I am writing today because of recent chatter on East Brunswick social media in opposition to the LGBTQ curriculum in NJ public schools. I am not here to change anyone’s opinion but I would very much appreciate it if my thoughts on the topic were considered.
As a Soviet Jew, I grew up in an environment where I had to deal with mockery, bullying and institutional discrimination on a daily basis.
As an American Jew, I continue to have to constantly distinguish hatred from genuine ignorance coming from all directions, including people I interact with on a daily basis.
I have to explain to my son why he is the only Jew in his class and what he should say when other kids ask him what he is doing for Christmas. When I took my teenage daughter to a rock concert in December, I had to put up with Christmas carols and 50000 people around us enjoying the music we don’t identify as our own. Great concert otherwise, by the way.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. Here in our own East Brunswick, we have school lunches that don’t conform to our religion, and school holidays that often don’t line up with our most sacred days. At work, I have to use my vacation days for the High Holidays.
All that said, as an immigrant who fled persecution in my home country, I know to extend the benefit of tolerance and acceptance to others. I am secure with my religion and culture and I know that learning about Christmas does not make my kids Christians. Listening to Christmas carols will not cause them to convert. Singing African tribal songs in the elementary school choir is not going to make my son become an African tribe member. Learning about LGBT history will not make them gay either.
I do hope that my children learn that a gay British mathematician named Alan Turing helped end WW2, founded modern computer science, developed a model of a modern computer which lets some of us post homophobic nonsense on social media, and committed suicide because his own government persecuted him for being gay - I want them to also learn that our society has moved on from that. I want them to learn that their contributions to society are valuable regardless of whatever sexual orientation they develop as they grow.
I applaud the state of New Jersey for the inclusive curriculum that makes everyone feel respected and valued. As citizens, we all share the history of this country, and we can not deny each other’s contributions or each other’s identities. I am secure enough in my religion, my culture and my parenting, that I know it will not be learning about Alan Turing that will determine my children’s sexual orientation just like learning about Christmas will not convert my children to Christianity.
Teaching LGBT history is not going to make anyone become gay. It is not an affront to anyone’s religion. It doesn’t stop anyone from practicing their religion however they see fit in the privacy of their community as long as they don’t harm anyone.
A minority group getting more rights than they had in the past does not take away from the rights of the rest of us in any way. In a public school, our children have to exist alongside one another, and they may come from families whose values may not agree with yours. And that’s ok. We can’t all be in our safe spaces at all times.