So a few years ago, my kids and some others founded the Boston Area Homeschoolers Gay-Straight Alliance, currently known as the Boston Area Homeschoolers Queer-Straight Alliance, or BAHS QSA.
Right from the get go, they dealt with people feeling uncomfortable in their midst. Since then, they’ve hosted a couple of proms, several drop-in nights for queer youth, and presented workshops at the annual GLSEN conference.
Here they go again. A local church, intending to be welcoming and supportive of local LGBTQ youth, offered their building for a dance. The teens, knowing full well that themed events are a lot more fun, decided to go with a Drag Extravaganza. Come on down, they said. Dress in drag, or not. Those who do, and who want to strut their stuff, will be invited to do so on a makeshift runway.
Five days before the fully chaperoned event, the QSA advisor got a phone call.
Sorry, said the church. That theme is not appropriate.
Unfortunately, the church didn’t ask to vet anything about the event further in advance, although their opposition would have been just as problematic whether or not it necessitated a last-minute cancellation.
Now the QSA members go forth and talk about whether to respond, how to respond, and how to process this. I wish these kids didn’t have to face this kind of a learning experience. I wish they lived in a world where acceptance was universal, and people took their discomfort as a signal to open, rather than close, their hearts.
These kids have learned, firsthand and more than once, that their work is important. I’m proud of them, impressed by their courage, and grateful for what they continually teach me. To quote a lyric from Ysaye Barnwell’s song Hope: teach on, kids. Teach on.