[Author’s Note: The title banner for the official International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) website has pictures of gay couples kissing, so if that bothers you, you may not want to click the links to that site.]
Earlier this week, I stopped in to my kids’ school to pick them up early and noticed a poster on the office window. I couldn’t find a pic of it on the internet. The poster highlighted an event called “Boys Wear Pink, Girls Wear Blue Day” in observance of the IDAHO. This event was an initiative by the diversity committee at the Lakehead Public School District where we live. Since the official date for the IDAHO is today (Sunday, May 17 2009) the school district held the Boys Wear Pink, Girls Wear Blue Day this past Friday (May 15).
When I saw the poster my mind immediately raced to all the controversy I had heard about surrounding The Day of Silence on April 17, which was a day students across the US were asked to be silent for one day in protest of anti-GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) bullying, name-calling and harassment in schools. There were a Christian organizations encouraging parents to call schools and even keep their children home from school that day. There was even a Day of Truth proposed to happen on the following Monday to counter The Day of Silence. Other Christian organizations like Campus Crusade offered a modified approach to The Day of Silence:
As part of the “Golden Rule Initiative,” students will pass out cards throughout the day vowing to live in the manner of Christ’s teaching to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” in reference to the passage from Scripture. The cards will ask, “What are you going to do to end the silence?” In other words, what will you do to help secure a safe environment for GLBT identified students?
Back to the poster at my kids’ school… To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to react. I agree that homophobia is wrong. It is wrong to single out any social group and treat them with disrespect through name-calling, bullying and harassment. I support bringing awareness to issues like homophobia as much as I support bringing awareness to religious discrimination, racism, or other forms of discrimination. On the other hand, I do not affirm that a homosexual lifestyle is within God’s plans for relationships. Do I, as a parent, allow my child to participate in an event like this? Or do I not?
I then read this post on Scot McKnight’s blog. I also thought back to the posts a while back on Elemental Children’s Ministry about what to do if a gay person wanted to volunteer in children’s ministry here and here.
My wife and I came to the conclusion that we would not discourage our children from participating in dressing pink or blue for that day. We also came to the conclusion, though, that we would sit down with them and make sure they understood that by doing so they were standing against treating people living out a GLBT lifestyle in a manner that goes against the command to “love your neighbour as yourself.” It wasn’t an endorsement of the lifestyle.
There was something, though, that still bugged me about the event.
I went through two feelings.
First, I felt offended for the organizers of IDAHO. From the literature on their website, they take the issue of homophobia seriously and are working at bringing awareness all over the world to stop discrimination and violence towards the GLBT community. To turn participation of the event into a competition for a pizza party, in my mind, devalues what the event stands for. The prize overshadows the priniciple.
Second, I felt offended for those kids and families who chose not to participate because to participate would violate their personal beliefs. While I don’t agree that participation in an event like this is akin to validation of the GLBT lifestyle, I do understand that there are people who do think so and respect their right to do so. By making participation in the event a competition, then those kids who don’t participate are singled out and labelled as homophobic at the worst or the reason their class didn’t win a pizza party at the least. Either way those who don’t participate are discriminated against, in a way.
Shame on the Lakehead Public School Board.
In the end, my kids knew nothing about the event (they are in grades 2 and 3) so we didn’t have to deal directly with them participating or not. I am glad, though, for having gone through the experience of having to think through and live out how my family is to live out a missional faith within our context.
What would you have done in that situation?
Do you agree that participating in events that speak out against homophobia is not the same as endorsing homosexuality?
What are your thoughts on the school board turning the event into a competition?