Saturday, December 5, 2009

Attacks on Kevin Jennings and GLSEN

Many of you who read this blog already know Kevin Jennings.  For those who don't, he is a former high school history teacher who, along with a small group of supporters, began to put LGBT issues on the educational map.  These pioneers started GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) in the Boston area about twenty years ago.  GLSEN sponsored countless conferences, school presentations, and workshops to show people that having out LGBT teachers in school is essential to the health and wellbeing of students, especially those who identify as LGBT.  GLSEN was so successful that it became a national organization that Kevin headed for a number of years.

Shortly after his appointment as Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan named Kevin Jennings the Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.  And here is where it gets pretty ugly.  Right wing groups and media have initiated a full scale attack on Kevin, trying to link him with child pornography and groups that foster pedophilia.  The reason? Some of the reading recommendations Kevin made for high schoolers who were LGBT were sexually explicit.  Now, let's start by acknowledging that no matter how explicit the depictions were, high schoolers looking at explicit pictures is not child porn.  Of course, these groups know that full well, but linking gay men to pedophilia is part of their bargain when talking about LGBT folks. Secondly, as someone who was very involved in GLSEN after it began (I was not one of those founding members), I am very familiar with the reading lists and workshop materials GLSEN created and recommended.  As a teacher, I could be pretty traditional when it came to language and material that I thought might not be age appropriate.  In my mind, GLSEN's work was not only appropriate but vital.

There's something else deeply disturbing about the attacks on Kevin.  It boggles my mind that these groups would exploit the pain and suffering of the far-too-many survivors of childhood sexual abuse in this country, whether they were victims of institutions like the Catholic Church or victims because too many adults closed their eyes to what was going on.  For these groups to try to connect the work GLSEN has done with child pornography and pedophilia is shameful.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Disappointing article. Exactly how many young men have been abused by the Catholic Church? Really, not that many. Now, of course, one IS too many, but still, the point of Catholic bashing is to give excuse for rejecting Christianity on its face.

    Personally, I am fine with whatever you folks claim to be. I suppose you have never been to a gay parade. I have. I can't imagine the thing being more explicitly filthy. Trash is the word that comes to mind.

    But what really gets me is the fact that in pushing your agenda, we are quickly coming to a point in time when my public objections to your agenda will be considered illegal. You and yours are fine with limiting my free speech rights, even in church, but I am not. You see, the gay alliance is not about being treated fairly; it is about being a force that cannot be denied. That is the gay agenda and it is that move to rob me of my speech rights to which I object.