Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs in Texas Schools ~ Like It or Not, They’re Here

 This isn’t the first time I’ve made a right/bad decision, and it probably won’t be the last either. I guess it’s just the way I’m made.

Opa_II“Well… it’s probably a good thing that you don’t plan on teaching too many more years.”

This was my wife’s response after I informed her recently of my decision to become the sponsor of a new club at the North-Central Texas high school where I teach. The club, unless the school board wants to try to stop it, will be an affiliate group of the national GSA organization (Gay-Straight Alliance). It’ll be a group of self-identified gay and lesbian students as well as any “straight” sexually-oriented students that might be supportive of the club’s purpose, which is: to promote tolerance, understanding, and acceptance through social aware- ness. The club will most definitely not be for the purpose of promoting behavior or persuasions considered to be deviant by many.

In Texas?!!

Yes, in Texas. We’re still part of the United States, you know, and according Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC & P) guidelines on preventing unintentional injuries and violence in public schools, published December 7, 2001 and never rescinded during the GWB years http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5022a1.htm, school administrators are compelled to combat victimization of minority groups, and that’s what this club will be about — keeping kids safe.

“Regardless of a child’s ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, sexual orientation, or physical status, all children have a right to safety. When victimization through bullying, verbal abuse, and physical violence is prevalent in a school, the entire school community experiences the consequences. When abuse against a particular group is perceived as acceptable, intergroup hatreds can become established… Students who are different from the majority of their classmates because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or other personal characteristics are at increased risk for being bullied. Gay, lesbian, or bisexual students, and students perceived to be gay by their peers are often victims of repeated verbal abuse and physical assault.”

Our principal has informed me that he thinks there would be no legal way, ultimately, for him to deny this group the right to organize and assemble on school property while allowing other groups the same right such as our conservative, faith-based group of students calling themselves, “Youth Alive”.  He said that, had I not said, “yes,” to the openly gay, purpose-driven young organizer who had approached me with the request to sponsor the club, he’d have probably had to find a sponsor for it, sponsor it himself, or else withdraw permission for all non-academic or athletic groups to have school-sponsored clubs.

Learning of this young organizer’s personal history of abuse (personal attacks, both verbal and physical) against which he finally defended himself and had spent time in reform school for having done so, I came to fully appreciate his passion for wanting to start a GSA club at our school. His story put a face on the many other stories that I had heard in the news over the years about gay-bashing and horrible atrocities.

Nation-wide, there are legal battles on-going over whether administrators and school boards can deny GSA clubs the right to organize and to meet on school property. Right here in Texas, the Lubbock Independent School District trustees have said that they will do all that they legally can do to prevent a gay group from meeting on school property http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=102×15804. So, the GSA group there has taken their case to federal court. Elsewhere in the nation, in Salt Lake City a high school settled out-of-court with a GSA group after a federal court ruled against the Okeechobee School District in Florida last summer for denying a GSA group the right to assemble. The court had ordered the Okeechobee School District to pay the group $300,000 in court and attorney fees http://psychescientia.blogspot.com/2008/08/federal-court-says-okeechobee-high.html. Our school district will probably not want to go down either of these routes, but they may just decide to wait and see what happens in the Lubbock School District case — buying some time. We’ll soon find out.

Now, before you start wondering – no, I am not gay myself and, yes, I am a Christian and I worship weekly. My wife and I have been married almost forty years; we have three grown sons, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild now. So, why did I so willingly agree to sponsor this club? I don’t know – it just seemed like the right thing to do – maybe not the smart thing, but definitely the right thing. This isn’t the first time I’ve made a right/bad decision, and it probably won’t be the last either. I guess it’s just the way I’m made. I could have said, “No,” claiming that I was too busy or even that I have a moral issue with gay and lesbian orientations and practices. But that would have been a lie. I believe that all God’s children have a right to be whom and whatever they are so long as their attitudes and behaviors do not harm others.

