It’s Elementary

One of the reasons I decided to move back to New York from Texas
once I adopted Juli was because I wanted her to have an education
that would be relatively free from harm because she had a gay dad.
I knew there was no way to guarantee she wouldn’t be teased, but I
wanted her to go to a school where I could at least get back-up
from the principal and the school district if it did happen. I
didn’t think I’d be so fortunate in Texas schools.

I came across the 90’s documentary It’s
a while back and was surprised to see Juli’s school
featured prominently in it. It features teachers from around the
country talking about gays and lesbians in [gasp] elementary
schools. On the way back from a field trip to the zoo last October,
I asked Juli’s teacher if she had heard of it and if there was some
sort of curriculum in place at the school. She said no and no.
However, she did say that she talks about all sorts of families on
a regular basis in the room. There are other kids from gay families
in Juli’s class, as well as kids from single parent households.
It’s a great mix. However, I wondered if Juli would be so lucky
with her next teacher or the teacher after that.

I finally got around to asking Juli’s class parents last week if
they would bring up the subject at their monthly meeting with the
principal. They did. I actually ran into her later that day when I
was in the office to pick Juli up early for a doctor’s appointment.
I love the fact that she knows me by sight even though there are
800 kids who go to the school. The principal is wonderful and, of
course, knew about the documentary. In fact, she had heard it was
being re-released on DVD because the company who made the film had
recently called to warn her of the possibility of threatening phone
calls from the loonies who had been calling and harassing them!
Fortunately, Juli’s school has not received any threats.

She said she wants to show the documentary at the next staff
meeting and that she’d like it to be brought up at the next PTA
meeting and to see how it’s received, which I took to mean to get
an idea of how parents will react to the subject matter. Sadly,
even though we’re in a liberal neighborhood and there are many gay
and lesbian parents whose kids go to the school, there may still be
resistance…which is why I think I waited so long to finally get
the ball rolling on this whole thing. I was scared that there would
be backlash and that my fond feelings for this wonderful school
would be tarnished.

There is a need for the curriculum to be in place. I told the
principal how only a few weeks earlier, on the day Seth, Juli, and
I left for Texas, I was walking behind a group of middle school
kids, maybe 6 or 8 in the group, and as we were walking up
Amsterdam on the Upper West Side, two guys got out of a taxi. They
kissed good-bye as they went their own way. Very sweet. Well, you
can imagine what ensued. The kids started yelling hateful things.
Loud. I don’t think the guys heard, or if they did, they ignored
them. I knew I would be filled with shame if I didn’t say anything
and so I did. I ran ahead of them and turned, walking

“You shouldn’t say those things,” I said angrily. “I’m gay. In
fact, I’m on my way to pick up my daughter from school–“

“You’re gay? Oh, man,” one of them laughed.

I felt like I, too, was back in middle school but finally saying
the things I wish I had said back then.

“That’s right. And you need to not say that crap, especially when
there are kids around.”

There was a little more back and forth, but I had made my point.
Interestingly, I never heard any anti-gay comments in the following
week while we were in Bush country.

Clearly, there’s a need for it in our schools, even in New York
City. I recently talked to a guy at a Center Kids event. He’s
actually a godfather to one of the kids who was attending. The guy
told me he’s recently become more active in the boy’s life because
he’s getting teased at school for having two moms. The shocker is
they live in Park Slope, Brooklyn AND he’s in pre-school!

And the struggle continues…