Day of Silence, Golden Rule Pledge roundup

Today is the Day of Silence, where students attempt to remain silent for parts of the school day to bring attention to anti-gay bullying. This year has been much quieter than the first two years for the supportive Golden Rule Pledge. I am aware of students in a dozen or so communities who planned to pass out GRP cards, either while joining in the silence or indenpendently of it.

I have looked in on the Day of Silence twitter account a couple of times and this retweet caught my eye:

Today has been awful. Verbal and physical bullying. This is why we do this.

This pains me. I wish she had written that some kids were pledging the Golden Rule and standing up to the bullies. Maybe next time?

I have posted this song before but it seems fitting again. After the vid/song, check out the few news articles which mention the Golden Rule Pledge.

Charisma covered the GRP as part of a story on the Day of Truth, the walkout, and the Day of Silence. Christian Post took a similar line in this story.

Here is a link to a Crosswalk.com article I wrote a year ago, called “That’s So Gay” – The deadly consequences of bullying.

Is Harry Hay an icon?

Last week, I noted that Department of Education appointee, Kevin Jennings, wrote uncritically about Harry Hay in his book, Becoming Visible.  I wondered why Jennings would write about Hay without comment on Hay’s consistent support for the North American Man-boy Love Association.

Forget Kevin Jennings for a bit; Harry Hay is an interesting character in his own right. As is typical of me, once I start looking into something, a side aspect of a story catches my interest. Such it is with Harry Hay. I am in the middle of reading Stuart Timmons biography of Hay, The Trouble with Harry Hay.

I may have more to say about that book but I want to note that the new focus on Harry Hay has brought defenders. I am right now less interested in any possible Jennings-Hay connection and more on how Hay is being regarded by gay leaders.

This month is GLBT History Month and October 8th was Harry Hay day. In addition to appreciating Hay’s contributions, Timothy Kincaid over at BTB calls Hay “a kook” and “an anachronism and an embarrassment” suggesting that his status is non-issue. In contrast to Kincaid’s view, Hay is considered an icon by the GLBT History Month website and he is being defended by some gay luminaries. Specifically, some take offense at the suggestion that Hay was a NAMBLA member. In fact, Hay said he was not a member but he certainly supported them.

One such defender is Robert Croonquist who issued a call to participants in the National Equality March several days ago. Here it is from the blog, gaywisdom.org

Defend Harry Hay’s Reputation at the National Equality March.

As thousands of LGBT activists prepare to march on Washington, Harry Hay, one of the most important and beloved founders of the modern gay movement, is being used by right wing extremists as a bogeyman to destroy the career of Kevin Jennings, the Obama Administration’s highly qualified Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. 

 

Most recently Sean Hannity has mounted the attack

 

Harry Hay is being branded as a pederast and anyone who has ever spoken praise of Harry is being condemned as a supporter of pederasty. 

 

As one of the six heirs to the Estate of Harry Hay and John Burnside, I feel it incumbent upon myself to defend his reputation against the attacks that have become a staple of those members of the right-wing establishment who are bent on destabilizing the Obama Adminstration and destroying the careers of members of his administration through guilt by association.  

Let us make it clear: 

 HARRY HAY WAS NEVER A

 MEMBER OF THE NORTH

AMERICAN MAN BOY LOVE

ASSOCIATION, known as

NAMBLA.

   

Harry n John - LaCresta - Timmons His defense of the organization at several points in his 90-year history of speaking truth to power was based on his experiences as a young teenager exploring the world of sexuality with older men, himself being the aggressor. These experiences were very positive for the young Harry and are described in Stuart Timmons’ excellent biography, The Trouble With Harry Hay. There are no records of the adult Mr. Hay ever having had sexual relations with under-aged youth. It is also innacurate to say, as it is frequently written, that NAMBLA promotes the “legalization of sexual abuse of young boys by older men.” Hay agreed with NAMBLA that in many cases initiation into sexuality, as has been the case across cultures and millenia, is better suited to those with experience than with other youth who also have no knowledge of the complexities and responsibilities of sexuality. Hay also concurred with NAMBLA that age of consent laws are out of step with the age of sexual awakening and exploration. Harry Hay’s ideas concerning youth and sexuality were based on his desire to protect youth, not to exploit and abuse them. 

