Alex Blaze

Homophobes caught lying about Kevin Jennings

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 06, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Department of Education, Family Research Council, gay straight alliance, GLSEN, Good As You, Kevin Jennings, LGBT, schools, sexuality, teenagers, thinkprogress, violence, War on Drugs, washington examiner

GLSEN has jennings.JPGcreated a web form to thank the Education Department for appointing Kevin Jennings as the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

I posted about how the FRC started a campaign against Jennings this past week, going so far as to take a full page ad out in the Washington Examiner full of misleading quotations from Jennings, without context and chopped down to look more damning. ThinkProgress and GoodAsYou have been trying to set the record straight on FRC's lies.

To me, though, the quotations that they pulled, which show that Jennings doesn't lend himself to hysterics on drugs or teen sexuality, only made him seem more qualified to me. Part of the work he'll be doing with the office is reducing school violence, and as the founder of the effective GLSEN (responsible for Day of Silence and Gay-Straight Alliances), he's in a great position to address that issue for LGBT youth. More importantly, since his office is also charged with addressing moral issues like drugs in schools, it makes sense to have someone heading that office who seems like he can see through the worst aspects of the War on Drugs terror campaign.

But just because I have a pretty shitty sense of morality doesn't mean FRC is right to quote Jennings out of context. One of the quotations in the Washington Examiner ad, from a speech Jennings gave, implied that Jennings was trying to promote teenage gay sex. Here's the full context of that quotation, and it's much less damning than the chop shop job FRC did on it:

And I said, "Brewster, what are you doing in there asleep?" And he said, "Well, I'm tired." And I said, "Well we all are tired and we all got to school today." And he said, "Well I was out late last night." And I said, "What were you doing out late on a school night." And he said, "Well, I was in Boston..." Boston was about 45 minutes from Concord. So I said, "What were you doing in Boston on a school night Brewster?" He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, "Well I met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him." High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people. I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, didn't know what to say. Knew I should say something quickly so I finally said, My best friend had just died of AIDS the week before. I looked at Brewster and said, "You know, I hope you knew to use a condom." He said to me something I will never forget, He said "Why should I, my life isn't worth saving anyway."

I cannot remain closeted; I cannot allow the next generation to feel the way I felt"

FRC, I suppose, would have wanted Jennings at age 24 to have immediately called the police, which I'm sure would have been a wonderfully tempered reaction that would have greatly improved Brewster's life. There's nothing like a little police response to same-sex love in the 80's to help set a teen straight.

FRC quoted him as saying:

"I can envision a day when straight people say, 'So what if you're promoting homosexuality?' [...] That is our mission from this day forward."

Which doesn't raise a red flag to me. His obvious point is that he wants to move on from the very premise that heterosexuality is superior to all other forms of sexual expression, and there's really nothing wrong with that. Of course, that's because I originally read it with the assumption that FRC was being dishonest, and the full quotation in context does not disappoint:

"Everybody thought Harry Hay was crazy in 1948, and they knew something about him which he apparently did not--they were right, he was crazy. You are all crazy. We are all crazy. All of us who are thinking this way are crazy, because you know what? Sane people keep the world the same [sh*tty] old way it is now. It's the people who think, 'No, I can envision a day when straight people say, 'So what if you're promoting homosexuality?' Or straight kids say, 'Hey, why don't you and your boyfriend come over before you go to the prom and try on your tuxes on at my house?' That if we believe that can happen, we can make it happen. The only thing that will stop us is our lack of faith that we can make it happen. That is our mission from this day forward. To not lose our faith, to not lose our belief that the world can, indeed, be a different place."

Anyway, it's pretty obvious that the problem that FRC has is the fact that a gay man was appointed to an office that works on education, and homophobes are always going to have the biggest problem when it comes to us and kids. It's much harder to control kids, to destroy gay kids' self-esteem and make them ashamed of themselves, if there are positive examples of other ways of living available to them.

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I also saw the ad and just assumed the FRC was lying, which is all these Machiavellian Christofascists are good for.

But seeing the full passage about the 15-year-old only made me more angry. When you consider the shame and self hatred that the kid was feeling that led him to have unprotected sex with a stranger, it's unforgivable that the FRC would be so blatantly trying to preserve that shame.

These people are just evil, as far as I'm concerned, and I don't have a shred of love for them. I'm not ashamed to say I celebrated when Jerry Falwell died.

I always wonder, though, how much of our knee-jerk disbelief is shared by others who are less familiar with the FRC. I'm thinking that it's more widespread than the mainstream media would have us believe, especially when they were saying that the religious right won the election in 2004 for GWB.

They've been mis-over-estimated, but I don't know by how much.

I wonder the same thing, but I see too many journalists flock to groups like the FRC to let Tony Perkins pontificate on gay marriage or other gay-related issues to think they share our disbelief. I think a lot of people, especially those who harbor prejudice against us to begin with but also fence sitters, are still inclined to treat the FRC as a reliable source of information. I think something like a Christopher Hitchens-style hit piece that ripped Perkins to shreds and was published in a national paper or magazine would expose these assholes to a lot of people.