This year the NEA Convention was held in Orlando, Florida, July 1-6. Dr. Paul Sullins, Department of Sociology, The Catholic University of America, was our caucus’ special guest. He is a devoted scholar and researcher in the field of social sciences and very capable of handling the hard core statistical challenges faced by visitors to our NEA EXPO booth. He was also very effective at drawing passers-by into discussions about many aspects of human sexuality, including his recent research on same sex parenting. I would encourage you to check out his research on-line.
Most encounters at our exhibit booth were at least civil and some were very supportive. There were a few hostile encounters, too. After reading the title of our caucus (NEA EXGAY EDUCATORS CAUCUS), one man walked right up and shaking his finger in my face said, “You are damaging children. Shame on you!” He talked over my comment that I support his right to have another opinion. Obviously the good will was not reciprocated!
When asked by Dr. Sullins if he knew what an Exgay was, another man walked by without even slowing his pace and said, “They don’t exist.”
A couple approached the booth and the husband, a school counselor, I believe, got into a heavy discussion of the research. When his wife had a turn, she explained how she believes adolescents need to experiment with sexuality to see which direction feels right to them. I interjected, “Do you believe a person finds out who they are by consulting their feelings?” She said, “No,” and went on to embellish her previous position but was obviously distracted by my question and her body language told me she was recognizing that perhaps she was saying that feelings tell you who you are. When she finished, I said, “Do you think it’s OK if a person wants other parts of them, like their goals to have a family, or their faith, to be a more important source than feelings to tell them who they are?” With a look of genuine discovery on her face, she said, “That’s a new thought!”
Another young man came to express his views more than listen to anything we had to say. His comment that stuck in my mind was, “I believe there should be a law against a physician writing a baby’s gender on their birth certificate because they’re too young to know what they want to be.”
During a lull in the traffic, a man from Cameroon expressed his desire to see polygamy accepted in America. In his Muslim country, he said it is very frustrating and sad when his countrymen came to this country to avoid the dangerous hostility of the Muslim extremists to have to choose one of their 4 wives to bring along and leave the other 3 in danger. He repeated several times that not all Muslims are terrorists. I asked him what he thinks might happen to the homosexuals in the US if Sharia law gains more influence. His reply, “They will put an end to that.” He didn’t say how.
Some conversations lead to topics of religion and freedom of religion. Many were able to concede that it is OK for a person to make their religion a priority over their sexuality but most were also quick to add, “But it’s not OK to make someone feel forced to do so!” Many were suspicious that we were prompting religion and religious tradition on this issue. There were also a few who wanted our information to be fair in presenting all sides of the issue and a few who openly identified as Christians. Although we were open to taking conversations into the spiritual aspects of this issue, most conversations centered around sharing of little known research information and discussions of freedom on the issue.
At the representative assembly, the delegates voted on some troublesome things this year. Right off the bat, the first item put to the vote by NEA leadership in complete denial of recent punitive rulings against Christians, was to use NEA resources to fight “bogus” religious liberty laws that might make discrimination and hatred against LGBT people more entrenched. They also voted to revise history books to make them more “relevant.” Another item (NBI #84) attacks the use of the words, “right to work!” There were several transgender supportive business items that passed including allowing children to dress as boys or girls or use whatever restrooms they wished. Many items were disturbing, but this one submitted by vote of state delegations pushed my buttons: (New Business Item 86) “NEA will disseminate to educators through existing publications current information regarding the methods and damaging effects of anti-gay “conversion/reparative therapies”. This was debated and re-worded to tone it down. The item initially supported legislation to make it illegal for counselors to attempt to help a young person with unwanted same sex attraction. During the debate, a delegate raised the question, “Is it the intent of this item to do away with the NEA EXGAY EDUCATORS CAUCUS?” The author replied, “Absolutely not!” I find it interesting that although NEA included the category “Q” (defined by them as “QUESTIONING” as in NBI 78) in decisions supportive of LGBTQ individuals, they also voted to limit the freedom and resources for those who are questioning their sexuality in NBI 86! To view more of the 2015 NEA decisions, go to http://www.nea.org/ra. This will give you a list of all the items that passed and full coverage of the 2015 Representative Assembly.
Founder, NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus
The views expressed in this document are those of the caucus. The caucus has no authority to speak for, or act on behalf of, the NEA.