It's Thanksgiving now. Parents with kids in school have been through our first round of parent/teacher conferences for this school year. Our kids are settled into their schools and classroom. My girls are both in new schools this year. I'm reflecting on how those of us raising children in gay and lesbian families often find ourselves giving a little bit of extra thought to how we talk to teachers, school administrators and parents of our children’s classmates about our families. If we want our schools to define and celebrate family in a way that includes us, we need to model for them a proud and accurate description of gay families. It is essential, I believe, that we participate fully in school life, and provide our children, their classmates and their teachers with a model of gay family life and ways to speak honestly about our families.
One misconception about lesbians and gay men can interfere with full acceptance by the school of inclusive language and inclusive curriculum. Otherwise accepting teachers and administrators in the lower grades sometimes feel that it is inappropriate to identify parents as gay, or to have them self-identify as such in school. These educators argue that they are not discriminating and that they are not motivated by homophobia, but that they feel that any discussion of sexuality, be it homo- or hetero-, is inappropriate in the early grades. They claim that gay families are welcome in the classroom, but that they ought not to make an issue of sexuality, not to flaunt their relationships.
On the surface, this argument seems to be not too bad. It appeals to a sense of discretion and of evenhandedness, in stating that it applies equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals. But does it? At a closer look, I think not.
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(Originally published, in slightly different form, in the now defunct newsletter of Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International)