silence equals death

Don't be quiet.

JACKSONVILLE, AR -- The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging officials at Jacksonville Junior High School over repeated punishment of a 14-year-old student for being openly gay. In a letter to school officials sent today, the ACLU demanded that the school stop violating the student's rights and remove all unconstitutional disciplinary actions taken against him from his record by March 21 or face legal action.

In its letter, the ACLU said that school officials "outed" the gay student, Thomas McLaughlin, to his parents against his wishes and have since told him he must not discuss being gay while at school, forced him to read from the Bible and disciplined him for being open about his sexual orientation.

"My school forced me out of the closet when I should have been allowed to come out to my family on my own terms and when I thought it was the right time. And now the school has been trying to shove me back into it ever since," McLaughlin said. "I’m through with being silenced, and I don’t want this happening to other gay kids at my school."

The story. It sounds like fiction, but it groans under the burden of its truth, and it reminds us how far we still have to go before we can establish the basic rights of our sexualities, regardless of our ages. But years ago there would only be silence, and sometimes death. The story which came out of Arkansas yesterday would never have been heard. The victim would have had no defense. Today there is at least hope.

Another thought. First they outed him as a homo, then they persecuted him for being out as a homo. Oh, but it's all not really important, since at 14 he's only a child and he has no sexuality, right? But he's not a child if he commits a major crime. Still, he is a child if he has sex, yet is not a child if he has a driving learner permit, is a child if he wants to drink alcohol. Any of this is still subject to change in different jurisdictions of course, and outside the U.S. there are entirely different stories. What's the answer? I don't think there is an answer which will satisfy every situation, every question. We might have to use our heads and begin to understand that we cannot impose our prejudices or even the huge weight of our statutes upon the truth represented by real human beings.