To offend someone is one thing, for the offence is in the perception of the offended. To abuse someone is something quite different. Abuse is intentional, it is harmful and it is hateful – certainly not Christian behavior – and abuse is what GSA is organized to combat.

I covet your prayers, for me, for our school, and for the community it serves.

Please feel free to post a comment, whether pro or con.

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Published in: on October 17, 2009 at 10:42 am  Comments (17)  

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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You have my prayers…the few gay friends I have said they knew they were gay by their early teens and it was a long difficult road to acceptance.

    Maybe this club will help a few souls on the road to peace and to living a life of love and abundance.

    I think you are doing a very good thing…be well.
    Carol

  2. Dear Opa,

    All I can say is BRAVO!! I cannot tell you how happy it has made me to read this posts. I faithfully read all of your posts, but rarely have the time to comment, tonight, however, I am making the time, as this type of Christian Community Service is what our country, and it’s people young and old, need to see and read about.

    You are a shining role model, and I am going to be passing this link along to everyone I know.

    I would like your permission to post your link on my blog “What Happened!” –

    http://kellymahanjaramillo.wordpress.com.

    I want to get this message out to as many people as I possibly can.

    What more can I say – “good” or “bad” decision? As far as I am concerned, standing up for equality for all is no decision at all. As you said, it is simply the right thing to do.

    It may be fruitless, but hey, look at me! I am still trying to wrangle jonolan out of the hate-o-sphere. 🙂 So far, our progress has been, for the most part, ‘agree to disagree’, and we have actually managed to find a tiny spot of common ground. It happens to be over food, not politics, but it is a start.

    I look forward to reading about the progress of the club, and your involvement in it.

    Best,
    Kelly

  3. Well, it is indeed courageous of you to sponsor such a group, Kent, particularly in a state as non-enlightened as Texas. Good luck, and if you need a speaker, I would be glad to come talk to your group about domestic violence and the like.

  4. Mr. Garry,
    I think you sponsoring the club is a wonderful idea. Though I myself don’t agree with the lifestyle that Gays and Lesbians choose to live, I still don’t think that bashing someone is a good thing. In fact it is down right despicable.
    If you are concerned with the group causing any sort of trouble for you, why not if I may put forth, change the club around a little bit to where it is an open group for any student of any religious, sexual orientation, political belief system,etc and call it something different. It isn’t in fact just Gays and Lesbians that are being treated harshly, Christians, Democrats, Republicans, and many other groups face things like this everyday. Of course you being a teacher and having met and seen a lot of people in your lifetime (as we have sat for hours and discussed) 🙂 I am sure that you know of this. Call the club something along the lines of Allys of (_insert name of school_). This is a group that is similar to one that is on my college campus. There are a vast majority of students who are apart of this group and support this group. I am proud to call you a friend of mine and I am glad that you have taken on such a difficult role. I will pray for you and for this group. This is after all a small town, and a vast majority are very religious and very against the issue of homosexuality. If the club where simply ‘tweaked’ I am sure you wouldn’t have as many problems.

  5. Stand up for what you believe as few of us have the guts to do.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Good on you for doing it. Whatever you think of homosexuality those teenagers need support.

    It’s a real pity that Jesus didn’t clarify this issue when he popped down. The parable of the two cohabiting men would have really made things a lot easier now.

  7. Opa, you have my full support. It is not going to be the easiest but it is definitely, in my opinion, the right thing to do. In the past, we have hundreds of thousands of gays who were discriminated and felt unaccepted in the society. It leads to alot of suppression in the gay community and a high volume of them started relocating to countries that have a higher tolerance for gay community.
    Why are we condemning gays? What exactly did they do wrong? They just love differently. Why couldn’t the society accept them for who they are? What is the right thing to do? For them to be in denial and try to have straight relationships when that is not who they are or what they want? Will they be happy doing what is perceived the right thing to do so that they will be accepted in the society?
    This topic is very close to my heart because i have two very close gay friends whom i have known now for more than a decade. i remembered that when i was 18, i used to run this forum discussing about gay – who they are and why they are what they are. My main objective is to educate our people to understand them better and have a higher tolerance for the gay community. i ended up receiving alot of hate mails dissing the gays and some even wondered if i m a gay in disguise.
    I think it’s a great idea that your student comes to you and asked you to be a sponsor. It shows a certain level of trust and you will be a good independent advisor for them to go to for any challenges they face. It’s better to have you there to guide them through.
    I am very proud of you!