 

The second instance of his defense of NAMBLA was in 1994 at Stonewall 25: Spirit of Stonewall March in New York City.ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association had been granted NGO status by the UN theprevious year. As a result, the US Senate unanimously passed a motion sponsored by the right-wing senator Jesse Helms that the USA would withhold funds of more than 118 million dollars due to the UN and its sub-organizations unless the President of the USA could certify to the Congress that no agency of the United Nations “grants any official status, accreditation or recognition to any organization which promotes, condones or seeks the legalization of pedophilia or which includes as a subsidiary or member any such organization.” On June 23, the week of the march, NAMBLA was expelled from ILGA, on the motion of the executive committee, and it was decided that “groups or associations whose predominant aim is to support or promote pedophilia are incompatible with the future development of ILGA.” Hay felt that if the emerging gay movement allowed the outside to define it, outside forces would then control it. It was in this context that Hay was critical of ILGA’s position and stood in defense of NAMBLA. We again stand at a similar crossroads. 

 

It is morally and intellectually dishonest and patently false to reduce the life and work of Harry Hay to one of pederasty. He was a courageous hero who pioneered the movement for the equal rights of an entire class of people denied the basic civil rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution of the United States of America. A Dutch friend who spent some of his youth in a Japanese Concentration Camp in Indonesia told me recently that if Americans remain silent at this critical juncture in our history we will live to regret it. 

 

Speak out. Defend the reputation of our beloved Harry Hay. 

 

Robert Croonquist aka Covelo

Is this an effective defense of Hay? This statement floored me:

Hay agreed with NAMBLA that in many cases initiation into sexuality, as has been the case across cultures and millenia, is better suited to those with experience than with other youth who also have no knowledge of the complexities and responsibilities of sexuality.

 No one has suggested that Hay personally engaged in pederasty but, according to the NAMBLA website, and now confirmed by one of heirs that he did speak positively about such relationships in support of NAMBLA.  For instance, Hay told NAMBLA:

I’m telling you this story, and I’m saying it tonight, in memory of a man—all I can remember is that his name was Matt. And I send to all of you my love and deep affection for what you offer to the boys, in honor of this boy when he was fourteen, and when he needed to know best of all what only another gay man could show him and tell him.

I also would like to say at this point that it seems to me that in the gay community the people who should be running interference for NAMBLA are the parents and friends of gays.  Because if the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world.   And they would be welcoming this, and welcoming the opportunity for young gay kids to have the kind of experience that they would need.

So, again, as I said, my offering is not as a member of NAMBLA, but in memory of that fourteen-year-old boy who was handled by Matt so long ago.  And in memorial to Matt, I offer you my love.

NAMBLA was established in 1978 and Hay spoke at their meetings in 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1994. The above quote comes from a 1983 meeting where he spoke on behalf of NAMBLA. 

And to think, I was critical of Christian groups for lauding and giving a platform to bikini wearing Carrie Prejean.

Regarding whether or not Hay is or should be an icon, I am not qualified to say since I am not in the community. However, one way to judge is to examine how prominent gay organizations view people. I noted above that the Equality Forum views Hay as an icon. Here is how their material describes the October lineup of icons:

 

GLBT History Month teaches our heritage, provides role models, builds community, and celebrates the extraordinary national and international contributions of the GLBT community.
 
“I have never been given the opportunity to learn about the gay community,” said Craig Richie, former GSA and Student Body President, Jenkintown High School in Pennsylvania. “GLBT History Month has been a way for me to discover my history. There are lots of Icons for me to look up to.”
In 2006, for the launch, there were 20 GLBT History Month collaborating organizations with a link on their Web sites. In 2009, over 600 collaborating organizations have the link, making GLBT History Month the largest collaborative project worldwide for our community. High school GSA’s, youth groups, colleges, and community centers are creating GLBT History Month exhibits.
Corporate workplace groups – including Aetna, Hallmark, McDonald’s, Monsanto, New York Life, and Pepsi – are utilizing GLBT History Month resources to promote diversity.
The high school boy here certainly seems to view icons as those he can “look up to.” Given Hay’s views and his support for the initiation of 13+ year old boys, should gay youth look up to Harry Hay?
UPDATE 10/15/09: Zombie at Zomblog has a comprehensive examination of Harry Hay’s support for NAMBLA and more information regarding Kevin Jennings’ knowledge of Hay’s positions.

