All deserving of a safe place

Published 11:12 am Monday, October 4, 2010

Anoka-Hennepin school board pushes to do something about creating “a safe place” for GLBT students. They must, but the way things are going, it’s not likely to be the right thing. Schools must be a safe place for all students, and authorities need to address the basic issue of inter-student harassment for any cause.

I have either observed, participated in, or even chaired scores of sessions in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people have presented their cases for sensitively respectful treatment in public institutions. Listening closely and receptively, I learned a good deal from and about the people who testified, and I feel I gained a reasonably good understanding of such situations.

This is what the Anoka-Hennepin students and graduates are attempting, and I truly hope they will be responded to effectively. They want their individual, private choices and decisions to be respected as individual, private choices and decisions. They have a right to this, and schools are obligated to ensure this.

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However, there are other things for which GLBT advocates are working, and many of these are not matters of private choices and decisions. The actual rights they seek, indeed demand, are valid and just. These same rights, however, belong to all students — not to them exclusively because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or any combination thereof. Human rights belong to humans, and GLBT are entitled to them because they are human. This, despite what others may think about whether these are human functions or traits.

I call on GLBT advocates also to ask school boards to stop the harassment that has been tolerated for generations of students who have chosen to remain sexually inactive prior to marriage. For years, one of the taunts thrown at wholesome young people is “virgin!”

GLBT activists are proud of their own sexual orientation, and they resent its being denigrated by others. Understood.

At the same time, I have heard — many times — boys denigrated because they refuse to have sex with a girl, any girl. They are then accused of being homosexual (although with one or more of the pejorative terms used for homosexuality). When the boys have repulsively refused the slur, gays and lesbians have chosen to feel themselves offended. Instead of empathizing with their insulted fellow students, they verbally assaulted them with: “What’s wrong with being gay? Don’t you dare talk that way about me!

One student has the right to be gay, or so to think of himself, and not be harassed for it. The other has a right not to be gay and to resent being accused of violating his own moral standards and not be harassed for it.

Tolerance means “to be and let be;” tolerance does not require support, agreement, or approval. Yet, this is a major goal of the GLBT advocates I have heard and read. They want to be tolerated as they are. Okay. But they define “tolerance” as politically campaigning for and with them. It requires agreement that homosexuality is at least as normal as any sexual orientation. It requires personal and official approval of homosexuality.

They understandably react against being degraded as “homo.” But, they themselves are quick to hurl “homophobe!” at anyone who but disagrees with their opinions on the nature of things.

GLBT people should not — must not — be harassed, discriminated against, or otherwise treated unfairly. No one should be. To demand specific provisions for them alone, however, is not to assert legitimate equal rights but to demand special privilege.

The best case GLBT can present to the school boards, and the public generally, is fair, equal, and respectful treatment of everyone — even those they accuse of being homophobic.