When the right of gay couples to get married was on the ballot in California and Maine, opponents won by scaring voters into thinking that children will be “taught” gay marriage in public schools. What they really meant was that kids would learn all families deserve respect, and that bullying gay kids is wrong. In that spirit, local author and LGBT activist Eric Ross has written a new children’s book (with pictures by straight ally Tracy Greene), about a small boy’s excitement that his Uncle Mike and boyfriend Steve are getting married. My Uncle’s Wedding never mentions the word “gay” – and only once mentions “boyfriend” – but that’s the point. Children will not get “confused” that two people of the same gender could get married, and the child’s excitement about helping out at the wedding is as simple and sincere as if Uncle Mike were straight. As conservative politicians attempt to strip all mention of LGBT issues in public schools, books like My Uncle’s Wedding expose that such fears are unfounded.
One of the most influential commercials during the Prop 8 campaign featured a Mormon couple from Massachusetts, who sued the school district (and lost) when their 7-year-old son was “exposed” to a children’s book about a gay prince who marries a prince. In King and King, a prince cannot find a princess to marry and is being pressured to do so – when a suitor comes to the castle escorted by her brother. He instantly falls in love, and marries the brother.
The Right seized on King and King as proof that gay activists are trying to “indoctrinate” our children by teaching homosexuality, but it won’t be so easy to do the same with My Uncle’s Wedding. While King and King directly addresses same-sex attraction, My Uncle’s Wedding is about a child whose uncle is getting married. Uncle Mike happens to be gay and is marrying his boyfriend, but any child who is excited about being the ring-bearer for a family wedding is going to relate to this book.
Are children “confused” about gay marriage? In My Uncle’s Wedding, the only thought crossing the kid’s head is that now the family is going to be a lot bigger – so “maybe this means I’ll get more presents on my birthday.” Elsewhere in the book, he says: “I used to have only one uncle, but now Steve is my uncle too. I think two uncles are better than one.” That’s the point of the book. For kids, it’s just another wedding.
In truth, the Right is far more afraid about children learning tolerance, than they are about gay adults getting married. In 2010, Republicans in the California state legislature spent more time opposing Harvey Milk Day – than they did opposing legislation to recognize out-of-state gay marriages performed prior to the passage of Prop 8. Fundamentally, they know that the former will have more of a cultural impact on challenging their world view.
Right now, the Tennessee state legislature is debating a bill that would prohibit even discussing homosexuality in public schools – which proponents say is to make sure the curriculum is “age-appropriate.” At a time when a record number of gay teenagers are committing suicide, it’s profoundly insulting to just whitewash this issue – but it also speaks to a deeper fear that conservatives have. They do not want children to learn about homosexuality, in any other way besides calling it sick and abominable.
Back in California, my State Senator – Mark Leno – has introduced a bill that would require schools to teach the contribution of LGBT individuals, just like they currently teach about women’s rights, African-American history and other minorities. The bill was originally sponsored by Sheila Kuehl in 2006 and passed the legislature, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. We hope that Jerry Brown will sign it.
Everyone agrees that children should learn in an “age-appropriate” manner, but it’s also important that they learn tolerance and respect for everyone. With My Uncle’s Wedding, parents and teachers alike will have a great book to teach young children that a gay marriage is just like any marriage – it’s about two people who love each other.Archive