The difference between being an American and LGBT

Being an American is not the same as being LGBT. There are three ways to become an American. Anyone who is born in the United States is automatically a US Citizen. For someone who is not born on US soil, as long as one of their parents is an American citizen, they are also US citizens. Finally, anyone who comes here legally, can go through the naturalization process to become an American citizen. So, one is either born an American, or can chose to become one by going through the naturalization process.

However, for LGBT people, there is no naturalization process. Contarary to what some people believe, one does not chose to be LGBT. It does not matter if one or both of your parents are straight, or gay. You either are one, or you are not. I mean, who in their right mind would chose a life/lifestyle that is ostarized by most societies, condemmed by many people, and in many cases, caused the LGBT individual to loose their family and/or career? Isn't it human nature to want to fit in with the crowd? I'm sure that most of you would agree that life would have been a lot easier if you were not LGBT.

So when people send me emails asking me to support Gov Schwarzenegger's veto of SB 1437, I could not agree with them. Since my initial post last month in our Yahoo group, I've received several emails asking me to support the Gov's veto. Some common threads of what people send me exhorting me to support SB 1437 are:

1. "If this bill passes, it would require that all school districts teach about the
homosexual/lesbian, transgender, etc., lifestyles and that this info be included
in textbooks"
2. "accomplished artists, scientists, educators or philanthropists are they way they
are not because of their sexual orientation but they are gifted"
3. "for the government, Department of Education (DOE) in particular, to mention sexual
orientation in books is unfair to society"
4. "sexual orientation should occur at home and not be mandated in schools" and
5. "sexual orientation is a private matter and it should stay that way."

There were things I agreeded with and things I disagreeded with.

In reading the bill, I saw nothing that says schools have to teach LGBT lifestyles. The bill simply adds LGBT individuals to list of minorities whose contributions to the early history and development of California should be studied..., with particular emphasise on portraying the role of these groups in comtemporary society. What is the fear of the bill's opponents here? Are the people who are opposed to identifying a historical figure who happens to be LGBT afraid that knowing we exist would make their children want to become LGBT? From what I know of comtemporary society back in those days, it was not very friendly to any minority group, much less people who are gender variant. So all I can see is the textbooks showing how people of all types can persevere, survive and even prosper under harsh conditons. Neither do I believe that acknowledging someone's sexual orientation is the same as advocating a LGBT lifestyle. Both France and China had historical figures who were crossdressers. France had Joan of Arc, and China, had Mulan. Both fought for their country as men. Joan of Arc was captured, excuted and cannonized as a Saint in 1909. Mulan survived and returned home. I don't see where studying them gave France or China any more crossdressers individuals that the rest of the world.

As for successful people being successful, not because of being LGBT, but because they are gifted, I really don't have a problem with that statement. In the grand scheme of things, there are all types of factors which come into play before one is sucessful. Even if one slept there way to the top, they need some talent to say on top. So why identify successful people who happen to be LGBT? Simple answer - Role Model, but only if they are publically out of the closet. I do not believe in outing anyone who is in the closet.

Our youth need positive role models. It's difficult enough going through puberty as a hetrosexual teenager; how much more difficult is it for a teenager who is LGBT? The mainstream media does not always portray LGBT people in a positive light. Parents and other family members may or may not be very understanding or supportive. I believe learning about, knowing there were successful LGBT people out there would have positive impact on our youth.

Lets look at three famous (at least to me) Chinese Americans - I.M. Pei, architect, Ang Lee, Hollywood director, or B.D. Wong, actor. If I knew nothing about them, all I would see is a picture of three Asians. There is no way to tell from their pictures if they were Americans, or gay. So while I could take pride in them being sucessful Asians, I have no clue if any of them were Americans, or gay. This goes back to what I said in the beginning - Americans, & LGBT cut across all ethnic/racial lines. There is no way to tell from a picture if someone is an American or LGBT. Now, while I believe I.M. Pei and Ang Lee are American citizens, they were both born overseas so I do not know for sure. OTOH, I know B.D. Wong is a American citizen becasue he was born in San Francisco. He is also gay, in a committed LTR with his partner of over 15 years, and raising an adopted child together. I know this because B.D. Wong is open about his sexual orientation and life. Thus, if I were a young gay Asian, someone like B.D. Wong would be a positive role model, BUT ONLY IF I knew about that side of his life. Under current CA law, if a textbook was to mention B.D. Wong, I may never learn that he was gay.

