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By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

School Daze II

Posted By on June 30, 2009

School Daze: A short series of columns on American Education Part II
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev
A digression on the need to discuss homophobia in the school system

Well, a few months back I wrote a column about homophobia, expressing how, in ten years of parenting, none of the negative experiences that we had braced ourselves for, had actually come to pass. Then, boom, I was recently blindsided.

It all started when I sent an email to a local (Albany NY) parenting email list hosted by Yahoo. It is a new list, and seemed to be a friendly group of moms, some of whom I recognized from other local email lists like Freecycle (check it out: I sent an announcement and information to the list regarding the Pride and Joy Families Weekend  Conference: LGBT Families Conference, being held in Binghamton, NY, on November 11-13, 2005. The information says that the conference will be "educational and celebratory…featuring a keynote address, educational workshops, creative programming for children, a resource fair, off-site family outings, entertainment and a Family Dance!" As many times as I’ve looked at this, I don’t see anything there that contradicts the purpose of our local parenting group, actually it seems to be exactly what this group is seeking.

Here is their description of the Parenting Listserve Discussion:
This is a fun free group where you can meet other local parents and discuss different ideas and concerns. Any suggestions are always welcome. We provide encouragement and motiviation (sic) for parents that juggle careers, home, and the responsibleity (sic) of raising our children the best way possible. While none of us are experts in the art of child rearing, we believe that each of us will have something to offer someone else. As an old saying goes "It takes a village to raise a child". … You determine what each of you would like from the group. This is your group. We need your imput (sic) to make it better. All members are encouraged to get involved to make this group even more successful." The listowner continues later to say, "Please be concious (sic) of other people’s feelings. You never know what they are going through." **

The listowner refused to print my announcement. The only reason she gave me was that she was a Christian woman. I confess it’s moments like that when I surely wish I too was a Christian woman, just so I could say, "Yeah, and….?" I did say, that I am deeply spiritual woman, and that I live a Jewish life, and do not find anything incompatible with the configuration of my family and my spiritual beliefs, but I suspect this did not impress her. When I suggested that many Christian Churches were welcoming to LGBT families, she responded, "Any church will welcome anyone, no matter what their lifestyle is.  However, it is the pastor’s job to educate anyone, whether they have addictions, committ (sic) adultery, are gay, or participate in any thing that the Bible talks about is a sin.  I would welcome you into my church.  I wouldn’t be mean or discriminatory (sic).  I would however, let you know that your choice of being a homosexual is a sin in God’s eyes.  If I didn’t tell you that, I wouldn’t be doing what Jesus wants us to."

Maybe you are not shocked by this response, but I am appalled. It was an announcement for a Parenting Conference, not a Sex Toy Conference. And speaking of sex toys, it has just come to my attention that is selling sex toys now, and according to the SF Chronicle, "with zero fanfare and zero marketing and zero apparent intolerant outcry from the right-wing Christian sex tormenters, and with absolutely no children anywhere in the nation spontaneously combusting or being struck by lightning and/or converting to wanton paganism." I wonder if she shops at Amazon, for God’s sake. Speaking of God’s sake, I just don’t know how any of us can stand what bigots do in the name of the Lord and his son. It makes me want to scream.

But, in the interest of civility, I turn to the written word. The interesting thing about being a queer parent is that it puts us in connection with all kinds of other parents, some of who are teaching their children that is it God’s will that they judge other families and see us as sinners. You may be asking right about now, what this column has to do with the American Education system, but I hope you can see how important it is that the values of education stress tolerance, acceptance, and the celebration of diverse family forms. Women like this listowner not only run Internet Discussion lists, but are members of the PTA, and run for office on the School Board. It is essential that our school policies protect the diversity of the school body inherent in any school system.

I am part of a panel at the Pride and Joy Families Weekend  Conference: LGBT Families Conference mentioned earlier. I will be speaking about the Family Pride Coalition’s Opening Doors Project on LGBT Parents and Schools. In my next column I will outline some of the ways that Parents can advocate for LGBT issues within the school, and ensure that school policies are inclusive and non-discriminatory. In this column, I needed to remind myself and all of you, that there are people out there, right here, in our local communities, who see our families as somehow dangerous and not worthy of human respect or inclusion. They often have the power to actually silence our voices. How many local families will not know about this conference because Ms. Thing wouldn’t print the announcement? I have to accept that the conference announcement was rejected, and that this was within her rights as the listowner. It is also within my rights as an out, loud, proud, Jewish lesbian mom to make sure what she has done is published across the country. I mean if she didn’t want to go to the conference, she could have just deleted the email.

** I decided to not correct the typos listed on the Discussion Board description and the emails sent to me by the listowner, perhaps making another important point about the need for quality education.