"Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality" --Tennessee State Senate Bill SB0049
We understand that many of you may have questions about State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and his "Don’t Say Gay" bill, which recently passed the state senate, by a vote of 6-3, to be implemented by the Board of Education in February.
Q: Why was this bill
A: Previous to this bill, elementary school teachers could have been having live gay sex on their desks in front of children. The only thing that might have stopped them were basic rules for employee conduct, common sense, laws against exposing minors to sexual material and a state law making it a misdemeanor to teach any sex education that is not part of the "family life curriculum." Without the passage of this bill, rampant public sex in the classroom would doubtless ensue.
Q: Why does the bill focus on discussion of orientation, rather than sexual material?
A: The very acknowledgment of g-- non-heterosexual people is something that causes them to exist. This bill hopes that by not discussing homosexuality or mentioning it in the classroom in any way, everyone in Tennessee will magically not be gay. Predicated on the success of this program, there is already a planned 2013 rollout of a bill making it illegal to discuss poverty in the classroom. As you know, talking about something makes it real, so the best way to make it not real is not to talk about it.
Q: Will this have any effect on anti-gay bullying in schools?
A: Certainly not! Tennessee wants to make it absolutely clear that this law will apply only to the schools providing any sort of instruction or education that mentions sexual orientation. Children, naturally, will be encouraged to continue bullying others with epithets like "gay" and "faggot," whether for sexual orientation, insufficient conformity to expected gender stereotypes or simply not being cool. For this reason, the media’s portrayal of this as a "Don’t Say Gay" bill is highly unfair. Many kids will continue saying "gay." The important thing is, faculty and staff at the school will now be prohibited from explaining what that actually means, or interrupting harassment to use it as a teaching opportunity.
Q: Will this law effect history classes as well as family life classes?
A: Yes, the ban extends to the entirety of the school. We think you’ll enjoy our new, more family-friendly history books. Here are some examples: "19th century author Oscar Wilde wrote a number of classic plays, but was eventually put on trial and imprisoned under indecency laws for being IRISH and practicing WITTICISMS." "In 1937, Nazi concentration camps affixed a pink triangle to those who were rounded up for being HAPPY." "Computer genius and British World War II hero Alan Turing eventually committed suicide by cyanide rather than face imprisonment in England for his illegal SMARTNESS."
Q: Is State Sen. Stacey Campfield just suffering from an acute case of homophobia related to a childhood spent under constant taunts and insults for being a boy named Stacey?
A: That is complete conjecture, and it would be inappropriate to comment on such theories to lend them any credence.
Q: Is there a recommended response if students mention an alternative sexuality they accidentally read about in some older edition history books?
A: You basically have two options: You can deny it as irrelevant ("Hitler was just really evil and killed people for no reason; I have no idea what those triangles were for."), or you can stare at the student for a few seconds and then change the topic.
Q: What if we want to mention the existence of homosexuality, but only to condemn it?
A: Although it technically would be a discussion of alternative sexual orientations and hence disallowed by the language of the bill, we’d hate to discourage people from agreeing with the preferred viewpoint of Sen. Campfield, so in such instances the rule would likely not be enforced.
Seth Brown is a local writer who has only been to Tennessee once but enjoyed the fried okra. His work appears weekly in the Transcript, and weakly on www.RisingPun.com.