The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

The Morning After: Edwards

Let me just admit right now that I’ve always been a sucker for a handsome southern boy with an “aw shucks” grin. And Edwards is as handsome and southern as they come. However, time has been my teacher, as this post from the NGLTF blog reminded me.

Still, no major Democratic candidate has made the kind of sweeping statement of inclusion as did Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992, when he declared to a huge crowd of LGBT people in Los Angeles, “I have a vision for America and you are part of it.” His words brought tears to the eyes of the audience and rang out across the United States. Even the most skeptical of us in the LGBT community knew that we heard something previously unspoken by any major political figure.

Yeah. I fell for it then. But, too borrow a line from Big Maybelle, “I was just young and simple. Ha! Ain’t like that no more.”

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So, when John Edwards sat down, I reminded myself that I’d fallen for it all before….

First, let me just say that Melissa Etheridge rocks hard. She has forever earned a slot on my list of “Women I Love.” And for her to bring up Elizabeth as soon as Edwards sat down, and related marriage equality to health care. It’s that kind of questioning that needs to happen every time any of us has a chance to talk to any candidate about any issue, because there’s hardly one that doesn’t touch our families in a way that underscores the problems of inequality.

As for Edwards’ answer, I’d like to see that health care plan of his and see just how it includes our families, and not just partners, but our kids too. If it means that we won’t be subsidizing benefits for heterosexuals that are denied to our families.

His bit about homeless gay youth was touchingly naive. I mean it’s fine that he wanted to remind us of his visit to the LA Gay Center. But when he talks about meeting gay youth who were kicked out of their homes for being gay, and says “It just cant be that in America people think that’s okay. They can’t believe that’s okay,” I had to shake my head. It can be, John. People do think it’s okay. It does happen. People kick their kids out of their homes for being gay, or worse, ship them off to “reparative therapy” camps.

I will give him some credit for talking about educating children about LGBT families. but the dodge on how early kids should learn that our families exist was, well, pathetic. Dana has the answer John should have given.

The answer is simple, John: Teach it at the age when students are likely to encounter peers from LGBT families—that is, from day one. Melissa’s explanation that families come in all configurations is simple enough for even preschoolers to grasp. It’s what LGBT parents tell their own children.

Hell, it’s what I’ve told kids that I babysit.

I remember one conversation with a little girl I was babysitting went like this:

“Where’s Parker?”

“He’s at home with his Papa?”

“His other daddy??

“Yes.”

“How come Parker has two Daddies?”

“Well, there are lots of different kinds of families. Some have a mommy and a daddy. But some have two mommies or two daddies, or even just one mommy or just one daddy. It’s kind of like ice cream. There’s lots of flavors, like vanilla or chocolate, but it’s all still ice cream.”

“You forgot strawberry ice cream.”

“Well, then, there’s strawberry ice cream too.”

“My birthday is coming up, and I’m going to have strawberry ice cream and vanilla cake.”

It’s not much more complicated than that, John. But if you need a number I’d pin it down to age three to five, because that’s when kids learn homophobia.

Nursery teachers should promote tolerance of same-sex partnerships and outlaw the use of offensive homophobic language in the classroom or playground, a teaching union said today.

… The NUT said: “It is particularly important to begin to make three to five-year-olds aware of the range of families that exist in the UK today”. That would includes families with single parents or those with “two mums” or “two dads”, the union said.

The union added: “There will be parents who are gay or lesbian who will want to be reassured that that their children will be safe in the setting.”

Like I’ve said before. Our kids are going to school with your kids. Parker’s classmates know Parker has a Daddy and Papa. They’ve know it for as long as they’ve known Parker, and they’ve all been together for the last four years or so. They’ve seen us drop Parker off and pick him up. They’ve seen us with him at birthday parties and field trips, even out grocery shopping. They’re going to learn about gay families by observation. It’s inevitable.

And what they’re taught about LGBT families will affect my kids’ learning environment. Surprisingly, none of the kids in Parker’s class have had trouble wrapping their brains around it, but perhaps that’s because they haven’t been carefully taught to despise us and our families. Not yet, anyway.

I’ll also give Edwards credit for making it clear that his religious beliefs — no surprise, I guess, that the black guy and the souther guy got questioned about their religion — would not be imposed on the rest of us from the oval office. It’s refreshing to hear Democrats reaffirm the separation of church and state

But back civil unions. If they stop short of full equality, why settle for them? Why stop short?

And, again, how can you lead the country on the path to full equality without supporting equality yourself?

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