  8. My name is Dillon and I’m the one that asked this person to be my sponser. He has been a tremdous help and is overall a great guy. I did this because I know how hard of a road it is for homosexual people, and I want to help them come to terms with who they are and how to combat anti-gay behavior in an appropriate and peaceful way. I want them to know that they’re not alone and that there are people who care about them. I remember feeling very alone and wishing that there was someone I could talk to, somewho who cared and knew what Iwas going through. I know I’m legally entitled to tstart his club and if I have to, I’m willing to go to court. I have a lawyer prepared and everything. I have done this club before and I know I prevented alot of violence and self-harm in the lives of homosexuals. In this club, just to help one person, I would not be satisfied… I want EVERYONE to know that God made them perfect just the way they are and that they should not be scared.

    I Approached Mr. Garry expecting him to say, “No,” just like every other teacher I asked. But he suprised me with a willing, “Yes”. I thought it was really brave, considering how many anti-gay people are in the community, but even so, he made the decision to become the sponsor. It’s a hard thing to do in my case also. I’m excited about this club, but I’m also already recieving opposition to it’s cause. I just need to push forward with as much support as I can and get this club going.

    Thank you for all your wonderful comments and support. We need more people like you in this community and this world as a whole. God bless and have a great day.

  9. BRAVO!! Kent, you have made the right decision in my opinion. I, too, believe all God’s children have the right to make their own decisions as to whom they are, whether gay, lesbian, Jew, Christian, etc. We each make our choices, and I pray that our decisions and actions do not harm others. Not one of my gay friends in the Dallas area has ever hurt or harmed in any way another person. They have offered me a place at their tables and in their lives. They deserve to be respected and accepted for whom they are.

    Port Angeles Tom

  10. Hats off to you Kent! Anyone working for the acceptance of diversity has made the right decision. It pains me the way this country “bashes” everyone who doesn’t conform to the “norms”, whatever they are. Anyone who thinks or steps outside the box is labelled. God, I think, cringes too. He made us all beautiful and wonderful in his image not matter what persuation, sex, disability etc. We all have the same basic needs, to be accepted and loved and to enjoy life as He gave it to us. So, “live and let live” and Bravo to you for sponsoring this group. May God bless you all and as Jesus said,” Love one another as I have loved you.”

    You must read Mitch Albom’s latest book, Have a Little Faith – good book study.

    With love,
    Pam

  11. I am majorly impressed! I should have guessed from the beginning that you were a teacher! I taught school off and on for about ten years, so I know the kinds of struggles teachers go through. I am in the middle of doing alot of research on sexual abuse, covering the mental and emotional effects on the victims, how oftentimes the perpetrator arrested is treated unfairly (in terms of not being truly rehabilitated, the wrong person being arrested (as we have seen much evidence of here in Dallas County), and the almost-impossible realities of finding housing and work after being released from prison). I am going to Laredo for a symposium in a few weeks to present material on the same topic. I would love to present to your group as well, if you and your administrators deem that I/my topic would be appropriate. It has been refreshing to meet someone else who feels as strongly about the same topics as I do. God bless you and your work.

  12. Opa,,are you gay or bi-sexual?? The only people that agree with you are the gay and bi-sexual perverted fagots. We all know it is a perversion,,a sickness. Now ,then and always it has been a peversion. Anyone who thinks differently does not believe in God. Read the bible. Paul speaks of perversion and say’s it has to be stopped. You and your kind is headed streight to hell. God is not going to bless any of you for your work.
    Can you imagine how sickening it would be to watch two men or 2 women doing all that sex stuff in bed. EXPLETIVES DELETED It’s sinful and disgusteing. You now know how I feel about it.

