aspects of personal sexuality that are often conflated but are not the same. Ally isn’t an aspect of sexuality, this is true, and as such is out of place, but a lot of people felt cis-het should have a place in the list and that’s what got picked to represent cis-het people who are still allies.

          Ethnic identity is an identity, but it is not an aspect of sexuality.

  • Gus Snarp

    Books? They’re worried about books? My first son had his first class mate with two mommies in pre-school at the age of 3. I was so happy that he got to learn that this was perfectly normal by simply being exposed to it on a daily basis.

    Are they going to ban gay parents from enrolling their kids in school when banning books doesn’t prevent their kids being exposed to the reality: that LGBT people ARE normal, and that they have kids? If they don’t like the book Heather Has Two Mommies they’re going to be apoplectic when the kids come home and say that Billy in their class has two daddies!

    Dear bigots: it’s over. Done. You’ve lost All you’re doing is making yourselves look as stupid to future generations as Bull Connor.

  • Dezzydez

    My 10 year old niece goes to school with a girl with two mommies that walk her to school everyday. To her it’s no big deal. Alot of kids are being raised by same-sex parents, single parents, uncles or aunts, grandparents and other relatives. So a kid with two same-sex parents does not bother her at all.

    • Stev84

      Young gets tend to be easy about these things. And they don’t see any relationship as sexual. If you tell them what’s going on between straight couples – and if its just kissing or making out – they go “ewwwww” too. It’s only when they get older, become more aware of sexuality in general and pick up society’s prejudices that things get more complicated.

  • cicada

    Some of those quotes really remind me of what I heard from Dan Savage; that when homophobes see at gay people, all they really see are gay sexual acts.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Michelle Obama being a presenter at the Oscars is government reaching into our lives?

    Fucking really?

    There are no words for the stupid that is.

    • kaydenpat

      Why would she care? I would think someone like her would hate godless liberal Hollywood anyways.

  • Aspieguy

    Oh great Cthulu. Another wingnut. Does this woman realized that some LGBT kids commit suicide because of the bullying? I doubt it.
    I know full well the effects of bullying. As an adult with Aspergers syndrome I remember too well the terrible bullying I endured in school. Not only did I receive verbal bullying, but physical assaults as well. As an adult I was also bullied in church. Those bastards were always trying to force me to conform to them and couldn’t tolerate my eccentricities and limited social skills. I wasn’t hurting any of them. However, when I was condemned to hell by them, I eventually turned my back on the church and christianity.
    LGBT kids deserve to be free from bullying and accepted as equal humans. Obviously, christians are more equal than others.

    • Theseus

      “Oh great Cthulu”.

      Ha. Anyone that is into Lovecraft is OK in my book!

      • Aspieguy

        I so enjoy Lovecraft. His imagery and writing style are excellent. Who else could write so well about being trapped in a crypt and attacked by a corpse?

        • baal

          I love Lovecraft but mostly for his B-movie quality. I also love the elder gods mythos since it solves the problem of theodicy by having all the gods be downright awful for anyone near them.

          • Theseus

            Hmmm. “B-movie quality”? Perhaps, if it’s a Roger Corman flick with a tech flailing around rubber octopus arms. Done well, it could be great.

            That vivid imagery and creeping terror stands the test of time. Lovecraft was flat out a great story teller; we have all these extra dimensional demonic monstrosities waiting by the “doorway” to be let back in by some naive human pawn. Great stuff.

    • Michael Corry

      Trouble is she really doesn’t realise that so many LGBT kill themselves because of bullying. She thinks they kill themselves because they are LGBT.

  • LesterBallard

    I guess if it comes from your religion it’s okay to bully. Or if it comes from your religion then it isn’t bullying.

  • xeno

    I’m willing to bet she has no problem with books depicting heterosexual couples. Why is it that when a book depicts a same sex couple, conservatives lose their shit and scream about how it’s too sexual for kids, but when it’s an opposite sex couple, they see them as a loving family.

  • baal

    So letting kids know that some other kids have LGBT parents is governmental overreach but passing bill after bill to get creationism into biology class is just teaching that there is a controversy?

  • kaydenpat

    “But I certainly do care if you try to promote sexual content to my 5-year-old while he’s at school.”

    Do any of these books contain sexual content? I assume all they do is portray same sex couples as regular folks — no different than opposite sex couples.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Laurie Higgins has made comments in the past that completely disregard adopted children, no matter what sex the parents. I think in their zeal to use ‘biology’ to discredit same sex marriage, they’re including adopted kids in the collateral damage, and frankly don’t seem to care.

      I realize this is a bit of a tangent, but I got to thinking of “Tango Makes Three” which has nothing to do with sex, but does in a round about way deal with adoption since two male penguins adopt baby Tango.


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