Oh the bitter irony. A guy who has spent his career working to reduce homophobia and school violence is now the target of character destruction and homophobic innuendo. Are they really shouting homo at GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings?
Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) was named to a post in the Obama administration overseeing school safety back in June of this year. His lifelong career as an educator, an academic, and an advocate on issues of school safety make him, according to the U.S. Secretary of Education, “uniquely qualified for his job.”
Oh, and by the way, Mr. Jennings is gay in what some consider the ‘in your face’ way. In actuality, his family life is public in a manner that is not unlike nearly every heterosexual public figure I can think of.
But of course this pro-homosexual appointment caused flash fires across the Christian media immediately following Jennings appointment. These media outlets began to go after Jennings ‘lifestyle’ right away and begin building stories about his sordid associates, and fringe community values. None of the stories however stuck. And after several months of rumor generating the Christian Right campaign against him could never really gain any traction in the main stream media.
That is, not until the forced resignation of VanJones in early September. Almost immediately following this resignation, the Washing Times and FOX began to recycle these debunked stories about Jennings.
I wont offer another account of the stories about Jennings built upon vapors of reality and elaborated with all sorts of homophobic innuendo to fully inflame the fires of intolerance. It’s a game all too familiar with anyone who watched the wild fire started during McCain/Palin red meat show that has yet to be tamped out.
Suffice it to say, since none of the stories or rumors seemed to stick, there seems to have been a shift in tactic to expressing a more general homophobia as a justifiable reason to remove this gay man and gay advocate from his post. And today, according to the New York Times 53 House Republicans have taken that gay bait and run with it.
Mr. Jennings’s critics say his career’s focus on gay students ill-equips him for the broader portfolio of his job as deputy assistant secretary of the safety office, which oversees initiatives against guns and other threats.
And they disagree more broadly with his approach to talking about homosexuality, especially among pre-pubescent children. To some, Mr. Jennings’s efforts to combat bias sound like encouraging homosexuality.
This protect our children irony is so bitter considering the known and documented ongoing school violence among children that is so deeply rooted in expressions of masculinity that leave no room for any behavior that is be considered sissy, wimpy, girlie, queer, faggy, or gay among little children. A.K.A. violence that is given the short name homophobia when it is directed at a child who appears to be LGBTQ and named bullying when it the target of the violence is more ambiguous.
So the bullies are going to protect us from becoming too tolerant. Because thats really what school safety is all about, knowing who is on top and keeping it that way.
*Please consider reading Media Matters review of this homophobic smear campaign. It is going to take straight educators and community members standing up against this form of bullying to make a difference. Only when we begin to consider that every boy and girl as the target of this sexist and gendered violence will we be able to begin to think about creating safe schools.