Sunday, November 20, 2022

Lessons Learned


At least five people were killed and 18 injured late Saturday in a shooting at an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub in Colorado Springs, the police said early Sunday morning.” Emily Bubola, New York Times

Young people in our community will wake up to this news. What will it mean to them? Will it be another example that the world is not safe for them or someone they care about? Or will it confirm what adults around them have been saying, that LGBTQ people are dangerous and need to be controlled or suppressed? 

It depends on who those young people are, what their friends say, what their parents say, what they see in the news and on social media. My heart aches for LGBTQ kids in Columbia/HoCo who will see this today and feel a deep sense of fear. Of dread. Of overwhelming rejection. 

I also worry for the straight, cisgender kids who are surrounded by negative and judgmental attitudes. Every time something like this happens, they are gradually acculturated to see some fellow human beings as “other”. It could be jokes at someone else’s expense, anti-LGBTQ rants by adults on social media, bullying, harrassment, or worse. If no one around them speaks out or stands up against it, our children will learn that these acts of hate are normal. They are to be expected. No big deal.

LGBTQ-positive programs in schools are important, and not only for LGBTQ students and families. This quote from Rabbi Dana Ruttenberg helps to explain this.


We need diverse representation not *only* so every kid can see themselves as the hero of the story, but also so that every kid can understand that *other* kinds of kids are *also* the heroes of the story.

It is important that every child grow up understanding that they are loved and accepted for who they are. It is also important that children witness that love and acceptance being given to all kinds of children. Not just kids like them. All children. 

Some parents object so loudly to LGBTQ-positive programs in schools that you would almost think they believe such things are contagious. I suspect they are really agitating for the right to make sure their children go through school with their parents’ prejudices intact. It’s not sexual orientation or gender identity that’s contagious,  it’s acceptance, support, open-mindedness. Open the door a little bit, they think, and that stuff will spread like wildfire. 

The recent Board of Education race brought a lot of this kind of thinking to the forefront. Young people watch this more than you think. When we elect Board Members who do not give full support to all children, it teaches them that some children are to be valued more than others. Those are difficult lessons to unlearn. 

Writer and advocate Charlotte Clymer responded on Twitter to the news of the shooting at Club Q::

This mass shooting in Colorado Springs is horrifying and exactly what LGBTQ organizations and leaders have been warning would happen if the violent rhetoric toward our community continued. This is what happens when hateful propaganda goes unchecked.

How we respond to this with young people is crucial. Whether at home or in school there should be an openness to making space for their concerns and fears. We must be firm in rejecting acts of hate, small or large. The seeds sown in childhood will bear fruit, one way or another. When we throw up our hands and say we “just can’t talk about it”, we are actually sending a message that our children hear loud and clear. 

We could care but we don’t. We could help but we won’t.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate—

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

- - “You've Got to Be Carefully Taught” (Rodgers/Hammerstein II)

© 1949, Copyright Renewed, Williamson Music Company (ASCAP) c/o Concord Music Publishing.

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