What Anti-Gay Hate Should Be Telling Us in Oklahoma


Last week, we learned that Debra Taylor, a teacher from the small town
of Grandfield, Oklahoma, was forced to resign because
she attempted to teach her high school students about hate, tolerance, and
community standards using the play The
Laramie Project
.  The play tells the story of Mathew Shepard, a
young gay man from Wyoming
who was murdered for no other reason but his sexual orientation.  The school
superintendent, Ed Turlington, behaving like a petty tyrant over his domain, directed
Taylor to stop
the production.  Taylor
did so, but attempted to bring closure with her students which, in turn,
Turlington saw as grounds for charges of insubordination and suspended her.  It
became increasingly clear to Taylor that her
firing was imminent and such an action would have meant she could never teach
again in Oklahoma’s
schools.  With those options before her and with her passion for teaching
driving her decision, Taylor
resigned. 

Taylor’s
struggle to advance the most basic of American values – justice and
equality – underscores just how inhospitable our country’s schools
are for an entire cadre of young people – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.  After all, if a teacher isn’t allowed to
explain and defend the rights each student has regardless of sexual orientation,
as well as the responsibilities that come with those rights, what lesson are
the students really learning? 

The precarious day-to-day existence in schools for LGBTQ students is
not entirely a mystery.  Thankfully, last year the Gay, Lesbian and Straight
Education Network (GLSEN) released its fifth National
School Climate Survey
.  The report is based on responses collected from LGBTQ
students across the country in 2007.  The results paint a picture of a
community of young people in crisis.

Three main issues emerge in GLSEN’s report: increased
absenteeism, lowered educational aspirations and academic achievement, and an
overall hostile school climate for LGBTQ youth.  On this latter point, for example,
nearly three-fourths of students heard homophobic remarks often or frequently at
school; nine in 10 LGBTQ students surveyed reported they were called names or
threatened because of their sexual orientation; nearly half had been pushed or
shoved; and of these incidents, almost a quarter involved punching, kicking, or
injury with a weapon.  This hostile environment results in nearly a third of LGBTQ
students surveyed missing a class or an entire school day because of feeling
unsafe.

GLSEN also found that this climate of fear, intimidation, and hate has
long term repercussions on young people; nearly twice as many LGBTQ young
people report that they do not plan to further their education past high school
- or even finish high school – than was reported by a broad
national sample of all students.

So, what can be done? GLSEN recommends three concrete steps.  First, schools should welcome clubs such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA)s, which have
been shown to reduce the marginalization of students in schools where
they exist.  And, I do not hesitate to add: EVERY school should have a
GSA.  These clubs promote understanding and inclusivity which, of
course, means that extreme right wing voices engaged in a cultural war
against the rest of us are constantly assailing these GSAs.  

Second, comprehensive safe-school laws and policies can prevent the
bullying and systemic discrimination that LGBTQ young people experience daily. 
These take the form of anti-bullying policies that are inclusive of sexual
orientation and gender expression. The wide spread institution of comprehensive
sexuality education fits squarely into this an endeavor as does the elimination
of failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which by their very nature
ignore the needs of LGBTQ students.

And, finally – and this returns us to the case of Debra Taylor
- GLSEN’s report shows just how important supportive educators are
in the lives of LGBTQ students.  They can help create a safe environment for LGBTQ
youth and their friends, which, in turn, helps alleviate all of the negative
indicators we’ve just mentioned.

Of course, the bigoted views of those who seek to inject injustice into
our society through their own righteous myopia know this all too well.  And
that is why, in this small town in Oklahoma,
a brave teacher finds herself out of a job.  But, it is more than that; at the
very core of this, we must speak the truth, and the truth is that while there
is significant space between calling someone a faggot, firing a teacher because
of intolerance, and brutally murdering someone because of their sexual
orientation, all of these things spring from the same dark corner of
mankind’s worst potentialities

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  • invalid-0

    I have come to the conclusion that as long as there is no physical or verbal abuse by someone to someone. People should live and let live. Preachers need to realize that people will only listen if they want to. No one has the right to judge or critzize someone period.
    I get the feeling in this society that people blame themselves for someone elses behavior, that if they ignore the behavior they will go to “Hell”. Regardless if they know the person or not.
    Religious or not the final choice is with each individual. Religious people should remeber that only God has the right to judge someone. Non religious people should do what they feel is best with their life and not judge anyone else either.
    We need laws to protect us yes but judging ones behavior as long as it is not hurting anyone else is not right. If you do not like someone-just avoid them!

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ invalid-0

    Funny how we don’t have people like Chuck Colson rending their garments over Taylor’s resignation. But they’re too busy pretending the Big Gay Mafia is running roughshod over them. All the while they’re the ones making life a living **** for LGBT people and their allies, like Debra Taylor.

    I wish I could get in a time machine and go forward in time to a world not run by these bigots.

  • invalid-0

    I am ashamed of America for this injustice to the teacher, Debra Taylor, who trys to involved her students in the world we live in. This is not only about gays but anyone who is different in any way.
    Hate never solved anything.
    We lost an excellent teacher and still have a hateful administrator.

    Hey Ed, do you believe in the Holocaust??????!!!!!

    America=SHAME!

  • invalid-0

    Ed Taylor’s abound in this world. We let them. He played his hand. We know he is a hateful person. Now we as a community of people that believes there is already so much pain and suffering on this planet that making more is not acceptable need to let Ed know that he is done.
    OKC is a destination resort for the LGBT community in the Midwest. It is one of the most fun towns I have visited in the US.
    May every person possible that goes thru Oklahoma make a side trip to Ed’s little town of Grandfield and when they show themselves to be intolerant, let them know what they have lost. Leave no money behind but make sure you leave a great impression. Make them realize that they are the smaller person…….Eventually the people of Grandfield will begin to wonder what Ed’s problem is and that HE is a problem in hiimself.
    I do not suggest killing them with kindness but let him know what his hatred costs.
    As for Debra Taylor, She fought a good battle and was wise to resign. Why let the Ed’s of the planet ruin your career in Oklahoma? He has to answer for his hatred. Pick a new battle in a place that wants a great teacher……for you are one. The Laramie Project is one of the most enlightening stories ever of a very tragic sick event. It makes people think, something Ed is apparently not capable of much less learning.
    The loss is to the children. The children always seem to get the short end of the stick. Ed really wants to run a school to turn out cookie cutter hate mongers like himself.
    You did your part Debra. Now let time and others pick up the ball there.