Harry Hay, NAMBLA and associations

For the last couple of weeks, Kevin Jennings has been at the center of controversy over his handling of a high school boy who came to him for advice about involvement with an older man. More recently, conservative bloggers have been attempting to make connections between Kevin Jennings and Harry Hay. Harry Hay was the founder of the Mattachine Society, the first gay rights organization in the country.

The reason Jennings’ critics want to make this connection is because Harry Hay was a supporter of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). NAMBLA is widely regarded as a front group for those with sexual interest in children and teens. Currently, NAMBLA has a feature on Hay linked on the front page of the website titled, “Harry Hay and the roots of the gay movement.” As these links document, Hay spoke at their conferences and supported their aims.

Jennings has spoken positively about Hay and wrote about him in a book titled Becoming Visible, which is a gay history book for teens and college aged adults. In this book, Jennings referenced a biography of Hay (The Trouble with Harry Hay, by Stuart Timmons) which mentioned Hay’s support of NAMBLA but Jennings did not disclose this to his readers. Anyone seeking to learn more would find the reference but then learn that Hay was an advocate of boy lovers. Is it fair to fault Jennings for this? Watch this video from Scott Baker at Breitbart.tv where this is laid out in detail.

Below is the picture Scott Baker is referring to with Hay supporting NAMBLA in 1986: 

Harryhaysignnambla

Harry Hay clearly supported NAMBLA even though he said he was not a member. Here (part one, part two) you can read the section of the book by Timmons which references the event where Harry Hay attempted to wear this sign.

This seems to establish that Jennings was aware of Hay’s involvement with NAMBLA. Now the question: is it fair to criticize Jennings for lauding Harry Hay when he knew Hay was a supporter of NAMBLA?

Some related questions come to mind. When is an icon not an icon? In the Timmons book, it seems clear that Hay viewed the gay establishment who tried to silence his support of NAMBLA as “self-righteous.” Was it? Should gay leaders speak out about this now, especially during gay history month? When conservatives refer to someone like Paul Cameron or Scott Lively, they are criticized (and rightly so, to my way of thinking). Should those who laud Hay be questioned about their support for someone who walked with NAMBLA?

Discuss…

Harry Hay describes his coming out as his “child molestation speech.” Describing his sexual debut at 14 with a 25 year old young man, Timmons wrote about Hay (Read it in context here):

When in later years he told his favorite coming-out story, he referred to it ironically as his “child molestation speech,” to make the point of how sharply gay life differs from heterosexual norms. “As a child,” he explained, “I molested an adult until I found out what I needed to know.”

This same story was told in a 1983 speech in support of NAMBLA and is archived on the NAMBLA website.

The point is that I was perfectly capable of handling myself and knowing exactly what I wanted.  But this year I knew that I wanted to find a man to tell me what I wanted to know.  So, at fourteen, you realize, I’m a child molester.  I’m a child, and I’m molesting an adult till I find out what I want to know.  And I found him, and he was shocked. Then he discovered that, rather than being a man, as he suspected that I was from the way I looked—my callouses on my hands, and the way I handled myself, and my clothing—that I was only a fourteen-year-old kid, and if anybody found out about it he’d be in jail for life, or, at least in California twenty-three years in that period.

I’m telling you this story, and I’m saying it tonight, in memory of a man—all I can remember is that his name was Matt. And I send to all of you my love and deep affection for what you offer to the boys, in honor of this boy when he was fourteen, and when he needed to know best of all what only another gay man could show him and tell him.

I also would like to say at this point that it seems to me that in the gay community the people who should be running interference for NAMBLA are the parents and friends of gays.  Because if the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world.   And they would be welcoming this, and welcoming the opportunity for young gay kids to have the kind of experience that they would need.

So, again, as I said, my offering is not as a member of NAMBLA, but in memory of that fourteen-year-old boy who was handled by Matt so long ago.  And in memorial to Matt, I offer you my love.

