Ορμώμενη απο τα άρθρα που δημοσιεύονται στο Απέναντι Πεζοδρόμιο για την εκπαίδευση και την ομοφυλοφιλία παραθέτω το ακόλουθο άρθρο που δημοσιεύτικε στο Independent School Winter 2001, Vol. 60 Issue 2.
Gay and Lesbian Issues in Schools
Presents an excerpt from the book 'Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex,' by Deborah Roffman. Controversy about teaching sexuality education in the United States; Concerns raised about how the topic of homosexuality could be in any way age-appropriate; Children's exposure to lesbian and gay issues.
'Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex
Teaching about homosexuality in schools is one of the most controversial issues in American education today. Aside from objections raised by some religious groups, there exists great misunderstanding of its purpose. Just as many people misinterpret sexuality education as being focused literally on sex, they are apt to think that education about homosexuality education is intended to focus literally on homosexual sex. Particularly at the elementary school level, therefore, they may be mystified at how the topic of homosexuality could be in any way age-appropriate. No wonder they may think that someone else's agenda is in play. Moreover, as with the misguided beliefs and fears about the process of sex education, they may worry that "knowing Will lead directly to doing" if their children are exposed to the subject.
The fact of the matter is that classroom teaching -- almost at any age -- in no way introduces the subject of homosexuality to children or adolescents. In today's world, lesbian and gay issues are ubiquitous in children's lives. From TV talk shows, news stories, movies, and other programming they watch, to the playground chatter they overhear, to the "in-group-out-group" language of their peer groups, the topic of homosexuality is already in their thoughts and experiences. Homosexuality is simply a reality of modern American life that is ever-present in media and current events, in families and friendships, in laws, politics, religion, and youth culture. Schools that attempt to grapple with the topic -- by providing accurate information and by allowing children to talk about what they already know or think they know and to clarify and learn from the views of others -- are not in any way "putting ideas in children's heads." Rather, these schools are fulfilling their responsibility to help kids understand the world as it is.
Conversely, when schools or parents deny, ignore, or run from this or any other important issue in children's lives, they may implicitly communicate or teach various destructive messages: that adults are too disinterested, uncomfortable, or uninformed to care; that they lack the courage to stand up to controversy or conflict, even when the education, health, and emotional and physical safety of young people may be at stake; that they are clueless or in utter denial about what exists right before their very eyes and ears. As we have emphasized in this book, uninvolved adults will end up both undercutting themselves as credible adult resources and abdicating their all-important roles and duty to affirm, give information, clarify values, set limits, and provide anticipatory guidance. And they will virtually assure that culture and peers will step into the void.
Lessons in school about homosexuality are not intended to promote anything but education, understanding, and safer school environments. They do not advocate that people become gay, only acknowledge that some people are gay; they are not about describing sexual practices --although certainly the topic may come up and be addressed -- but about clarifying the reality of people's lives. For example, talking about the topic of homosexual families (i.e., families headed by gay and lesbian couples) is no more about the subject of sex than is talking about life in families headed by heterosexual individuals. The topic at hand is not the mechanics of sexual behavior, but the fact that some people love, desire, live with, and have sex with one another in same-gender relationships.
Almost always, the most important topics that arise in such conversations are not about sex, or even sexual orientation, but about issues of bias and discrimination, respect and tolerance. The learning typically goes way beyond "gay sex" or even the "gay issue" to discussions of ethical and kind treatment of others. And, because children of all ages understand name-calling and mistreatment -- and how very much they can hurt -- the topic can be handled in an age-appropriate fashion at almost any age. It is never too early for children to talk about respect and to learn about differences among people.
Conversations in school also allow students to learn many new facts and to critically examine the myths, misinformation, confusions, and stereotypes about homosexuality to which they are constantly exposed. They will learn to identify and analyze images of lesbians and gays in the media and clarify crucial distinctions regarding biological gender, gender roles, gender identity, and sexual orientation. They'll explore theories of how people develop heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual orientations (thought to be a combination of biological and environmental factors) and learn that people do not choose their particular orientation but rather come to discover it. They'll hunt for current events in the fields of religion, law, politics, science, health, and family life that pertain to sexual orientation, intersexuality, and transgender. They'll learn that lesbian and gay individuals are part of a highly diverse population of people who defy narrow and often derogatory stereotypes regarding physical appearance, mannerisms, occupation, and lifestyle.
Almost all young people question their sexual orientation, if only at some brief point, and some continue to question their place on the sexual orientation continuum for considerable periods of time. (In fact, facilities and programs that serve sexual minority youth more and more commonly refer to their clientele as GLBTQ youth, for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning.) It is helpful for young people to understand that individuals can experience different patterns of development: Some will know or sense their orientation long before pubescence, most will find that their orientation solidifies around or by the time of puberty, whereas others will discover it more gradually. By age eighteen, most (95 percent) know with certainty. Full awareness and acceptance of bisexual orientation, interestingly, appears to be significantly delayed in comparison to heterosexuality or homosexuality, occurring commonly in the middle to late twenties.
Adolescents also need to appreciate crucial distinctions between the sexual orientation, sexual attraction, sexual fantasy, and sexual behavior. Many people who are fundamentally heterosexual (or homosexual) in orientation will at some time in their lives experience fantasies about same-gender (or other-gender) sexual encounters or find themselves romantically or sexually attracted to particular members of their same (or other) gender. They may or may not act on those fantasies or attractions, but even for those who do, individual experiences will not change or determine fundamental orientation.
It is not at all uncommon for heterosexual (or homosexual) adolescents to experience same-gender (or other-gender) attractions or "crushes," even to the point of physical experimentation. If they do not comprehend the relatively transitory nature of these experiences -- or the differences between attraction, fantasy, behavior, and orientation --they may draw inaccurate conclusions or place inappropriate labels on themselves or others. By the same token, they need to understand that pressuring themselves to engage in particular sexual acts with particular individuals will not establish, confirm, or deny sexual orientation. One's sexual orientation simply is what it is; people can "have" a sexual orientation without engaging in any sexual behavior at all.
Making Change Happen
In the upper-level courses that I teach, students use the local paper and a daily national newspaper as their text. One of the most dramatic trends I've noticed over the decades is that each year, a higher percentage of the articles relate to aspects of homosexuality and to gay and lesbian issues in our society. This topic is not going away, and the opportunities and pressures for schools and families to change will mount. Many changes will evolve gradually and unconsciously as gay culture and gay youth continue to move, in the words of Ryan and Futterman, "from the margins to the mainstream." The pressures on schools, no doubt, will often involve acrimonious conflict and debate. All of it will take time. As Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Alliance, continually points out, change is a process, not an event.
Unfortunately, while time passes, another generation of youngsters --gay and straight -- will suffer the consequences of our adult silence, confusion, conflict, and inaction. In some schools, every child is affected by homophobia every single day. For gay youth and adults and for all of us who know, love, care about, parent, or are parented by people who are lesbian or gay, the effects are immediate and deeply painful. Surely, there is common ground enough in our compassion for one another and for our children to make change happen more quickly, one event at a time.
Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense about Sex by Deborah M. Roffman, based on her quarter-century of teaching in independent education. The book was published in January 2001 by Perseus Publishing (Massachusetts). Reprinted with permission.
1 Caitlin Ryan and Donna Futterman, Lesbian and Gay Youth: Care and Counseling (New York) Columbia University Press, 1998).