The open comments at Haddonfield’s June Board of Education meeting featured disturbing objections to the state’s curriculum standards—specifically that learning about gender identity and sexual orientation would confuse kids and rob them of their innocence. Granted, no one argued it would confuse kids to hear that Mom and Dad are in love or to use “she/her” pronouns for Ramona Quimby. Because none of this was really about kids’ capacity to understand gender or sexual orientation in general, just LGBTQ+ ones.
Parents challenged curricula that discuss queer identities in a compassionate, respectful, and age-appropriate way—in other words, like they already do non-queer ones. Some even argued that learning that some girls fall in love with both boys and girls would defile the innocence of kids who still believe in Santa. The crux of this objection is that queer identities and relationships are inherently more perverse and depraved. They aren’t. Knowing that LGBTQ+ people exist deprives your child of nothing: not innocence, not the magic of childhood, and certainly not Santa.
If these parents are concerned about kids’ well-being, they should consider how their arguments affect our community’s many LGBTQ+ kids and parents. Imagine hearing that it’s inappropriate for students to discuss your gender or your parents’ marriage the way they do other kids’ genders and families. LGBTQ+ kids are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight, cisgender kids because parental and community rejection is common and supportive spaces rare. Cloaking a message that hurts kids in an argument about protecting them doesn’t make that message less harmful.
Maybe it’s best summarized by my eight-year-old when asked “was it confusing to learn that boys can like girls or boys or both?” She laughed at me.
“Why would it be confusing? It’s confusing that you think it’s confusing.”