Harry Hay is one of the icons celebrated this month by GLBT History Month. His day was October 8th.

Reflections on what we share in common

(This post from occasional contributor, clinical psychologist David Blakeslee, covers some similar territory as conservative gay blogger, GayPatriot on the Kevin Jennings controversy.) 

I have been a bit agitated lately, it is probably my own problem, but instead of being internally ruminative about such sensations I decided to find some object to focus these feelings on.  It didn’t take long, all I had to do was visit Warren’s blog .  There I could find a few outlandish assumptions, hypocritical comments and distortions of fact to justify ventilation.  Apparently that was not satisfactory enough, so I am writing this posting after a couple of years of absence (Warren, I don’t know how you do this day in and day out, your energy and integrity are deeply appreciated). 

Rationalization, minimization, and justification are not scientific arguments; they are psychological defenses to ward off anxiety.  Sometimes they are so effective that we feel quite calm when a grave injustice, which we should agonize about, has occurred.  Instead of tossing and turning at night, struggling with headaches and pacing the floor, we sleep quite soundly.  Sometimes they are so effective that the weak and the vulnerable are left without an outraged and strong protector; instead they get a philosopher, who through his mental games ends up functionally being a passive collaborator with a predator. 

Are gay teens vulnerable? Absolutely.

And just to whom are they vulnerable? Continue reading “Reflections on what we share in common”

Does Brewster’s age matter?

As noted here two days ago, Kevin Jennings made a statement regarding a student’s disclosure of involvement with an older man while Jennings was a teacher at Concord Academy. Here again is the statement:

Twenty one years later I can see how I should have handled this situation differently.  I should have asked for more information and consulted legal or medical authorities. Teachers back then had little training or guidance about this kind of thing. All teachers should have a basic level of preparedness. I would like to see the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools play a bigger role in helping to prepare teachers.

Since then, left-leaning websites, some gay advocates (although a notable exception is Gaypatriot who says Jennings should resign) and CNN have commented further on the matter, defending Jennings. At issue is dispute over Brewster/Robertson/Thompson’s age – was he 15 or 16? And does it matter?

Media Matters, parroted by CNN, asserted that Brewster was 16, not 15. If Brewster was 16, Jennings was not required to report sexual conduct because 16 was the age of consent in MA. Their reasoning is:

Massachusetts law required reporting by those with reason to believe child “is suffering serious physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse.” According to a footnote in a 1990 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case, in 1988, chapter 119, section 51A, of the General Laws of Massachusetts provided:

[Any] public or private school teacher … who, in his professional capacity shall have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of eighteen years is suffering serious physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him including sexual abuse … shall immediately report such condition to the department by oral communication and by making a written report within forty-eight hours after such oral communication …

Jennings’ attorney: Book passage does not indicate that Jennings had reason to believe student was being abused. In the letter, Boland stated, “Nowhere in the book does Mr. Jennings state that he understood the student was being abused of victimized, or that he suffered injury from any abuse.” Boland added, “Based on the plain meaning of the words in the book, it is clear that Mr. Jennings had no ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that the student was being abused in any way. Because there was no abuse and no ‘sexual victimization,’ the statute does not apply.” [Boland letter, 8/3/04]

Media Matters accuses Politico’s Mike Allen and Fox News of not reporting all of the facts in this instance. While they may be correct about some omissions, they also make omissions in their reporting. For instance, Media Matters does not include all of what Boland said on behalf of Jennings.

jenningsboland letter

They left out the phrase, “…or indeed that the student was even having sex.” In light of Jennings’ 2006 book where he was advising Robertson on safe sex, the description from his book, One Teacher in Ten, where Brewster disclosed a relationship with an “older man” in Boston, and the 2000 speech where Brewster went home with someone he met in a Boston bathroom, this statement from Boland now seems misleading. Media Matters also ignored the audio of the 2000 speech where Jennings himself said that the boy was 15 years old. He also said that Brewster was an advisee and that he learned about the Boston trip early in his first year. Here is what he said about it:

And in my second job I wasn’t sure how I wanted to deal with that. And I was in my first month on the job and I had an advisee named Brewster. Brewster was missing a lot of classes; he was in the boarding school so I said to his teacher, his first period teacher, I said, ‘next time Brewster misses a class I want you to tell me that he’s missed that class and, uh, I will go find him.’ So I went and found Brewster one morning when she had called and he was asleep in his dorm room. And I said, “Brewster, what are you doing in there asleep?” And he said, “Well, I’m tired.” And I said, “Well we all are tired and we all got to school today.” And he said, “Well I was out late last night.” And I said, “What were you doing out late on a school night.” And he said, “Well, I was in Boston…” Boston was about 45 minutes from Concord. So I said, “What were you doing in Boston on a school night Brewster?” He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, “Well I met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.” High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people. I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, didn’t know what to say. Knew I should say something quickly so I finally said, My best friend had just died of AIDS the week before. I looked at Brewster and said, “You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.” He said to me something I will never forget, He said “Why should I, my life isn’t worth saving anyway.”

Why did they omit those details? Surely, they are relevant to the defense they are trying to mount.

I don’t know how old Brewster was or even if there is a Brewster. Only Mr. Jennings know this and up to now, he has not disclosed much. I can understand some of this. It is not uncommon for speakers to disguise details of case studies in order to preserve confidentiality. Age might be one of those details. Readers will have to judge which account seems more plausible.

The credibility of statements in the Boland letter is now open to review given the 2000 speech, the 2006 book and the statement from Mr. Jennings this week. I am puzzled that Media Matters (then followed by CNN and others) would rely so heavily on it and ignore other relevant information.

The other age-related wrinkle here is the requirement that mandated reporters (teachers in public and private schools are mandated reporters) notify the Department of Social Service if they have

 reasonable cause to believe…that a child under the age of eighteen years is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare including sexual abuse…

Everybody seems to stipulate that if the boy was 15 then a report should have been made. However, if not, then what? One would need to make a judgement call about the nature of the disclosures and whether they are causing the child under 18 to experience injury. Given the repeated statements that the boy was suicidal, something was not right and needed some attention. What was causing the boy’s distress?

We may be dealing with an issue of attribution. Apparently Jennings believed the boy’s suicidal thoughts were coming from a lack of acceptance of his sexual attractions. Many gay defenders of Jennings point to this as quite likely and have an intuition to relate to his 1987/1988 response. However, others may believe the suicidal thoughts derive from his youthful sexual behavior and possible remorse or dissonance. Some might wonder if he was struggling with his sexual identity. Still others might suggest mental illness or some combination of all three. Different attributions about the cause of the behavior will lead to different actions on the part of the teacher. It is difficult enough for people who are trained in mental health to make these calls, it surely is above the pay grade of an inexperience teacher to be certain. The law says that suspicion of abuse is needed not certainty. With that in mind, Jennings admission that he should have sought consultation is a step in the right direction.

There is a larger issue here which I will take up in future post. When ideological differences are great, how can we develop policies and procedures which help offset our biases? Brewster is like a Rorschach test for projecting adult recollections of adolecent angst. Each of us look at the situation and think, ‘he needed this or he needed that.’ As many have opined through the years when reflecting on GLSEN, perhaps what adolecents need is not to be turned into a political movement but guided in light of their individual needs.

UPDATE: Media Matters apparently is the PR arm of the Department of Education and has released what they say is a photo of Brewster’s license. MM however, continues to avoid dealing with what Jennings said to his own constituents about the boy’s age.

UPDATE #2: A Brewster has come forward to express support for Jennings. CNN has the summary and Media Matters has the details, including a Facebook conversation between FOX News reporter, Maxim Lott and Brewster. The account provided by this Brewster is confusing when trying  to reconcile it with Jennings’ past accounts and the recent statement that he should have handled the situation differently. While Media Matters has focused on the exact age of the boy, the group has not addressed the discrepancies in past accounts. They accuse FOX of wildly inaccurate reporting but fail to note that the reporting was based on Jennings own statements.

