Incorporating Thinkers: When Communities Are Unsafe or Unwelcoming

thinkersincorporated

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on August 14, 2013.

In a series called “Homeschoolers are Out,” Homeschoolers Anonymous told stories of the life of conservative Christian homeschooling from the perspectives of LGBT individuals.

It was interesting to me that while bloggers such Libby Anne of Love Joy Feminism were used as mini props to parents who rallied against gay marriage, individuals like me and Melissa of Permission to Live were sheltered from learning that gays existed. The stories had a lot of diversity like that because our homes were all so different.

But there is always the party pooper. Not too surprising is that this series is quite controversial. This is what a group called Thinkers Incorporated said.

HA, specifically in their series of posts on the experiences of homeschoolers of alternate gender and sexual orientation, paints a picture of homeschooling that is foolishly simplistic. All religious homeschoolers do not believe that homosexuals should be stoned in the streets and bullied into oblivion. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a group of any size comprised of homeschoolers that really believes this hypocrisy.

While I do not doubt that real abuses have occurred, it is unfair and slanderous to claim that homeschoolers have some type of cultural mass objective of slamming the LGBT community. The underlying principle of home education is that full parenting control is in the hands of the parents. Thus they may choose to bring up their children however they see fit. Therefore, making any kind of generalization at all about homeschooling is fallacious. We are all different to some degree, and that’s frankly the point of the whole idea. We don’t have to subscribe to anyone else’s views on any subject.

I’d bang my head against the wall, except I need to use my head to write this. The whole point was that you don’t have to believe that gays should be stoned in order to not foster a safe environment for LBGT individuals. The point of the whole series is that bigotry is always bad whether we are talking stoning, shunning, or just not welcoming. Bigotry does exist in the Christian homeschool community. Those who do not welcome gays into their community are, actually, part of the problem.

I’m not speaking for the writer Luke Adams at Thinkers Incorporated; he may be very welcoming.

But just in general, most people I know don’t believe in stoning gays; yet, most conservatives I know are not overly welcoming gays into their communities. (Some might say it’s an oximoron for conservatives to welcome gays. But just ask Frank Schaeffer that who grew up in the 60s as the son of the fundamentalist parents Francis and Edith Schaeffer and saw lesbians kissing in their missions house. We conservatives make our bed and lie in it.)

I am not gay or bi, but I am scared to talk to old members of my homeschool community about what I believe about hell or life because I know people will judge me for it. In fact, Thinkers Incorporated themselves already judged me when they critized H.A. for their universalist bloggers, aka, me. [HA note: Lana is our only blog partner who self-identifies as a "Christian universalist"].

Homeschooling isn’t a very “safe” place to come out as anything not conservative: universalists, gay, lesbian, atheist, democrat, whatever.

This does not mean every homeschooler is bigoted or sexist or racist or whatever (although I think we all are more of those things than we care to admit – I include myself). But the Christian homeschool community is not safe for me, and I’m a straight Christian who does missions work.

Just stop and imagine what it would be like to come out gay in a conservative homeschool community, or any other religious, conservative, non-homeschool community, and then tell me we are over generalizing this, and that we don’t need to tell stories from LGBT individuals.

This is from Andrew, on growing up gay.

But from the moment I learned what “homosexual” meant, I knew that I would never truly be the person they wanted me to be, because I knew that I was inherently flawed. And as is often the case with things like this, once I knew what the word meant, I began noticing it everywhere. But in the conservative Christian circles (including homeschooling support groups) I was a part of, it was rarely something I heard in its entirety. Instead, it was like something just out of the corner of my eye, a fleeting shadow in the midst of a conversation. It was that-sin-which-must-not-be-named.

….

I did everything I could to try and “fix” myself, including looking into electroshock therapy, though thankfully I had to have a parent’s consent and there was no way I wanted to tell my parents. Eventually, after a failed attempt to turn myself straight by dating my then-best-friend (a woman) in college, I reached the end of my rope.

I fell into a deep depression, was suicidal on multiple occasions, and through it all was desperately trying to reconcile my faith (and thus the large majority of my friends and family) with my sexuality.

Now to be clear, Andrew has already said that this is not uniquely a homeschool problem. He wrote,

“In other words, I realized that I can’t blame ‘homeschooling’ or even ‘the homeschooling movement’ for the majority of my struggle in coming to accept and love the person that I am.” 

But the point is that the messages he received was that he was flawed and needed fixing, and whether that battle comes from homeschooling, fundamentalism, secularism, or internal, it is always a toxic feeling. It is always a story that needs to be told, so we can heal of our bigotry together.

Everyone who shared their stories on H.A. has a different story. Some tell stories of people who welcomed them, and some tell stories where people shut the doors behind them. The point is that where bigotry exists – even if it’s not in Luke’s church – it is wrong. This is not a generalization; it is not a generalization about anything at all.

