Homeschoolers Are Out: An Introduction

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

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“You’re homeschooled? That’s gay.”

I was probably 5 or 6 when a neighborhood kid who attended public school first articulated the idea that me being homeschooled was “gay.” Of course, nothing about my parents’ decision to teach me at home had anything to do with homosexuality. Plus I’m straight. But that’s not what the kid meant, was it?

What that kid meant was that homeschooling was stupid, and stupid things are gay things, thus equating gayness with stupidity. That kid was also 5 or 6. I have not had contact with him since we played games in the middle of our quiet, suburban street in San Jose, California so many years ago. For all I know, he might now be an outspoken straight advocate for marriage equality, or even gay himself. His use of “gay” at the age of 5 or 6 was probably cultural, something he picked up on in school or maybe from a homophobic parent. Pop culture — then and and today — has often associated “gay” with negativity.

As an awkward homeschool kid who had occasional interactions with kids from public schools (we were allowed to play with them after school in our neighborhood), I always encountered one of two reactions from my friends: either (1) homeschooling was awesome to them because they thought it meant we just got to stay home and play video games all day, or (2) homeschooling was gay. I don’t really remember why they would think homeschooling was anything less than awesome (usually I would pretend that, yeah, we did get to play video games all day, just so they would think I was cool). But it’s possible they saw I was a total dork and deduced that, if total dorks are usually called “gay” and I was a total dork who was homeschooled, then homeschooling must be gay, too. That’s kid logic for you. (Ironically, many adults today still use kid logic.)

The numerous times I heard “homeschooling is gay” stick so lucidly to my mind because it was the first time I ever heard about “gayness.” It wasn’t until years later, when I learned from the conservative Christian homeschooling curriculum and worldview programs that homosexuality was evil and political nefarious, that I consciously thought about LGBT things. But from that one moment through probably half way through my undergrad program, both mainstream and homeschool cultures reinforced this idea that “gay” was synonymous with bad.

This idea, this deeply rooted hatred and desire to discriminate, is by no means unique to the conservative Christian homeschool movement. Yes, you have followers of Rushdoony who actively call for LGBT individuals to be stoned. Yes, you have people like Michael Farris who actively campaign against Prop 8 and the simple right of people of any gender to have a foundational relationship based on legal equality. But at the same time, it seems like almost every other day that I read some heartbreaking story of a gay kid in public school who was bullied to the point of suicide. Every time I turn on the radio I hear a hip hop star throwing gay slurs left and right.

The fact is, LGBT individuals face almost insurmountable discrimination and dehumanization on a daily basis. They experience this in their home life, in home schools, in private schools, in public schools, at work, and when they try to do something as simple as hold hands in public at a restaurant.

In creating this week’s focus on LGBT homeschool awareness, it needs to be clear that the pain and hurt that LGBT individuals experience happens universally. It is not unique to homeschooling. Indeed, with the significant amounts of bullying that these friends and peers of ours can experience in public schools, homeschooling can actually be a safe haven. Sex advice columnist Dan Savage minced no words that homeschooling as an educational option could save lives. When a gay 15-year-old boy from La Grande, Oregon hung himself earlier this year on account of being bullied, Savage noted that the boy, Jadin, had begged his parents to home school him to get him away from the cruelty. Savage said,

My heart breaks for Jadin’s parents and I don’t doubt that they’re filled with regret and I don’t want to make their pain worse. But I’m going to repost my advice for parents of bullied gay teenagers because there are other Jadins out there who haven’t harmed themselves but who may be at risk of doing so:

If you know your gay kid is being bullied at his school err on the side of overreacting. Err on the side of doing something drastic. Err on the side of turning your own life upside down. Because you don’t want to find out the abuse was more than your kid could bear when it’s too fucking late to do anything about it.

Straight parents: If you know your gay kid is being brutalized in his school and you’ve complained and it’s gotten worse, get him the fuck out of there. Homeschool him. Homeschool him and sue the school. Move away. Move someplace more tolerant. Move someplace better. If you can’t move away—or if you can’t move right away—send your son or daughter to live with relatives in another city, a better city…. And straight parents? Once you realize your kid is gay—which parents of gay kids usually realize long before their gay kids realize it themselves—take a long, hard look at the community in which you live. Take a long, hard look at the church where you worship. Take a long, hard look at the schools your kid will be forced to attend.

Then decide if staying put is worth your child’s life.

My heart goes out for Jadin, and for every kid that felt or feels so scared of being him or herself that suicide seems the only option. My heart goes out for all the kids that are hiding who they are, because of this fear. Savage makes a really good point, people: when our communities cease to be unsafe, we need to get out. When public schools cease to be safe for bullied LGBT kids, homeschooling can be an ally to the LGBT movement.

That  being said, many of us in conservative Christian homeschooling subcultures know that not all homeschooling communities are safe for LGBT individuals. Growing up gay or trans or even asexual in a world where the loudest voices demonize gay marriage and advocate stoning can be gut-wrenching and brutal. We who have been through this world know the horror stories: the kids that were kicked out of their homes, that were rejected by nearly everyone who knew them, that were forbidden from ever contacting family and friends again.

This week, Homeschoolers Anonymous honors the voices of our LGBT friends and peers. We are giving a platform to the stories of those homeschoolers who weathered the storm: the ones that are still terrified of coming out, the ones that have come out and experienced rejection, the ones that have come out and found acceptance, and the ones that are still processing everything and putting their selves’ pieces back together.

This week is for everyone that has felt different. The L’s, B’s, G’s, T’s, A’s, Q’s — ah hell, this week is for the whole alphabet of humanity!

Homeschoolers are gay. And so many other things, too. And all of us at HA — regardless of our identities and orientations — stand together in solidarity in the affirmation of each other’s humanity, beauty, and worth.

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Update, 05/21/13:

The heart and soul of this week’s LGBT homeschool awareness series is to stand in solidarity with our friends and peers of all sexual identities and orientations. I came up with the title, “Homeschoolers Are Gay,” based on consultation with some personal friends who are LGBT homeschoolers. The goal was to use a title that was inclusive, catchy, and poked fun at pop culture’s perjorative use of “gay” and tendency to otherize. That being said, a concern was raised yesterday that this title can feel alienating to some members of the LGBT community. And if even one person feels alienated, that is one person too many. The whole purpose of this week is to include everyone.

So, after further consultation with several of this week’s writers, I am choosing to rephrase this week’s series as “Homeschoolers Are Out.” I would also like to stress that, whenever I say “LGBT,” I am not limiting the week to those specific letters. All identities and orientations are welcome. I will be changing the main graphic for the series to reflect this rephrasing.

My sincerest apologies to anyone that felt excluded.

On another note: thanks, everyone, for the amazing support yesterday as this series begins. The stories we will be hearing this week are near and dear to my heart, as they are the stories of people I care about and love.