Kevin Jennings on Brewster: “I can see how I should have handled this situation differently”

The Brody file at CBN is reporting a statement from Kevin Jennings regarding Brewster/Robertson/Thompson: 

“Twenty one years later I can see how I should have handled this situation differently.  I should have asked for more information and consulted legal or medical authorities. Teachers back then had little training or guidance about this kind of thing. All teachers should have a basic level of preparedness. I would like to see the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools play a bigger role in helping to prepare teachers.”

-Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools

Brody reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan also released a statement:

“Kevin Jennings has dedicated his professional career to promoting school safety. He is uniquely qualified for his job and I am honored to have him on our team.”

-Arne Duncan, Education Secretary

Well, that leaves some unanswered questions (why did he imply through his lawyer that he did not know what the boy was doing?), but it is a welcome acknowledgement that teachers should not follow his example.

Updates to come…

The Associated Press has the story. Media Matters ignores Jennings own statement that the young man in question was 15. In any event, he acknowledged that he should have sought advice.

The Brody File broke this story yesterday but contains a curious statement that I cannot verify. Brody said:

Basically, Jennings pretty much apologized for the incident a couple decades ago.

I wrote to ask Brody for a source on an apology with no reply as yet. In the 2004 letter from his law firm Nixon Peabody, Jennings did not apologize for anything. In fact, he denied much of what he now acknowledges.

jenningsretractionletter

This is a denial, not an apology.

Does Diane Lenning get an apology now?

The saga of Kevin Jennings and Brewster: Enter Robertson

In an op-ed dated today but available online over the weekend, the Washington Times assails Obama safe-schools appointee, Kevin Jennings for his handling of a 15-year old student’s sexual revelations when Jennings was a young teacher.

According to Mr. Jennings’ own description in a new audiotape discovered by Fox News, the 15-year-old boy met the “older man” in a “bus station bathroom” and was taken to the older man’s home that night.

FOX News has also reported on this and pointed to that recording. That audiotape was recorded by someone who attended a speech Jennings gave in Iowa in 2000 and then given to me. The relevant clip is here. You can read more about Brewster and the controversy in the article, Remembering Brewster and in this prior post on the topic.

There is another wrinkle to this story. It appears that Brewster had a name change in 2006 for Jennings book, Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir. Below, I have excerpted the passages in the book where he discusses a boy named Robertson, who has issues like Brewster. The first two selections are from pages 161-162. Jennings, a young teacher at Concord School, answers the boy’s concerns in the same way as he answered Brewster. Continue reading “The saga of Kevin Jennings and Brewster: Enter Robertson”

Kevin Jennings appointed to Department of Education post

Big surprise, you elect a liberal president, you get liberal cabinet secretaries who in turn appoint liberal people to their departments. I can’t say I was surprised that Education Secretary Arne Duncan appointed Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN and co-chair of LGB fundraising for Barack Obama to be the assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools inside the Department of Education.

That said, I am concerned about this appointment. While in recent years I have warmed to the reasonable objectives of GLSEN which include violence prevention, I am not convinced that Mr. Jennings is the guy for this position. As a backdrop for my concerns about his views, readers should read the 2005 paper, Remembering Brewster.

In this paper, I note that Jennings told two different stories about an encounter with a student, Brewster, at Concord Academy in Massachusetts. In 2004, Mr. Jennings was accused by then chair of the NEA Republican Educators Caucus, Diane Lenning, of failing to report a potential abuse situation involving Brewster. At the time, Mr. Jennings denied the allegation and demanded via detailed letter from his lawyer that Mrs. Lenning retract the accusations. On point, the letter read:

Nowhere in the book does Mr. Jennings state he understood that the student was being abused or victimized, or that he suffered injury from any abuse, or indeed that the student was even having sex.

She never retracted and he never sued.

