Far be it from me to focus a little more attention on the religious right's flurry of lies against Kevin Jennings, but one thing about the entire incident has been really bugging me. And I have to talk about it just a little.
Is anyone paying attention to the plight of our lgbt youth?
Some of the attacks against Jennings have focused on the suggested reading list that GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network - the group that Jennings founded) has suggested for students. Some on the right have said that this is proof that Jennings approves of sexual behavior between adults and children.
For example, look at this article in One News Now:
Fox News has picked up on reports that Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, has been surrounded by controversy concerning his organization as GLSEN has been accused of visiting middle and high schools where spokespersons engage in explicit sexual discussions with students.
In conjunction with the controversial talks, it has been uncovered that GLSEN has recommended an alleged pornographic reading list for underage students. Exact details of the reading list are too explicit for print, but the material includes frank descriptions and the glorification of adult-on-minor homosexual sex. Brian Camenker, head of Mass Resistance, the pro-family organization that first brought these disturbing details to light, is encouraging the public to contest the progression of this promotion.
Like usual, the One News Now article is one-sided and inaccurate. Jennings is NOT a czar. He is an appointee under Arne Duncan, secretary of Education.
Secondly, notice that Camenker from the hate group Mass Resistance and Paul Cameron enabler Robert Knight are the only people cited in the article.
Thirdly, the article omits this fact:
GLSEN states in red type: "All BookLink items are reviewed by GLSEN staff for quality and appropriateness of content. However, some titles for adolescent readers contain mature themes. We recommend that adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability. The editorial and customer reviews listed at Amazon.com often provide information on mature content.
GLSEN is not pushing anything on anyone. The organization has said that adults should review the list and select suitable books for students.
But there is the fourth thing which is the crux of this piece.
I was having an email exchange with a young man who swore up and down that the material on the reading list is pornographic. He even included passages that he said encourages children to have sex with adults:
Quoting _Queer 13_ about one young victim of statutory rape: "I really did enjoy those sexual encounters. That feeling of doing it to them and them doing the same for me was just too damn good."
Of course he omitted this part:
"This was the year I realized I was helpless, different, wholly alone and defenseless. This was the beginning of my worthlessness. It was always pointed out to me that I wasn't good enough and that there was always someone somewhere doing better, and that no matter what I did, I could still have done better."
Unfortunately the man who emailed me is not alone in his "selective omission." The right-wing webpage Big Government and other sites are posting seemingly salacious passages from the book list in an attempt to give an impression that these books are meant to titillate rather than educate.
And this is far from the truth. Some of these books are personal stories; they come from a place of sadness and rejection. They are the stories of how some of our lgbt children went through a rocky process to a place of love and self-acceptance.
The thing that should disgust people here is how their words are being used to exploit the lgbt community and thereby perpetuate conditions in which lgbt children are rejected and kicked out of their homes, lured into bad situations, and generally made to feel ashamed of their God-given orientation.
Are some of the books mature? Yes. But they aren't pornography anymore than a personal experience of rape should be considered as pornography.
Studies have shown that isolation and rejection push lgbt children into depressive and self-harming behaviors such as drug use and unsafe sex. And some of the stories in these books bear that out.
If anyone is angry over what they have read, then that is good. But to blame GLSEN for it is like blaming the messenger. GLSEN did not create situations in which lgbt children are depressed, isolated, and sometimes seek out love and support in places they shouldn't go.
Society is to blame here
I remember sitting in a meeting with a large group of parents who were angry because a gay/straight alliance was being started at their children's school. They were going on and on about "their values" and how they wanted to "protect their children."
But when lgbt students who attended the same school spoke up about the need for a gay/straight student alliance and how they were picked on or isolated because of their orientation, the only thing these "upstanding" adults could say was, "I am sorry that this happened to you, but . . ."
And that got me a angry. But what? Why was there even a caveat? What were they saying here?
"I am sorry that this happened to you, but I can't do anything about it."
"I am sorry that this happened to you, but since my child isn't gay, why should I care?"
It's that attitude of ignorance which some folks are hoping will bring Jennings down. But regardless of whether it does or not, it won't eliminate our lgbt children nor the problems they face.
And I hope it doesn't make things worse for them.
I don't fault religious conservative groups and others on the right who exploit the voices of our lgbt youth for their own purposes. They can't help it if they don't care about lgbt children.
But I do fault everyone else who fall for their nonsense.
LGBT Youth At Risk
Family Rejection Of Lesbian, Gay And Bisexual Children Linked To Poor Health In Early Adulthood
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New smear launched against Kevin Jennings using old tactics of omission
Unraveling the Right's false attacks on Kevin Jennings