The Hydra is described as a terrible beast from Greek mythology, capable of ending the life of any man or woman with the power of its breath. If one of its many heads became detached from the rest of the creature’s body, more would grow in its place. It took the bravery and wit of Hercules himself to finally subdue this creature, but what relevancy does it have today? Recently, teachers, students and parents at Sullivan County High School in Indiana rallied together to create an alternative prom to the school’s original event. Those concerned cited concerns over the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth would be able to attend Sullivan’s original prom with their dates. Although not calling for a ban against LGBT students from the high school prom, the Sullivan County ordeal brought to light a recent backlash trend from more traditional groups against people that they deem “offensive.”
Of particular concern to me were comments made by one special-education teacher, Diana Medley. Medley stated that she did not think LGBT students had a purpose in life, adding that she would openly talk to students about their sexuality but that she made it known that she did not agree with their “choice.” This type of conduct from a public schoolteacher, let alone one whom students turn to for guidance, is purely unacceptable. Medley should reconsider her position on the issue as well as her future as an educator after making such virulent comments, knowing full well that she would be placed in the public eye. She should also pay attention to notable contributions that members of the LGBT community have made to the world. Alan Turing, the father of computer science, contributed to the modern computer and study of artificial intelligence, while Anderson Cooper has been engaged in many human rights and humanitarian projects across the globe. Medley, your accusations of “worthlessness” hold no ground. While it is perfectly acceptable for Medley to hold her own opinion, she made the wrong decision to discriminate against students openly by allowing her personal opinions to override the well-being of the students that she encounters each day.
Medley was not the only person to make negative comments toward the LGBT community. However, her comments seemed to be the most hateful, especially coming from a woman in her position. Being raised in a Christian household, I found comments from students at Sullivan County High School to be appalling. How could you hate something that does not, even in a fractional amount, assault your well-being? Students at Sullivan County preached love for the “homosexuals” (as if this was some all-encompassing term for all LGBT youth) yet then went on to express a desire for the segregation of a public event in favor of their own sensibilities. All of this controversy rings eerily of the interracial relationships and racial segregation saga that dominated most of the 20th century. Prom planners then went on to assume that students who attend the alternative “righteous” prom would finally accept the truth that homosexuality and other sexual orientations are choices rooted in sin.
There is a bright side to this ordeal. Some residents of the Sullivan County School District expressed concern over secularizing the high school prom. The principal of Sullivan County High School made public comments reaffirming the position that all students, regardless of sexuality, would be able to attend the prom and that the district itself has made great strides to put distance between the school and the anti-LGBT dissenters. These steps, although small, are monumental. A series of small drops in the lake are enough to break the dam. It is slowly getting better for students in public schools, but there are measures we should take to ensure that tolerance proliferates throughout education:
1. Rewrite sex education curricula to include discussion about LGBT individuals along with heterosexual relationships. Encourage dialogue between students, and reinforce the notion that being different is OK.
2. Break down gender barriers that delimitate certain activities as inherently masculine or feminine.
3. Ensure that children are taught that companionship and compassion do not have to occur between a male and a female but can come in many arrangements and numbers.
When the story of Sullivan County broke, I was honestly shocked at what I had initially considered a major step backward from acceptance in this country. Now I see it as more of a chance for tolerance to bloom. What might seem like negative publicity can always be used to make a counterstatement. Like the mythological Hydra, the faces of hatred have once again reared their heads against the forces of love, tolerance and understanding. The question is: Who will play Hercules this time?
Vaughn Shirey is a freshman computer science major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.