  13. No John. Like I said in my posting on Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs in Texas, I am not gay or bi-sexual. Neither am I a homophobic, holier-than-thou, fundamentalist brand of Christian. My faith is not based solely on the word of Man, but on the message of love and forgiveness passed on to us through Christ’s disciples, even if imperfectly and incompletely recorded years after his crucifixion and resurrection. It’s based too on reason and on tradition. Who knows what lessons about righteousness might have been excluded from the Bible by Constantine’s Councils of Nicaea?

  14. Thank you so much for standing up for what you know is right in your heart. It can be hard to forgive folks who insult you and put you down with ignorant comments, but we try to find compassion for them, too. I also don’t think anyone should try to convince the group to change the name, eliminating the reference to sexual orientation. It is time that this is openly discussed in a healthy, diplomatic way, ESPECIALLY in conservative small towns. People need to know that a “homosexual lifestyle” is not something people choose. Why would anyone choose to be something that is hated and abused? Gay, lesbian and bisexual people have existed since the beginning of time, and have made wonderful, intelligent, creative contributions to our world. They have not been open about it in your hometown for fear of being hurt and persecuted, as you well know. Thank you for holding your head high, and try to keep a sense of humor about it! May peace be with you, from a former GSA sponsor.

  15. You said, “I believe that all God’s children have a right to be whom and whatever they are so long as their attitudes and behaviors do not harm others.”

    I think it is sad that you claim to be a christian ( and maybe you are, only God knows) but you are biblically ignorant. Instead of being a model of christian love to these kids you model a perversion of love that says : A) God doesn’t care about your sin, in their case homosexuality, and B) Love doesn’t care enough to make you a better person.

    It is true that God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.

    Your belief that we are all God’s children is off too. John 3:3 clearly states you must be born from above to even see the kingdom of God. Jesus goes on to say:

    “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

    You may believe that you acting compassionately but you are in opposition to historical/orthodox christianity.

  16. You are correct, Rudy. I am not in full compliance with historical/orthodox Christianity. But then, most of those who claim Christ as Lord and Savior these days don’t either. I am not a literalist – cannot be, not with all the contradictions (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html) one finds when doing a serious study. There’s lots of good stuff in the Bible, but there’s a lot of “human” error and misinformation it too.
    Regardless of what you may believe, I am not ignorant of Scripture, Rudy. I defer to science on the subject of sexual orientation just as I defer to the science on creation, the formation of landforms, and the origin of species. But doing so does not make me a hypocrite or a “son of perdition.”

  17. Reading this I was taken over with emotions. The support from the people that left comments to encourage you were just as touching as the comment left from the young man that approached you to sponsor the club.
    Then I felt the twinge in my heart of the ignorant and hateful remarks that some left. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion but you mentioned something very true. There is a difference between offending someone and abusing them. Reading some of the comments I can only imagine what those words would mean to you.
    I think it is very powerful for you to take on something as “touchy” a subject as a GSA here in Texas. Yes, certain parts of Texas are much more tolerate and accepting of all kinds of lifestyles and cultures. (I live in Houston and we have one of the biggest Gay Pride Parades in the Country and a huge support system for the community.)

    I don’t know how the ones that read this post and thought immediately about how you are aiding in a “perversion” and basically not being a good enough Christian could come to that conclusion. Yes, they have a voice just as I stretch mine but here is what I think, if I may be so bold.

    I believe your message is one that was expressing the idea of stopping violence regardless of the individuals involved. The message I received from reading your post is one that shows God’s love. I read something that makes me wish that when I was in high school we would have had a club such as this and a teacher willing to step up and let his integrity fuel him to help fight with others.

    Thank you. Ending violence, especially concerning youth and young adults is a real issue and I think some do not realize how pressing a matter it is. Even verbal violence like using the words ‘dyke’ and ‘faggot’ are to be feared and I am so happy that you are doing something about it.


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