Since there is no 100% surefire way to tell by looking at a picture of someone, whether that indiviual is LGBT or straight, I feel their orientation should be identified if they were out of the closet already.

As for requiring the government or the Dept of Education to mention sexual orientation in text books being unfair, I feel it is unfair not to mention it. The exclusion or marginalization of an entire race or class of people in the educational system meant sends a negative message about those people to the children in school. How much worse was it for the children who were members of the marginalized groups?? I can remember when I was young, wishing I was white; of being ashamed, embarassed to be Chinese. I definity knew what is was like to be 'different,' to be picked upon, to be called derogatory names and made fun of simply for being Chinese. It did not help that Chinese were rarely if ever deplicted in a positive fashion in our textbooks/history books. We were seen heathens & drug/opium addicts, never mind that Buddhism is 500 years older than Christianity, or that opium was introducted to China in massive quantities by the British who, until they got us addicted, had to pay for their tea, silk, china, spices, etc., with hard cold silver. China's contribution to the world - paper, gunpowder, the compass, were barely mentioned in western textbooks. Obviously as bad as they deplicted us, this was no where as bad as how blacks or Native Amricans were treated or deplicted. So until forced to change after the advent of civil rights, American school textbooks deplicted a white euro-centric verison of the world.

Those feelings of adequacy took a long time to overcome. Civil rights and the advent of ethnic history books - black, asian, latino, etc., helped me a lot cause I now had resources (in english) to develop ethnic pride. But I had an personal interest is learning about this because I was Chinese. Do you think the white kids I went to school with, had any interest in learning about ethnic histories after they finished school? How many of you continued to learn on your own, other than required continuing educaion in your profession, after you finished high school or college? So, for most people, all they had was the biaised history they learned in school and that would have been what they would have passed onto their children if our schools didn't teach about diversity. Teaching diversity in the schools provides a evenhanded way to do it which can be monitored. Our country was founded on 'life, liberity and justice for all,' not 'life, liberity and justice for all' except...

If we were to teach history without mentioning someone's sexual orientation, how we we teach people about the life of Harvey Milk. He was the first openly person elected to public office in the United States. This was before San Francisco became the gay capital of the United States/the world. How can you mention him without mentioning he was gay? How can you explain the White Night riots in San Francisco after his assisan was only found guilty of manslaughter and given a 7 year sentence.

Even withing the history of the civil rights movement, there is anti-gay bias. Most people have heard of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stockely Carmichael, and Malcom X, but very few people ever heard about Bayard Rustin. Yet, he was one of Dr. Martin Luther King's advisors and helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington. Why didn't we hear more about him? Because despite all he did for civil rights, he had two strikes agains him - he was gay, and he was a member of the Communist Party in his youth. Because of this, his contributions have rarely ever been acknowledged.

It will take more than simply mentioning someone is LGBT in our history and social studies textbooks to stop racial and sexual biases. The internment and relocation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast during WWII was outright racism hidden behind war hysterial. Current text books acknowledge this, and the Fed Government apologized and paid token reparations to the survivors. Yet 60 years later and almost 40 years after the begining of the modern Civil Rights movement, there were talks of rounding up Arabs and Arab Americans after 9/11.

American culture and society is not homogeneous. We need to teach our children tolerance because Americans come in all different races, colours AND sexual orientation.This diversity should be acknowledged in our text books. Othewise, like Baynard Rustin, the LGBT contributions of public figures may never be recognized.

As for sexual orientation being private and remaining at home, I could not agree more. But acknowledging a historical or public figure's sexual orientation is not the same as mandating it. There is not way you can force someone to be gay,or straight. People either are LGBT, or are not. All the talking or teaching about it won't change one thing about their sexual orientation. But it might give people a better understanding of what it was like to be different and ostarized, and maybe lead to a little more tolerance of people who are different from the mainstream.

In the end, I really should thank those people who emailed me urging me to support the Gov's veto of SB1437. They served as a catalyst for me to think this through and solidify my thoughts as to why I should support the passage of SB 1437. Those of you who are California voters and agree with me should let the Gov know. Those of you who do not agree that this is something the schools should teach, let us agree to disagree.

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