Jewish World Review July 21, 1999 /8 Av, 5759
On the shelves of three Seattle public high school libraries sits a book for gay and lesbian youth called "Two Teenagers in Twenty." Seattle Superintendent Joseph Olchefske endorsed the essay collection in February after banning an earlier edition, which contained a graphic description of sex between a teacher and student. (The removal of that first edition, "One Teenager in Ten," came only after parental concerns were aired publicly by KIRO 710-AM radio personality Dori Monson.)
I read the substituted book from cover to cover in the wake of renewed complaints by local parents. Some of the 43 essays in "Two Teenagers in Twenty" are poignant, well-written, and beyond reproach. They document adolescent struggle and emotional trauma common among gay and lesbian youth without resorting to political propaganda. The first essay recounts a Wisconsin girl's coming-out to her mother:
"She had always talked about me having a big marriage ceremony in a Catholic church, and a huge reception with a big cake," writes Rachel Corbett, 16. "I didn't want to disappoint her; I wanted to live up to all the expectations I thought she had of me."
Every daughter deserves a mother's love - not for her good grades or sexual identity, but because she is her mother's child. That affirmative message transcends politics or religion, and is appropriate to teach in the public schools.
But "Two Teenagers in Twenty" does not settle for reinforcing universal truths or the Golden Rule. It glamorizes raunchy sex between young teens and their "lovers," and casual sex between youths and older adults. The book doesn't just contain passing references to these activities. Nearly half of the essays mention sexual exploits with schoolmates, pen pals and adults.
My apologies in advance for the NC-17-rated language, but the Seattle schools have deemed these excerpts "age-appropriate":
-- DeMelon Faith, 19, writes of a high school sophomore-year sex encounter: "All of a sudden Mia started messing around, giving me a back rub. One thing led to another, and we discovered something even more exhausting than bike riding."
-- David Johnson, 17, recalls an underage tryst with an adult security guard in his apartment complex. He "asked me if I'd like to see some of the vacant apartments. I, being the na´ve child, said yes." After some "deep conversation," the guard led the teen into a "walk-in closet and started kissing me." A week later, David met another older man: "He came back with sheets and a small tube of KY stuck inside a towel...I discovered he was hung like a Greek god...Needless to say, the rest of the night passed with neither of us getting any sleep at all. I was in love."
-- Kyle Dale Bynion details his coming-out at age 17 to his gay twin brother and his brother's lover: "They were in bed, and I just came in and blurted it all out . . . I'd been very active sexually since I was twelve, and I had lots of stories to tell them. I felt great."
-- Gretchen Anthony, 17, gives young readers advice on getting into gay bars illegally: " Plan A: Know the person at the door. Plan B: Get there early enough that no one is at the door. I've now been to five different bars, and I've gotten in every time."
-- Aaron Fricke, 19, brags he "first became sexually active with my playmates when I was five or six" and "managed to avoid contracting venereal disease through all of my toddler and preteen years."
-- Christopher Hawks, 17, notes off-handedly that "my first real affair was with a much older man, and he was a beautiful person." Mike Friedman, 17, mentions that he "had been having sex with a man since I was fourteen." Jim, 17, confides to a counselor "about the 32-year-old lover that I had at that time."
Gay educators pay lip service to promoting sexual abstinence. But none has condemned "Two Teenagers in Twenty" for its celebration of underage promiscuity. Eleanor Durham, a member of Parents and Teachers for Responsible Schools, notes: "When you read these books, you'll be hard-pressed to understand how they can co-exist with a philosophy of teaching children that they should be abstinent."
As for the pedophilic references, school officials say they should be viewed in a larger societal context of promoting "safe schools." Their agenda is to create a comfortable learning environment by putting books in school libraries that include gay and lesbian youth. The hope is that these materials will reduce harassment and violence.
But "Two Teenagers in Twenty" goes far beyond enhancing inclusion and understanding. The book undermines school safety by exposing students to an unambiguous endorsement of risky and illegal behaviors.
In subtly corrupting ways, the book helps create a safer climate for the likes of Mary Kay LeTourneau, the Seattle-area teacher convicted of raping her sixth-grade "lover," and Reese Lindquist, the former Seattle teachers' union president who plead guilty in 1992 to fourth-degree assault and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes after making sexual advances to two boys in a Seattle park.
It's easy to dismiss book critics as censorious homophobes. But their
protest is not rooted in bigotry. It's rooted in concern for the physical
and psychological safety of all children. Under the guise of teaching
tolerance, books like "Two Teenagers in Twenty" exploit vulnerable teens as
politicized sex objects. No responsible adult, gay or straight, should
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