Accurate representation isn't 'indoctrination'

At my kid's "First Steps" preschool class, each family was given an assignment.  It's a simple one. We were all asked to bring in items and stories and whatnots that represent each of our families and then present them to the rest of the group so that the other children and other parents can better understand their classmates and friends.

The project has been really illuminating. One family brought in music and food to represent their Indian-American culture. Another family included elements to represent a Creole and Italian heritage.  A single parent used an inclusive book on the many different types of families, and some of the families with a mom and a dad proudly talked—as they should—about each other's roles in the family dynamic.  As we taste and talk and listen and take in, the community is strengthened and the children are therefore better served. 

Two weeks ago, it was our family's turn to go.  Like most others, we brought in some food items.  In our case, we brought in snacks that represent our vegetarian diet and talked about some of the plant-based ways we get the nutrition we need.  I was thrilled the children ate the protein power balls and tempeh (even if I'd padded the plate with organic snack crackers just in case).

Also like the other families, we engaged in some discussion about our backgrounds. As with so many American broods, ours is a blend of cultures, and so we discussed the geographic, religious, and ethnic characteristics that make up the story of us.

And like several other families, we too brought in a storybook.  Our choice was one of Savannah's favorite books.  It's called a A Tale of Two Daddies

I should stop here and reinforce that this book genuinely is one of Savannah's absolute favorites.  When you are an LGBT commentator and you have a kid, people like to send you every inclusive children's book on the market.  We have more than a few in our house, from the classics to the obscure.  This particular book has always stood out as one of the five or six that Savannah routinely pulls from the hundreds of other tomes on her shelves.  That the story happens to be a very accurate depiction of our family dynamic is a delicious bonus.  Choosing this book was a no-brainer.

I began the charming tale of a little girl and her two papas without any needed setup and I concluded it without any added fanfare. As I read the story, out loud but otherwise in the same manner in which I've read it Savannah countless times before, I could sense that the kids were deeply invested, as they most always are at story time. The other parents were as invested as they always are (which is to say about 1/4 invested in the tale and 3/4 interested in the safe consumption of the snack that occurs concurrently with story time). Everything was perfectly status quo. Our story was like her story was like his story was like their story.  Not a hint of "controversy" was in the room.

But now think about this same scenario the way it usually plays out in the political realm.  What would the anti-LGBT activists whose rhetoric I and GLAAD challenge every day say if they heard that I read this story in class?  I surely don't have to tell you.  "Indoctrination!" they would scream.  "Agenda!" they'd insist.  "Capturing 'em while they're young!" some would demand.  Because that's what they always say when we present our lives. Our most basic acts of sharing our realities are instantly turned into supposedly brazen acts of defiance.   

The truth, however, is that this was simply my assignment.  The teacher instructed us to accurately represent our family so that everyone can learn more about who we are.  The only way to complete that kind of assignment is to be honest.  To be anything less than forthright and open would be disingenuous.  It would also be cruel to my child to suggest that her family should be hidden away in ways dissimilar from her classmates.  

And that's what these anti-LGBT activists fail to acknowledge.  They refuse to see that we exist, now and already.  They won't even give the slightest credence to the fact that we do have kids and they too attend school.  Instead they act like our families are some sort of a collective theory whose very existence is up for debate.  They pretend that our lives are rumors that will only exist if people with agendas (i.e. LGBT humans) tell our supposed lies (i.e. our literal truths) long enough.  That's why they so easily play the "indoctrination" card when it comes to the fair and accurate depictions of our existences: because it's easy to dismiss that which you don't want to and don't care to—and in fact refuse to—see.  And since they know that their exclusionary agenda is one that is most likely to take hold if it starts young and goes on unchallenged, they are most threatened when we talk to children about childishly simply notions like love and family.  They know that children have a natural inclination to accept—and it scares the hell out of them. Children's books that reflect our families, the very same way countless children's books have always reflected families with moms and dads, are likely to pierce the discriminatory bubble in which they'd like to ensconce our society, thus the outsized effort to stigmatize these tales as something other than the reflective counterparts that they are.  

Living in midtown Manhattan, as I do, I didn't need to convince the other parents that my family is valid. I'm dealing with the "converted," so to speak, who find one of my anecdotes about our family's affection for flea markets far more notable than the two dads thing.  That's not the case everywhere.  In some areas, this sort of visibility is desperately needed.  And those of us who have families of our own and/or are L, G, B, or T share our tales not because we live our days obsessed with political fights or engaged in contrived "culture wars" but rather because these tales are factual depictions of our journeys.  These are the same kinds of stories most families share without added pause or much thought, but what so many same-sex-headed families must share with an added weight attached to them.  

The anti-LGBT activists have spent decades demanding that our casual inclusion is something scary, if not dangerous, and they tell anyone who will listen that we share stories about our lives because we are predatory.  It's time they stop this nonsense.  If they won't call off their ongoing political fight against us (and they don't seem to be eager to), then the anti-LGBT activists need to at least stop with the deeply offensive notion that our simple acknowledgement constitutes something untoward.  They must stop acting as if our lives are "activist" just by their structure alone.  They have to stop hurting our kids in the offensively misdirected name of "child protection."

In schools across the country, millions of children are given assignments wherein they are told to talk about themselves and their families and their lives and their truths.  Countless school PTAs recruit parental involvement.  Teachers demand twice-a-year parent/teacher conferences and other means of parental involvement.  Many of these families, from coast to coast in every state and in every city, feature parents who happen to be of the same sex.  In a world where we could use more family time and more parental involvement, it's downright cruel for the anti-LGBT activists to tell certain students that their families are to remain in the supply closet, only to be spoken of in whispered tones after class when all of the other students have left for the day.  They don't get to erase us out of fear that their own children might embrace us.