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Coastal Voices: Teaching gay history: in defense of SB 48

My name is Mike Rhodes and I was born and raised in Del Norte County. I attended local schools, played football under Lewis Nova and have an enormous amount of pride in my community.

I am a combat veteran of Afghanistan, serving in the capacity of an Army Ranger (2nd Battalion/75th Ranger Regiment), who endured two tours of combat for my country and my community. I am currently a second-year law school student at the Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Neb. I plan on returning to Del Norte/Humboldt counties following law school to practice and to educate.

I am openly gay and I know all too intimately firsthand the consequences of growing up like this in Del Norte County and this world. I want no child to have to endure what I did. It is unreasonable.

Based on recent Triplicate letters to the editor, I’m not sure the people of Del Norte County really understand the issue that is central to the debate about SB48, the newly passed legislation that among other things requires acknowledging in social studies classes the historical contributions of gay people. I would like to help out.

A common characteristic shared by various people, which evokes hysterical emotional responses from those not possessing the characteristic, invariably builds a strong sense of cohesion and solidarity among those in possession. When the emotional responses are used as a motive to inflict violence, legally disenfranchise, and socially exclude this group based on the characteristic, the characteristic itself become germane to the group’s existence and its role in a society.

In recent American history, GLBT people have faced detention for sexual expression (until Lawrence v. Texas), discharge from service in the military (until the repeal of DADT), inequity in contracting ability (excluding six states and the District of Columbia), and prevalent terror, leading to the formulation of a bias-motivated crime framework, effecting widespread deterrence.

Based on negative historical attitudes, theological bias and the manifestation of irrational fear reflected in our laws, it becomes highly relevant that a group suffers in a unique way because of a unique characteristic. Combating negative attitudes and incorrect conclusions, which have produced the hysteria, is a sound method in mitigating the plight of this class of our society.

The most logical place to start is in public education. The human mind is most malleable at this point, and like the drill sergeant, the educator can create the outcome most desirable for the mission. The mission in our case, in addition to ensuring threshold competence in reading, science and mathematics, is to produce model citizens who have a sense of national pride and respect for other Americans who chase the common dream.

A consequence of exposure to the struggle of others (as a historically marginalized group that continues to face legal and social adversity) is that young students will understand the inhumane treatment endured by this group, identify the inherent unreasonableness associated with the treatment, and correct policies in the future so that treatment of this group is consistent with the legal notion of substantive liberty.

Are one’s sexual practices relevant to their role in history? Certainly not; however, one’s sexual orientation is highly relevant to who/what they are and what legal/social obstacles they must negotiate on a daily basis. When a group suffers because of these legal/social handicaps, when the American legal system is actively engaged in adjudicating relevant claims, and when the best military on Earth is implementing a new inclusive policy, the issue of orientation/identity becomes relevant and should be something all Americans are exposed to.

Mike Rhodes is an Omaha, Neb., resident.

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