It is just individual stories, stories that need to be heard and told.

I’m listening. What about you?

10 responses to “Incorporating Thinkers: When Communities Are Unsafe or Unwelcoming

  1. Those who do not welcome gays into their community are, actually, part of the problem.

    As an eccentric straight, I can attest it’s not just “Teh Gays” — it’s anyone who’s DIFFERENT. “Unpronounceables” (LBGTQs) are just the most different Other.

    “BEWARE THOU OF THE MUTANT!”

    • Yea you are correct. I should have said LGBT* and added atheists to the group, too, since coming out an atheist in my family might be harder.

      • Instead of “LGBT”, “LBGT”, or “LGBTQ”, I just call them “the Unpronounceables”. (If you’ve ever tried to pronounce “LGBTQ” as a word, you’ll understand.)

    • And it’s ironic that every human being on earth is a mutant! Somewhere in our genes are “mistakes” that make each of earth’s 7 billion people unique evolutionary experiments…all created by the Laws of Physics, aka our beloved Mother Nature.

  2. Anyone who ignores the fact that any power structure that gives parents complete power over their children is either turning a blind eye to a lot of shit that goes on, trying to deny the shit that goes on, or has a fucked up idea of parent-child relationships. Homeschooling really has no checks whatsoever, and they’re easy for parents to get around them.
    If I said I’ve been abused by my parents, I’d by lying or over-exaggerating, but do I think that I would be able to talk to other queer people in real life if I was in school? Yes. Would I have gotten sex ed? Eh. At least I would know what my vagina was, what it did, and what arousal was. Would I get the meds I need? Yes, I don’t spend enough time with people for them to notice when something is off and I’m hallucinating or going through a paranoid episode, but if I was around people all day and talking to them, someone would hopefully notice something was wrong. Even if horrible abuse is not going on (and it does and to deny that it happens and disenfranchise people whose abuse has been abetted by homeschooling), the power structure still leads to some bad shit happening.
    tl;dr, The Thinkers Incorporated posts are really rubbing me the wrong way and I’m to lazy to make a dw post.

  3. I think the main issue is that the homeschooling community has become very influenced by religious fundamentalists. These people are those that most strongly believe that homosexuality is wrong. While they might not all believe in stoning gehs, it is an almost universal belief that homosexuality is a major sin, God despises homosexuality, and that was the main reason for the flood and destruction of Sodom/Gomorra. So from that standpoint, there will be no tolerance towards gays; there will be no acceptance of gays.

    The “Thinkers” Incorporated post, while it may be technically correct, is simply being very pedantic and shallow.

    • They also have bias, since they appear to be conservative and Christian. I don’t think they’re as objective and logical as they’d like to think they are.
      And any form of “love the sinner, hate the sin,” I-don’t-advocate-being-cruel-to-gays-but-won’t-somebody-please-think-of-the-children, is still homophobic and harmful to gay people.

  4. Something I would like to point out here from a neutral perpsective that has read the Thinkers Incorporated articles, and the HA articles, is that I think there is a bit of aggressiong coming from this particular post towards TI (not in another one which was polite and analytical) So, claiming that TI has a bias (Fia) is to turn a blind eye to the probability that there is an equal but opposite bias coming from HA. Just saying. Neither group is going to be 100% accurate or right (we are human) and both have good points, but the easiest way to lose credibility in any situation is to lose temper first, which it appears is more common on HA than TI. Again, just my observations here.
    Additionally, last I checked, America WAS still a country where one of our freedoms is freedom of religion, not to mention freedom of speech or belief. On top of that, it IS parent’s role to raise their children, not anyone else’s. Coming from that, the parents can choose whether or not to teach their children a particular belief system or not, in the end the choice ultimately lies with the child when they are older and out of the house. It is a *parent’s* choice AND prerogative to teach their kids about sex, regardless of what other people may say. I do seem to remember that I, as a younger child, rarely ever knew what was best for me in reality, though I sure fought for what I wanted tooth and nail. Sex would be one of those things that kids do not have ANY discretion about simply because they cannot mentally cope with it until they have reached a more mature age, and since kids all mature mentally and physically at VERY different rates, it should be the parents and not a ‘one size fits all’ school system teaching about this.
    so, (concluding) keep in mind that a discussion is only worth being read if it respects the other views while analyizing them, and that this is still a country where we do have choices over how we run our lives.

    • The US Supreme Court has never upheld a constitutional right to homeschool. That has only been established in Michigan. There is a narrow religious right when it comes to education, but it is not broadly applied to every American, just specific religious groups (in this case the Amish). I’m unsure of your premise regarding a parent’s inalienable right.

      In addition, what do you find aggressive here? Was it Ryan’s post or comments on the article?

      Thanks for clarifying.

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