Later, I was given a tape of a 2000 lecture by Mr. Jennings discussing Brewster. He was speaking to a GLSEN rally in Iowa. In that lecture, he indicated that Brewster was involved in sexual behavior of some kind. After being informed that Brewster was not in class, Jennings went to find him in his room. Here is the relevant part of the talk (click link for the mp3 – you might have to turn up the volume):

And I said, “Brewster, what are you doing in there asleep?” And he said, “Well, I’m tired.” And I said, “Well we all are tired and we all got to school today.” And he said, “Well I was out late last night.” And I said, “What were you doing out late on a school night.” And he said, “Well, I was in Boston…” Boston was about 45 minutes from Concord. So I said, “What were you doing in Boston on a school night Brewster?” He got very quiet, and he finally looked at me and said, “Well I met someone in the bus station bathroom and I went home with him.” High school sophomore, 15 years old. That was the only way he knew how to meet gay people. I was a closeted gay teacher, 24 years old, didn’t know what to say. Knew I should say something quickly so I finally said, “My best friend had just died of AIDS the week before.” I looked at Brewster and said, “You know, I hope you knew to use a condom.” He said to me something I will never forget, He said “Why should I, my life isn’t worth saving anyway.”

If Jennings did not believe he was sexually active, then why advise him to use a condom? His handling of this incident, subsequence defense and alternate stories about it concern me. I have posted this story twice before on this blog and most commenters gay, straight, conservative or liberal agree that such an incident should be reported. I watched him refuse to answer reporter George Archibald’s question about the incident on the floor of the NEA exhibit hall. I do not think he has ever addressed the discrepancies in the accounts. I emailed GLSEN to ask for a comment in 2005 with no reply.

I may be misunderstood with this post. Let me be clear: the sexual orientation of the teacher and/or the student are not relevant to the need to get the parents, school and possibly the authorities involved in helping a troubled student in the situation Jennings described. Also, I am not disputing that GLSEN has appropriately raised awareness about bullying of GLB students; a problem which needs ongoing attention. However, I do wish the point person for school safety was someone with an unambiguous record on school-parent communication. If Mr. Jennings had said something like – ‘hey, that was a rookie mistake, I should have alerted someone about a depressed 15 year old boy being 45 minutes away from his boarding school without permission having sex, perhaps with an adult,’ then I would not have quite the same reaction. Instead, he denied what he earlier acknowledged and threatened to sue.

UPDATE: Some have asked me to verify Jennings position as fund raiser for Obama. Here is a video with Jennings and co-chair Joan Garry introducing Bill Clinton at an Obama fundraiser.

UPDATED POST:

Jennings refers to Brewster as Robertson in his 2006 memoir. In it he acknowledges the young man was in need of safe sex advice.

National Day of Avoidance

The Day of Silence is coming — April 17 to be exact — and some conservative groups are already calling for students to walkout of school on that day.

TINLEY PARK, Ill., Mar. 3 /Christian Newswire/ — A national coalition of pro-family organizations is urging parents to call their children out of school on April 17. This is the day designated for this year’s Day of Silence when students and/or teachers will purposely remain silent during instructional time to protest so-called discrimination and gain sympathy for students who identify as homosexual or transgender.
The Day of Silence is a yearly event sponsored by the partisan political action group, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The implicit purpose is to undermine the belief that homosexuality is immoral. It is the belief of the sponsors of the Walkout that parents should no longer passively accept the political usurpation of taxpayer funded public school classrooms through student silence.

The walkout is a new wrinkle. Last year, these same groups called for parents to keep the kids home. It sounds like the plan this year is to allow students to go to school and then tell them to walk out.
The news release contradicts itself on at least one point. First, it reads:

The DOS requires that teachers either create activities around or exempt silent students from any activity that involves speaking. DOS participants have a captive audience, many of whom disagree with and are made uncomfortable by the politicization of their classroom.

And then a little later, says:

Higgins further emphasizes that “The worthy end of eliminating harassment does not justify the means of exploiting instructional time.” The First Amendment already allows DOS participants to wear t-shirts or put up posters, but according to a document co-written by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, a “school can regulate what students say. . . and it can also insist that students respond to questions, make presentations, etc.” Students and teachers should not be allowed to exploit instructional time to advance their socio-political goals.

Note the two sentences in bold print. The release first says the Day of Silence requires that teachers exempt students from speaking and then admits that the DOS does not mandate such exemption. As noted in the release on this blog last year, DOS materials make this clear.
I will again favor the Golden Rule Pledge. Facebookers can join that effort here.

Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.
1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.
2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.
3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.
4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.
5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.
6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.
7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.
8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.
9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.
10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.
I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)
Happy New Year!