SBC Life Articles

Today’s Lesson: Gay Is Okay

Homosexual activists have a new plan for reaching young children. It begins with "educating" their teachers.

It is the sound of youthful innocence — a chorus of cherubs, several hundred strong. Little boys and girls, reveling in words sung a million times over by a thousand gospel choirs.

They have gathered in a gymnasium to cheer, clap, and sing. Their words reverberate off walls adorned with banners commemorating this special event. Scattered throughout the audience, little index fingers sway back and forth as they sing.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine . . .

A Sunday school assembly? Perhaps a church camp?

Not even close.

The students at Cambridge Friends School, many as young as five or six, have taken a break from their daily studies to celebrate friendship, tolerance, and acceptance. The event's hand-painted decorations include a two-and-a-half-foot high inverted pink triangle. Most of the teachers — and several students — wear buttons bearing the same symbol.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine . . .

That's because, for the fourth year in a row, this Quaker school in Cambridge, Mass., is celebrating Gay and Lesbian Pride Day.

The school-wide assembly features a talk from "Jeff," a first- and second-grade teacher who equates a closeted homosexual with someone who plays soccer with one leg. Such a hardship clearly hampers one's ability, he demonstrates, but playing is not impossible.

As the students ponder this apparent injustice, Jeff explains that it doesn't have to be this way. At Cambridge Friends School (CFS), he says, gays don't have to handicap themselves. That includes elementary school teachers.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine . . .

"At CFS," Jeff says, "I can tell the truth that I'm a gay man. And that gives me so much more energy to be a better teacher, to be a better co-worker, and to be a better friend."

The students applaud as if Jeff had just canceled school for a month.

Another speaker tells the students how proud she is. "I know that the kids in this school," she says, her voice beginning to break, "are going to make this world a better and a safer place — not just for gay and lesbian people, but for all of us."

We later learn that Jeff was not the only teacher to "come out" that day.

Cue the singing.

. . . let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

The Younger, the Better

This scene takes place about three-quarters of the way through It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues In School — a seventy-eight-minute documentary designed to show educators how to "address gay and lesbian issues with young children." The film does this by taking the viewer into six different public and private schools where homosexuality is just another subject.

More accurately, it's just another lifestyle.

Before they sit in on Gay and Lesbian Pride Day, viewers have already visited schools in New York, San Francisco, and Madison, Wis. They have seen first- and second-graders create a book about being gay and lesbian; they've seen an elementary school host a photo exhibit about "living in lesbian and gay families"; they've seen objecting parents ridiculed as "homophobes"; and they've seen a middle school sponsor a pair of homosexual guest speakers.

Needless to say, pink-triangle buttons abound.

One of the guest speakers, Noé Gutiérrez, a young homosexual man who answers questions from eighth-graders, says he was brought in to be a role model. "There are gay students in this classroom," he explains.

It's Elementary makes it clear that the classroom presentation by Gutiérrez and twenty-something lesbian Donna Bransford has the blessing of both the school board and administrators at San Francisco's Luther Burbank Middle School.

"It should be mandatory," says principal George Sloan. "I think it's a healthy way of teaching students to respect each other and to understand each other."

Eighth-grade social studies teacher Robert Roth agrees, but says introducing gay issues in middle school is too late for his taste.

"They should have it in elementary school," Roth says. "They should have the beginning discussion much, much earlier."

At least four of the schools featured in It's Elementary are doing just that. By film's end, viewers have seen third-graders debate the merits of same-sex marriage.

In Search of a Classroom

It's Elementary is the work of producers Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen, who together run a San Francisco production company called Women's Educational Media. The business partners describe themselves as activists, though Chasnoff is also an award-winning director with an Academy Award to her credit. (Chasnoff used her Oscar acceptance speech — for the Best Short Documentary of 1991 — to come out as a lesbian.)

The film is actually the second pro-homosexual production from Chasnoff, who in 1984 released Choosing Children, a film about lesbians raising children. Chasnoff co-produced Choosing Children with Kim Klausner, her own "life partner."

A mother of two, Chasnoff said her primary inspiration for It's Elementary was the fact that her older son was about to enter kindergarten, and she was concerned about how his teachers would respond to his "two moms" family. Chasnoff was further motivated by speeches at the 1992 Republican National Convention from Pat Robertson and other conservatives, which she described as "blatant homophobia."

Thus, while Chasnoff conceptualized, Cohen went off in search of both funding and classrooms where homosexuality was presented in a favorable light. Finding such classrooms was hard enough — getting permission to film there was even harder.

Most of the schools they approached turned them down, some of them backing out at the last minute. It's no surprise, then, that the filmmakers ended up in liberal locales like Madison, Cambridge, New York, and San Francisco.

That such politically loaded discussions are already taking place in classrooms isn't lost on Peter LaBarbera of the conservative group Accuracy in Academia.

"What's scary is that this stuff is going on in public schools," said LaBarbera, who also publishes the Lambda Report on Homosexuality. "The only service this movie did was to take what is going on and make it known to everybody."

