'Don't say gay' comes to North Carolina

Published February 16, 2023

By Lib Campbell

You don’t need to go to Florida for sunshine. Sunshine is lighting the way here in North Carolina as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, also presented as the “Parents Bill of Rights” bill is making its way through the legislature, soon to become law. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. Whatever the name it’s the same message the people in Florida are hearing. If you are LGBTQ, if you are an adolescent figuring out who you are as a sexual human being, and live in North Carolina, plan to be ignorant, to be shamed as unworthy, to go it on your own. Nobody in education will be allowed to listen to you or to help you. And if your parents are not open to recognizing who you are growing into, your options just narrowed. 
Senate Bill 49 offers a list of parental rights regarding their children’s education, including which books need to be banned and which topics can be taught in school. Teachers will become snitches as they are required to “out” the young people who might seek their counsel and confidentiality in what is surely a confusing time, especially if they are gender different. 
There are several assumptions here. First, and I can tell you from personal experience as a pastor, there are families who reject their gay children. Those children likely know how their parents feel and are probably scared to death. There will be no safe haven for young people if their teachers are forced to rat them out. On the other hand, children of open-minded and accepting parents will not have to confide in a teacher, because their parents will already know their truth. 
Any books that talk about gender differences, any books that describe the feelings of queer people who have come out to tell their story, any books that might shed light in the adolescent struggle of becoming adult are being banned by many Republican governors and legislatures. There will be nothing to help young people understand their confusion and questioning - no books, no teachers, nothing.
Jacob Tobia was in elementary school when I was appointed as a pastor at Jacob’s church. As Jacob was figuring out his adolescent life, I remember some of the questions Jacob was asking, especially when it came to dressing for church. Jacob was strong, working to understand the dynamics of sexuality in the growing up process. Jacob was super smart, graduating from Duke, at the same time advocating for the LGBTQ community. Jacob would come to Annual Conference in rainbow colors and hand out information to many who might have disliked who he was. Random House published his life story in his book, Sissy, which likely would be banned in some schools. But this story is a magnificent telling of the struggle of sexual identity and how young people, when surrounded by love, when accepted as they are, grow up to be magnificent adults who make real contributions to the world. 
One thing that clouds the issue is a misconception that needs clearing up. Some fear homosexuals because “they” are pedophiles. That is no more true than saying Democrats are pedophiles. Yet people say it over and over. Demonizing whole groups of people with dis-information and gas-lighting ill will helps no part of this conversation. Pedophilia surfaces in many environments, from scout troops, to locker rooms, workout gyms, confession booths and choir lofts. Smearing homosexuals and Democrats with untrue accusations is slander. 
Growing up is hard; figuring out who you are as your body changes is extra stressful. One would think we valued young people enough to help them any way we could, but evidently we must be OK leaving them in the dark in a struggle they might have to handle entirely on their own. Shame on us. 
Isn’t it interesting that underfunded mental health services, un-addressed cyber bulling and social media harassment come at the same moment as legislation will ban books that provide information and solace and will restrict teachers from being confidants? Simultaneously suicide numbers among LGBTQ youth are rising exponentially. See the correlation? 
This “Don’t Say Gay” legislation will have the same economic impact as the infamous HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill” passed by Republicans a few years ago. HB2 had big repercussions in the North Carolina economy with cancellations of sporting events, conventions, concerts and tourism that gave us a black eye for our small mindedness. The world will watch as we crash and burn.
Nobody can legislate homosexuality away. No governor’s executive orders can roll back adolescence. If we think ignorance and legislation like “Don’t Say Gay” will take us back to the good old days, we need to remember that for many those days weren’t so good. Closets are no place to grow up. Life is too short for hate and fear. We have real problems. Enough of the BS.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite www.avirtualchurch.com. She can be contacted at libcam05@gmail.com