Straight Eye on the Queer School

Last week the New York City public school system announced it was creating a high school catering entirely to homosexual and transsexual students. Despite the fact there’s not a single school system in the country that can afford to pay its teachers a decent living wage, $3 million has been earmarked by mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the school, tentatively geared for 100 students, a reality.

Sexuality is a frightening concept. If adults have problems coming to terms with who they are as a person, can you imagine the pressures an adolescent goes through? I had enough on my plate as a 14-year-old between schoolwork and family obligations without worrying about what my sexual preference might end up being. (For the record, I’m straight.)

So why force the issue on children? What high school freshman knows with certainty she’s a lesbian? What does it say about the public school system that their solution to the discipline problem created by intolerant hotheads is shipping homosexuals off to another campus?

In theory, it is a good idea to provide an environment where a child’s sexual preference isn’t called into question. However, other prejudices exist. Sexuality isn’t strictly a Caucasian adventure — black, white, Muslim, Hindu, every race, creed and ethnicity have a homosexual population. I know gay men whose racism would make a Klansman blush, and isolating a group of gay kids won’t work because it doesn’t address other inherent prejudices they might have had in their upbringing.

Placing teenagers in school is an experiment in social engineering. Cliques form and groups make fun of others. Guess what? That’s a part of life. Fat kids get teased for being overweight. Glasses and hairstyles are instant targets. This is just how it is. It’s these kinds of environments that prepare people to confront intolerance and learn maintaining such ideologies is wrong.

No solution to peer ridicule should involve segregating students from one another. After a century of civil rights advances and the removal of quotas, minority groups are now doing everything in their power to close themselves off again in the name of shared “heritage.” Few groups have advocated more loudly for equality than homosexuals. Why now, when the gay lifestyle is approaching mainstream acceptance, would they voluntarily sit at the metaphorical back of the bus? How is that good for anyone?

When I was in college, there were several areas of student housing available only to blacks, Latinos, or Asians. We had the Black Student Union, a slew of Asian societies, and a host of other clubs seemingly dedicated to isolating and protecting themselves from the multiculturalism around them.

(Was there a white club? Please. Try that and you’ll be immediately branded a racist even though the concept is the same. Share the same skin color? Welcome to the club, friend. Look different? Consider yourself excluded.)

Are we so vain and ignorant a society that we think the way to learn to accept others is by turning away from them and embracing something comfortable, something familiar?

Homosexual kids have serious questions about who they are, and the last thing they need is to be completely sheltered from the rest of the world. Heads up: Putting 100 gay kids together in a classroom isn’t going to solve any problems. Bigots will hate gay people regardless of where they go to school. Eliminating this adversity will only make the children sheltered, weaker, and more vulnerable to criticism later in life.

Most important, however, is the question of how these kids even know they’re gay. What if it turns out they’re not, and they’re just confused? Who jumps in and solves that problem?

I feel if we were to take one segment of the student body and create a safe school environment for them, it should be kids of Middle Eastern descent. These children are constantly bombarded with vicious hate from ignorant assholes who have no concept of critical thinking and truly believe we live among tens of millions of potential terrorists. Those are the people who need protection, not thin-skinned gays who can’t deal with getting teased.

Maybe I’m naive to think that people should base whether or not they like you on your attitude and your presentation, not your skin color, religious background, or ethnicity. I don’t like people because they’re assholes, pure and simple. If you’re a dick, it isn’t because you’re black or white; it’s because you aren’t a good person.

In the end, though, the real question is why, when we can’t even afford schoolbooks and a decent education for our students, school districts are appropriating funds for a special-needs segment of its students. Simple math tells us this school is being put together at a cost of over $30,000 per student. To teach the same curriculum.

Here’s a radical concept: use that money to repaint schools. Hire new teachers. Purchase textbooks that aren’t grossly out of date. Repair broken facilities. Make school a source of pride instead of creating one school that serves more as fodder for newspaper columnists than as a center of learning.

What if the school is created as planned and its educational value is higher than other public schools (a safe bet considering the amount of startup revenue)? Who’s being discriminated against then? Would they open up the “gay school” at that point so that students denied a proper public education could share in the benefits?

It’s embarrassing to think, at this point in our history, with such a wealth of ideas and information at our disposal from all over the world, humanity is hell-bent on removing any progress toward humanity in favor of stilted, one-dimensional definitions of people. This situation might deserve more merit if it were in some ass-backward region of the country, but this school is set in the middle of the New York City School District. If there’s a more diverse region in the country, I haven’t found it.

We need to realize being human is about sometimes making caustic remarks. It’s about occasionally pissing someone off. You can’t please everybody. And trying to coddle someone for an imagined slight only legitimizes it.