Paige Schilt

Teaching Kindergarteners About Gay Marriage

Filed By Paige Schilt | November 18, 2008 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay marriage, kindergarten, LGBT parents, Prop 8

I've been holding my tongue for a while now.

My son, Waylon, started kindergarten this past August. Until two weeks ago, his entire public school career had overlapped with the campaign against Prop 8. Although we live all the way across the country in Texas, we heard the rumors about focus groups in California: lesbian and gay families with children weren't testing well and were asked to keep a lower profile while more palatable spokespeople made the case for our marriages.

Now that we know how well that strategy worked, I can finally talk about my latest obsession: insinuating gay marriage into the kindergarten curriculum.

As adults, I think we tend to repress the trauma of the first day of kindergarten. When we dropped him off in the cafeteria for the first time, Waylon looked like a deer in the headlights. One of his classmates was crying so hard that his tears literally made a puddle on the polished institutional tile.

Watching our baby navigate a new place, new people, and a new routine was heart wrenching for us too. For the first week, my wife, Katy, and I stood in the hallway every morning until his class trooped by in their single file line. We blew last-minute kisses, wiped away our own tears, and exchanged hugs of solidarity with the other parents.

With all of these emotions swirling around, we had little time to think about how conspicuous we were--nor could we spare much thought for how to instruct Waylon and his classmates in the virtues of gay marriage.

Luckily, Waylon's first assignment was to create a "me" collage to introduce himself to the school. A demanding and opinionated artist, Waylon insisted on including a printout of his first ultrasound, when he was just a tiny bean in the womb, as well as a staged photo of himself standing next to the Obama sign in our front yard. Nutcracker 2008He selected sandbox snapshots of his three best buddies, a formal portrait of our dogs, and two family photos: one from our annual outing to the Nutcracker and one from our vacation trip to the Space Needle.

Once this unapologetic propaganda for alternative lifestyles was adorning the halls, we didn't have to wait long for our next point of entry. The second unit in the kindergarten curriculum was "family." I'll admit that we felt some trepidation about this topic - who wouldn't, when conservative commentators are constantly reminding us that this embattled institution is the cornerstone of all civilization? Katy checked in with Waylon's teacher, who encouraged us to supplement the classroom's collection of family books. Being a bleeding-heart social worker, Katy went a little overboard; she donated books on adoptive families, interracial families, single parent families, and penguin families. How better to spread the gay agenda of inclusiveness?

Luckily, our careers as LGBT activists and intellectual elites also give us the flexibility to volunteer in Waylon's classroom. Katy's favorite gig is field trip helper, and mine is guest reader. Just the other day, I brought in notorious gay author Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice. You should have seen all those five year olds, sitting in a circle and calling out the refrain of this unabashed paean to the love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name: a boy's passion for chicken soup.

But, to paraphrase George W. Bush, where's the accountability? How do I know that Waylon and his classmates are really learning about gay marriage? The answer is clearer than a standardized test. One fall evening, about six weeks into the semester, we were at the PTA's backyard concert. Katy and I were setting up our lawn chairs next to the soccer field when we were suddenly surrounded by a roving band of five-year-olds. "Waylon's Mom! Waylon's Mom!" they called indiscriminately. Their questions betrayed an unwholesome interest in our marriage:

"Where's Waylon?"

"Will you tie my shoe?"

"Can I have a dollar for a glow bracelet?"

"Where's Waylon?"

Finally, one extremely promising pupil clarified the homosexual subtext of the entire exchange. "I know Waylon has two moms," she said, matter-of-factly. "Because I have seen you both!"

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Karen Collett | November 18, 2008 8:50 PM

Thank you for making me smile.

Reformed Ascetic | November 18, 2008 8:50 PM

Wow, that made me cry.

Kindergarten kids are the most intelligent humans on the planet. Thanks Waylon's mom, for sharing this.

Wonderful story, Paige! As I said recently, "Teaching about LGBT families in schools is not a matter of an abstract, outside agenda being forced into the curriculum. It is about teaching respect for the diversity of family structure that exists there in the classroom, and making all students feel welcome."

And as fate would have it, my own kindergartener came home last week bearing Chicken Soup with Rice from his school library. Love it!

Exactly! We need to engage and explore what it means to teach family diversity in schools, instead of running away from the topic.

This was simply beautiful. You made my day. *sniffle*

Thanks for a great morning read, Paige. This was a great way to start my day!

That's Great!!!!! Devious and with out force. Gracefully at might add....

FANTASTIC. Love it to bits. Thank you for writing this. And for having a career as an LGBT activist/intellectual elite with the flexibility to volunteer in your kid's classroom! Way to go, gay agenda!

The "focus groups" part sure stings, yet rings true. I was on a conference call with statewide No on 8 folks and others who were talking to a bunch of us LGBT family types wanting to do what we could. We got a lot of support, and were encouraged (at that point, which was fairly late in the game) to speak up. But we also heard the same thing.

Contarn focus groups! Focus on your own group! Etc. Not sign-worthy sloganeering, to be sure. But shit-fire. That stuff really seemed to muzzle some of the most passionate, most natural, most persuasive arguments for this whole shebang: our kids.

OMG, comments from Mombian and Lesbian Dad. I feel like I won the lesbo public sphere lottery!

Kindergarten and beyond! My boys are 9 and 12, and have graduated from Maurice Sendak to Queen, AC/DC, and their ilk. WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS! ( :

My sons were homeschooled and are now in school: you can bet that a large number of straight folks in our town have been educated about families with 2 moms.

We're even making strides helping people understand families with 2 moms who are divorced and now have step-moms -- hey, it's not rocket science!

Love the post!

In California, imagine how SAFE the young children of gay or lesbian parents felt during this PROPOSITION 8 DEBACLE.

How COULD a child feel SAFE if she knew other families were voting, for God's sake, VOTING on whether her parents deserved the right to be married and treated fairly in society?

Now even young children ECHO this intolerance on the playground, thanks to their parents hateful words and ideas. How sick for the children of the YES ON PROP 8 crowd to feel more deserving than other children and their parents!

Many children already know and love their gay uncles, lesbian grandmothers, and other FAMILY MEMBERS who are LGBTI, so we have created a hideous world with PROPOSITION 8 and other amendments like it in the U.S.

Children deserve to grow up in a world where they BELONG and do not FEAR society. Children deserve to grow up feeling SAFE.

Straight and gay children are being raised by straight and gay parents, but the government forgot that we are ALL interconnected in our family trees and in society. So now PROPOSITION 8 has brought children into this culture war, a war based on the assumption that some families deserve more legal rights and protections than other families in times of sickness, death, and divorce [for starters] .

SICK, SICK, SICK. Addendum - I was teaching 24 young children until NOV 6th. PROP 8 hit, my PTSD exploded, and now 24 parents have to explain to 24 children why their piano teacher CANNOT teach them; my situation is still pending (NOV 20).

Sometimes I think the world would be a much, much better place if we let the six-and-under crowd vote.