The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

I long for the days when I was operating under the illusion that most human beings were basically civilized and kind, and relatively intelligent. It is extremely disappointing to discover, over and over again, that that’s far from the truth. The evidence, it seems, is all around us.

Case in point: this article from the Kansas City Star entitled, “Gay teacher says Missouri district threatened firing if he brought ‘personal agenda’ to class”.

My niece, who is an amazing, compassionate, and very competent teacher in Missouri, brought this article to my attention. It describes how John Wallis (who also sounds like he’s an excellent and compassionate teacher to me), was all but drummed out of Neosho Junior High School by some ignorant parents backed up by some even more ignorant school administrators.

For what, you ask? For putting up a pride flag, accompanied by another flag that said “everyone is welcome”. All he wanted to do was let students know they could always come to him for help. Many students approached him and thanked him, because they hadn’t known where to go if they needed to talk.

But a parent complained about the flag and sign. Their fear was that he was going to teach their child to be gay. The Superintendent wanted Wallis to sign a letter that said that he would keep his personal agenda about sexuality out of the classroom, as if he were giving detailed descriptions of what he does between the sheets, for crying out loud.

As if that stupid Superintendent wasn’t acting upon an agenda all his own. There is never any complaint when straight teachers display photographs of their children or talk about their spouses. Why should it be any different for Wallis? As a matter of fact, they are holding him to a even higher standard because he wasn’t attempting to show pictures of his family or talk about his spouse. He was just displaying a flag and a sign. This is discrimination at its finest.

I’m going to say this loud and clear so even the people in the cheap seats will hear it.

Sexual orientation and gender identification can’t be taught. You are born with these traits as surely as you are born with your eye color or skin tone. It is a part of who you are and nothing to be ashamed of. Ever.

After all, why would anyone voluntarily proffer themselves up to be a source of your hate, misunderstanding, and cruelty? Why would anyone actively attempt to be part of a minority group to suffer from your discrimination? The very fact that you perpetuate the myth that orientation and identification are choices is why these children struggle so hard to feel like they fit in in the already cruel world of school. According to this article, “LGBTQ teenagers overall are three times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers.”

These children need a safe place to go to help them with their confusion and their struggle to be who they are already. Any decent parent wants their child to be happy, healthy, and comfortable in their own skin. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to agree with it, but as a parent you need to accept and preferably embrace the child that you have an obligation to love and care for. Anything less than that should bring shame down upon your head.

The fact is, we need more teachers who have the compassion to help children through those difficult growing up years, when we all struggle to understand who we are. We need all children who are in pain and/or are contemplating suicide to feel that they have a safe place to go to talk. We need professionals who can make these children feel seen and understood, because every human being has a right to feel seen and understood.

My niece had a good point. She would be a safe place to go. Could she hang a pride flag? As a straight woman, no one need fear that she would “teach their children to be gay.”

Probably not. Because, after all, she’s still teaching in freakin’ Missouri, where the ignorance is as high as an elephant’s eye. It’s tragic.

The bottom line is that schools are there to teach our children. Unfortunately, the lesson that Neosho Junior High School has chosen to teach their students by way of this whole debacle is that if you are different, it’s best to keep your mouth shut and feel ashamed rather than take pride in yourself, and that there’s no safe place for you to go. That’s a disgusting lesson to teach.

@MrJWallis, I want you to know that if I had any children of my own, I would want you to be their teacher. You are desperately needed. Don’t give up.

If you are part of the LGBTQ+ community (or anyone else, for that matter) and are contemplating suicide, please know that people care (including me). Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org, or call them at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Enjoying my view? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

9 thoughts on “Some Things Can’t Be Taught

  1. Lyn says:

    I learned early that if most humans were basically civilized, kind, and relatively intelligent, we wouldn’t have wars, crime, abuse or inequality. Still, I was raised to appreciate all our differences as an enrichment to our humanity, not a threat. Spent most my life feeling like an alien, in a human suit, as I engaged with those outside my family. My beliefs were usually in the minority, especially among religions that preached tolerance. People need acceptance. No one wants to be tolerated. Tolerance is a smoke screen that allows an inequality to continue with less resistance. For example; we live in a society that tolerates being described in terms of upper and middle class, but how do we refer to the lowest income earners without the derogatory term of ‘low class’ that allows them to be treated as thus? We can’t cover up the inequalities that these types of illusions perpetuate anymore. Not long ago, society suppressed those deemed different or less than majority norms, but those oppressed are no longer accepting being tolerated or feared. We’ve a long way to go to overcome ignorance that breeds such fear, but we have support now. We have a visible and vocal presence. We have flags, signs, protests, movies, celebrations, books and laws all aimed at establishing the equality of our differences. The ignorant, now in the minority, who throw loud temper tantrums as their fear based beliefs are challenged, aren’t as powerful as they appear and ignorance doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. We have to continue educating them on our commonalities until they trust that ‘their’ differences will be accepted by those they once feared. Hang in there. Feeling less like an alien as the light of equality grows.

    1. Leah says:

      I am Barb’s niece and I feel like I will say there is a difference in between tolerance and acceptance. I love this wording. I feel that most people I am around are usually always tolerant but acceptance is crucial. In my district we are working towards Equity and inclusion. This will be an interesting view to express to bring up! Thank you and thank you Aunt Barb for writing this!

      1. Lyn says:

        I wish you luck Leah. Your efforts give me hope for our children’s futures. We need more teachers who are willing to change the educational system into a more inclusive one like you and John Wallis are. Thankyou.

      2. They do both give me hope, too!

      3. Yes, I like this tolerance vs. acceptance discussion, too, because tolerance can wear thin and show the ugliness and hatred underneath, whereas acceptance is to the very core of one’s being.

  2. Lyn says:

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/15/us/book-ban-controversy-pennsylvania/index.html Just…no! They’re threatened by Sesame Street and Hidden Figures? The ignorant continue to try and drag us back into their darkness, but students and teachers are fighting back, shining their lights. If I had the money I’d send copies of these books to the home of every student in that school district. Be sure and stock your little library with these titles in support of their protest.

    1. I’m kind of dependent on book donations, but if they come through, I’ll definitely highlight them! Thanks for the heads up!

      1. Lyn says:

        I want to donate some of these from amazon for your little free library. What address do I send them to?

      2. Don’t want to put that out on this public forum. Are you on facebook? I could private message you. Other than that, I’d say give me your phone number and I’ll text you my address and then immediately delete your number from here. But it would be a lot less expensive for you if you found the nearest LFL to you and just dropped them off there. THe registered LFL map is on the Littlefreelibrary.org website. Up to you! They’ll get where they’re supposed to go, into the hands of readers, regardless of what method you choose!

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