I believe in the coming years scientists will find that homophobia, when it hits the brain, becomes a degenerative disorder that destroys all logic centers and renders its victim common-senseless.
The most recent recipient of my theoretical malady, is representative Charles Van Zant of Florida. A video of Mr. Van Zant came out this week in which the legislator attacked an organization named the American Institute for Research (AIR).
The organization had just been granted the contract to develop the standardized testing and administration for the state of Florida’s school system. In the video, Mr. Van Zant makes an outrageous claim, “These people, that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida unless this is stopped, will promote double-mindedness in state education and attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can. I’m sorry to report that to you.”
As a gay parent, this caught my attention on two levels. The first was dealing with the obvious bias that somehow any individual being “as homosexual as they possibly can” would be a bad thing. It wouldn’t even make it a thing at all. Being “as homosexual as they possibly can” would only make that person gay if they already happened to be gay. It would be the same as me being “as blue-eyed as I possibly can”, which is… not much.
The second level was a more profound revelation to me as a parent: that standardized tests could influence children in any way to alter or even expand their personalities. Now, I admit, I did not grow up in an over standardized tested generation. Of the ones that I did take, I did not find the process of taking them to be particularly life impacting.
The one that got closest to even the subject of homosexuality was an employment personality test I took when applying for a job. It was meant to signal any idiosyncrasies that I might have. I remember gaging over the question “Do you have a desire to be a florist.”, an obvious attempt to ride a popular stereotype into identifying me as gay. I honestly answered “no”, and flew on, undetected by the corporate homophobic radar.
But, no, Mr. Van Zant, even that question did not make me “more gay”.
Thanks to Mr. Van Zant’s suggestion in the video, I did indeed check out the American Institute for Research website. If they were actually changing kids dispositions, I wanted to know how.
I have no desire to make my kids be “as homosexual as they possibly can” but I thought I might find influencers to make them “as prone to clean their room as they possibly can” or “as likely to remember to feed they dog as they possibly can”. You know, useful stuff.
The first thing that I found was that the offense that the American Institute for Research had committed was not as obvious as was claimed. At first perusal I could not find a single thing that even hinted at LGBT issues and being “two spirit”. Had they buried the goods from the top level of their website?
Finally, I hit pay dirt. In January 2014, the American Institute for Research had released a guide called A Guide for Understanding, Supporting, and Affirming LGBTQI2-S Children, Youth, and Families. (http://www.air.org/resource/guide-supports-lgbtqi2-s-children-youth-and-families ) 2-S refers to the “inclusive term created specifically by and for Native American communities. It refers to American Indian/Alaskan Native American people who (a) express their gender, sexual orientation, and/or sex/gender roles in indigenous, non-Western ways, using tribal terms and concepts, and/or (b) define themselves as LGBTQI in a native context.”
After I read the guide, the facts of the Van Zant rant became apparent to me. First, that the job for which Florida had hired the American Institute for Research had nothing to do with tying the guide to standardized tests. Second, much to my chagrin, hopes of subliminally altering my kids while they are mind-numbed by a standardized test have been squashed. Third, Mr. Van Zant was actually attacking a project that was meant to save student lives from bullying and suicide.
As I see it, this casts Mr. Van Zant into several possible characterizations. He is either dishonest and attacking the institute over another project they did that he didn’t like, even though he knows that it has nothing to do with the current contract, or he is suffering from the degenerative homophobic brain malady I described before. These choices would make him a.)a bully, b.) a liar, or c. ) crazy.
If that was the question before me on a standardized test, I would select the forth option: All of the above.
Photo Credit: Flickr image by Alberto G