I mentioned earlier that PFOX was distributing literature to students in our school district. Well, Timothy at Ex-Gay Watch has the skinny on the handout, which amounts to a list of websites proselytizing for a particular brand of Christianity.
The flier, though, is simply part of a larger effort to derail a gay-inclusive sex education curriculum in Montgomery County, Maryland, where we now live, and where our kids will go to school. A curriculum introduced a year ago raised objections from a small group of right-wingers (none of whom appear to have kids in Montgomery County schools, as far as I can tell), and the current one is still raising objections; particularly the part entitled “Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality,” which discourages stereotyping and encourages empathy (asking students to consider the challenges LGBT students face, and put themselves in the other person’s position for a minute) and treating others with dignity and respect despite differences.
But I’m not going to address the entire story. Autumn at Ex-Gay Watch and Jim at the Vigilance blog do that far better than I can. I will, however, point out one thing that everyone should consider. This is a test case. Montgomery County is a very progressive area, and that’s why thus far we’ve been successful in fighting off this attempt by religious extremists to take control of our schools’ curriculum. They knew that when they first launched their campaign. They also know that if they can succeed here, they’ll have a much easier time in other school districts. Maybe yours.
What I want to address is one bit of insanity presented by NARTH, in support of the wingnuts. It’s also the basis for the question that’s the title of this post, and one I want to post to heterosexual readers of this blog.
Autumn quotes a letter from NARTH’s new president that contains this little gem.
Schools should be safe places where respect for all people must be taught. Many students are victims of taunting and cruelty(this is not limited by any means to sexual orientation). Such acts should not be tolerated and problems should be compassionately addressed. (Ed. Note: This is a departure from a previous NARTH recommendation that some ridicule should be allowed.) However, premature foreclosure on sexual identity may encourage risky behaviors and place adolescents, many of whom already struggle with impulsiveness and self-restraint issues, at further risk for both physical and mental health problems such as sexually-transmitted diseases.
Rather than affirming teenagers as gay or bisexual through self-labeling, educators should affirm them as people worthy of respect and encourage them to wait until adulthood to make choices about their sexuality. Dr. George Rekers, Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the University Of South Carolina, summarized this point nicely: “No service is done to our children by offering them lifestyle options before they are properly able to make informed choices about them.”
To which I say this: Cancel homecoming. Cancel the prom.
Why? Well, in the interest of fairness, if teenagers can’t know if they’re gay or bisexual before reaching adulthood, it stands to reason that they can’t know for sure if they’re heterosexual either. And since many teenagers struggle with impulsiveness and self-restraint issues, and since foreclosure on any sexual identity can lead to sexual activity that puts their mental and physical health at risk, we shouldn’t encourage them to identify as gay, bisexual or heterosexual, but encourage them to wait until adulthood to determine if they’re gay, straight or bi.
Right? Of course, that might leave some proto-hetero students to consider the possibility that they might be something else.
But not to worry. If you’re heterosexual, then you don’t need to worry about what you might be, because you’ve always been heterosexual.
Not so for homosexuals, though. ‘Cause homosexuals are really just maladjusted heterosexuals who’ve always been heterosexual and just don’t know it yet. Or at least that’s the assumption in the epistle from NARTH’s president. Teenagers who identify as gay or bisexual should be encouraged to wait until adulthood to “make choices about their sexuality.” Never mind that sexuality and sexual orientation are somewhat different, though related, things.)
Teenagers who identify as heterosexuals, though, may date, engage in practice courting, and buy corsages and rent tuxedoes for a ritual that bares some resemblance to a wedding rehearsal. They can “make choices about their sexuality,” and start practicing their “appropriate roles,” but one can assume that the right-wingers would prefer that the proto-hetero teens stop short of making choices about sexual activity, but everything else is alright since they’re well on their way down hetero lane.
The assumption is that heterosexuals know they’re heterosexuals, and have never been anything else, while homosexuals have not always been homosexual and just don’t know that they’re really heterosexual. (And if they experience too much acceptance and empathy too early, and are treated with too much dignity and respect, they might never have incentive to become heterosexual rediscover their heterosexuality.) In other words, if you’re gay it’s just because you don’t know you’re really heterosexual. (That doesn’t quite jibe with the reality that many “ex-gay” organizations are abandoning the idea of changing sexual orientation.)
But I think it’s worth applying the NARTH rule across the board. I mean, if was mistaken when I came out at the age of 12, thus putting a name to what I’d always felt, and if I made “choices about my sexuality” too soon, then maybe the other guys in the locker room did too. If it was impossible for me to know that I was gay at that age, then it must have been impossible for them to know they weren’t gay (or bi, or transgendered). Weren’t we all too young to know?
So, I’m asking my heterosexual readers to help me out here. Because I truly don’t understand. I mean, I know I’ve always been same-sex oriented. There was never a time when I didn’t know. But I really don’t know the process by which anyone knows that they’re heterosexual.
So, when did you know you were heterosexual? How did you know?
And do you think maybe you made up your mind too soon?