As the father of a gay son, I read with outrage and profound anger reports of the attack by Assemblywoman Marian LaFollette (R-Northridge) on Fairfax High School teacher Virginia Uribe, who counsels gay and lesbian high school students through her program, Project 10.
All of his life, my son concealed his sexual orientation from friends and family even though he had known about it since early childhood, perhaps age 5.
I had suspected that he was gay for many years, didn't know how to broach the subject, and finally discovered an international support group called Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. At last I was given straightforward, no-nonsense, non-homophobic, medically and scientifically valid information about my son from other parents like myself. With their assistance, I was preparing to discuss what I had learned with him and to assure him of my unconditional love and support for him regardless of his sexual orientation.
What I didn't know was that his life in high school had become a living hell, with verbal and physical abuse at the hands of hate-filled, ignorant teen-agers--and some of the teachers. Fearing rejection at home, my son pretended that nothing was wrong at school. And then one evening he attempted to commit suicide (gay and lesbian youth are eight times more likely to resort to suicide than any other youth). The attempt failed, and in the hospital emergency room we finally had our talk.
When I called the high school and demanded that the homophobic students and faculty be dealt with firmly and swiftly, I was received with evasion, disgust, pinch-faced moralizing. When my son attempted suicide for a second time, I withdrew him from school, placed him in a setting where he could receive psychiatric counseling and learn to understand and love himself as a good and valuable person who also happens to be gay. Today he is 24, well adjusted to his sexuality, and well employed. He has not, however, finished his education. Just the thought of school creates such anxiety in him that I fear he may never return to school.
California state law says that every child has a right to an education in a safe and comfortable environment. My son was denied that right, and the school district is directly responsible for not protecting him from abuse at the hands of other students and some faculty. Parents of gay/lesbian youth pay taxes to support the schools; gay and lesbian adults pay taxes to support the schools, and it is sheer arrogance for homophobes like LaFollette to assume that all tax money is somehow "heterosexual" tax money that can only be used to educate heterosexual youth.
Had there been a Virginia Uribe at my son's school, he would have had a caring person to talk to, a source of factual information about homosexuality and a fierce advocate who would have intervened for him with school officials and teachers. Years of his life have been wasted, his right to an education in a safe and comfortable environment has been denied, his civil rights have been abridged--all because of people who, like Marian LaFollette, say: " I don't know anything about homosexuality; I don't want you to know anything about homosexuality; and I particularly don't want homosexuals to know anything about homosexuality." LaFollette's assumption that all teen-agers are heterosexual until they become 18, when suddenly some turn homosexual, would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous to our gay/lesbian youth.
As parents of gay/lesbian youth, we may not be able to counteract the ignorance and homophobia of the LaFollettes of this world, but we will sue the hell out of anyone who hurts our kids or who permits anyone else to hurt our kids. God bless Virginia Uribe. She is the hope for our children.
ANTHONY A. ROWE