LaBarbera said he was more troubled not by what It's Elementary depicts, but what the producers and their subjects left out.

"The greatest risks to those kids can't even be explained," he said, "because, as one of the people said in the video, you can't talk about sex.

"There is so much that it doesn't talk about: health risks, AIDS, and ex-gays who leave the lifestyle. And it doesn't talk in a respectful way about why people are opposed to homosexuality."

Echoing LaBarbera's concern is Steven Kossor, a certified school psychologist who has critiqued the film.

"The homosexual lifestyle carries with it potentially catastrophic emotional and physical consequences," Kossor told Citizen. "To withhold that information from children and present homosexuality as a simple choice — like deciding what kind of shoes you want to wear — is intellectually dishonest, if not potentially abusive."

Targeting Teachers

Since its release a little more than a year ago, It's Elementary has garnered a number of cinematic awards, many of them from gay and lesbian film festivals. The film was screened across the country last fall, with varying degrees of success.

Hundreds turned out in some cities, but at a private showing for 130 Utah state lawmakers and educators, not one showed up (although three legislators did view it earlier in the day). Gay activists deemed the dismal turnout "unacceptable."

Still, the film has no shortage of supporters.

California state assemblywoman and open lesbian Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, hosted a special screening for state education policy makers. The Minnesota Parent-Teacher Association endorsed the film. The American Library Association called it "a sterling production" and "highly recommended." The American School Counselor Association is making videos available to school counselors nationwide.

Ariella Ben-Dov, an associate producer with Women's Educational Media, said It's Elementary has done "phenomenally well."

"We've sold approximately 1,200 video tapes," Ben-Dov told Citizen. "Most of those sales are to educational organizations: elementary, middle schools, and high schools. They are being used for teacher training."

Ben-Dov said the film is not designed to be shown to students, but to parents and educators. She said many libraries — both public and school libraries — have purchased copies.

Ben-Dov also confirmed reports that the producers are seeking a much broader audience: "We are still trying to get distribution nationally on PBS."

Thus the producers have managed to reduce parental protests by keeping the film out of the classroom, while at the same time promoting it to those who lead classroom discussions.

Robert Knight, director of cultural studies for the Family Research Council, said, "I imagine it has been shown in many school districts and the parents aren't even aware of it."

Polished Packaging

Even the film's critics acknowledge that It's Elementary is very well made. "This is the most sophisticated, polished packaging of homosexuality that I've seen," Kossor said.

Knight agreed that those unfamiliar with homosexuality could easily be taken in by the film. "It's a very slick piece of propaganda," he said. "It appeals to people's best instincts: generosity, fair-mindedness, and willingness to embrace the underdog."

Sympathetic reviewers seem to like the film's lack of objectivity. The San Francisco Chronicle called it an "unabashedly biased, upbeat look at a subject that most parents would probably rather see disappear." The Boston Globe said, "The filmmakers' agenda is so clear, so unapologetic, the final result is refreshing."

Who could ask for a better review? Not co-producer Helen Cohen, who said she views film as "another medium to affect social change."

And what sort of social change will the makers of It's Elementary try to affect next?

Turns out Chasnoff is already at work on a new project — a film that examines different kinds of families, including those with "two moms" or "two dads." This time, Chasnoff's intended audience isn't teachers, but students themselves.

Cue the singing.

This little light of mine …

Kinsey: Flawed from the First

For fifty years, Alfred Kinsey, infamous for his publications on human sexuality known as The Kinsey Report, has been cited as the undisputed authority on matters sexual. Among other things, he reported that of the thousands of men he interviewed:

• about eighty-five percent had engaged in premarital intercourse;

• between thirty and forty-five percent had had extramarital affairs;

• about seventy percent had patronized prostitutes;

• at least thirty-seven percent had had at least one intimate homosexual encounter.

He also insisted that ten percent of American men had more than casual interest and involvement in homosexuality.

Kinsey, thoroughly steeped in Darwinism, saw human sexuality as no more than natural, animalistic behavior that should not be stifled by religion or tradition. Armed with evidence that indicated most people are secretly involved in a myriad of sexual activity with a host of partners, he set out to free society from the cultural bonds that enforced a shamed silence.

His book was an instant hit. Secularists embraced his findings and preached them as representative of society. Social engineers used his research to discard antiquated moral standards. Singlehandedly, he lifted our nation to an enlightened level of human sexuality.

However, recent findings challenge the integrity of his research. In the August 25/September 1 issue of The New Yorker, author James H. Jones contests the validity of his study, revealing that Kinsey was himself a homosexual and masochist. He suggests that his sexual obsessions, "… certainly did affect the objectivity and detachment of his work as a scientist." He goes on to point out that those who were involved in Kinsey's research, "… were people who were either on the margins or beyond the pale: homosexuals, sadomasochists, voyeurs, exhibitionists, pedophiles, transsexuals, transvestites, fetishists."

Kinsey's samplings did not represent society as a whole, but merely the perversion to which he was drawn. And those who followed his creed find themselves in a house that is crumbling around them — because its foundations were faulty.

    About the Author

  • the Citizen staff