School Pride

Posted: June 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: California, Learning, Miss Kate, Parenting, School | 11 Comments »

A few weeks ago some moms and I took our kids to the local old-timey ice cream parlor after school. While the wee ones ran around outside licking each others’ cones and tossing pennies in the fountain, the mom folk got to talkin’.

Here’s a snippet of our conversation:

Monica: “So we’re still not sure what team Hank is playing on.”

Lynn: “Really? Wow….”

Monica: “Yeah, sometimes I’m totally convinced that he’s gay. Other times? Not so sure.”

Jenny: “Well, he’s still super young. All in due time, right?”

Fran: “Sure, but if he IS, wouldn’t that be SO AWESOME?”

All of us: “Yessssss!”

Indeed. In many parts of the world a parent might be dismayed at the thought of their child being gay—horrified even. Here in the Bay Area we are downright thrilled by the prospect. It’s just one of the many reasons I love living here.

I consider myself a pretty liberal, open-minded person. I don’t care who you pray to, what you look like, or what foods you eat or abstain from. Gay, straight, whatEVER, that is your choice and good on ya. And I hope that I’m raising my kids to feel the same way.

Which is why I was shocked by my reaction to an event at my daughter’s school recently.

It was a few weeks ago. My mother-in-law was in town from Ohio, so I took her to the Tuesday morning assembly. It’s fifteen minutes of feel-good singing, storytelling, music, and announcements that never fails to deliver a mega-dose of warm fuzzies.

Even though San Francisco’s huge Gay Pride parade is this weekend, they were having a special assembly about it since school wouldn’t be in session near the actual event.

Each classroom was given a color to wear, and that morning instead of sitting in the auditorium wherever they wanted, the hundred or so children were arranged in the shape of a rainbow. The rainbow flag being the symbol of gay pride, and all.

It was adorable. Nearly as cute as my rainbow fruit salad (which happens to have no affiliation to the gay community). Parents were snapping photos and taking videos. The kids were clearly into it too. Typical Tuesday morning love-fest.

Some teachers came to the front of the auditorium and started explaining what Pride Week was all about. And then the slide show started. And no, no, there weren’t any photos of men in leather chaps with their butt cheeks showing. Though, honestly, that wouldn’t have bothered me. (They’re always so toned, those boys!) It was the words that got me.

A list came up on the screen. Essentially the message was that you should be proud to be:

To which I thought, INTERsex? What the hell is that?

I also wasn’t quite sure what “Ally” referred to.

I felt kinda like I did when that Ann Landers sex quiz went around my school in ninth grade. When you answered the questions and tallied your score you’d find out how experienced you were. I’m not sure why I even took the quiz. I was fully aware that my rating would be “pure as the driven snow” or maybe “still has that new car smell.” But what really intrigued me—and my friends—about the quiz was the sex acts that were listed that we’d never even heard of, forget done.

Without having the Internet at our disposal (I’m OLD, people) we still managed to find out what “fisting” and “rimming” meant. Then we wished we’d never asked.

Anyway, the school Pride presentation went on to take each of the terms and break them down. A couple teachers narrated each slide that popped onto the screen. For “Gay” there was a collage of photos that included two daddies sitting on a couch with their children. For “Lesbian” I think there was an image of two women getting married, some two mom families, and two women holding hands. The teachers said things like, “Men who love other men are gay.”

I was totally down with it.

They even slipped a “Heterosexual” slide in there with a picture of the Obamas. (Refreshing to see them labeled not as ‘black’ for a change, but as ‘straight.’)

But really, I was just wondering when the hell they were going to get to “Intersex” so A) I’d find out what it meant, and B) I’d see how they were going to handle that photo collage.

I was also curious about what were they going to say about Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning. This crowd included kids from kindergarten to fifth grade. What was the lowest common denominator of age-appropriate info they were going to share?

And of course I couldn’t help but see all this through my mother-in-law’s eyes. Of all the sweet kids-playing-piano assemblies we’ve had, she had to be in town for this one. I mean, I don’t think that this kinda presentation is standard fare for the public schools in Ohio. It all seemed very California.

Interestingly they didn’t end up having a slide for each term. At least, as far as I can remember. And there was one for “Intersex,” but there was just one image, not a collage. It was a photo of a husky woman on a hiking trail, and one of the female teachers presenting said, “This is Leslie, a friend of mine from college. She is intersex.”

Wait—whaaaat? It felt like I’d been shown a photo of Pat from that SNL skit. And I still didn’t know what Intersex meant.

There was a coffee gathering for parents after the assembly. Being unabashedly outspoken as I am, I mentioned to a couple mamas that I was a bit surprised by the presentation. And moreover I was shocked by my own reaction to it. Usually I’m totally down with whatever that school does.

“The gay and lesbian thing—no brainer. No issue there,” I whispered to some gals by the coffee urn. “I guess I just wonder if they needed to get so technical and label-y about it all.”

A couple women nodded their heads. Another one quietly said, “Yeah… What’s Intersex?”


Call me square, but I’d rather not have my child wondering about the finer points of various sexual orientations until she naturally starts to think about them herself. I always thought Mark and I would decide when and how we’d to talk to our kids about that stuff. I was kinda surprised that the school took the liberty to delve into it on our behalf.

And I guess what really struck me was how freakin’ comprehensive they were. Couldn’t they have just stuck to a high level “accept everyone” kinda message?

“I feel really weird admitting this,” I mumbled to the mamas, “But if my five-year-old came home and started asking me about the terms they were talking about this morning? I’d be kinda annoyed.”

One mom put her hand on my arm and said, “What they couldn’t grasp probably just floated right over their heads.” And as I grabbed another slab of coffee cake, I agreed and hoped that was true.

That night at dinner Mark asked the girls how their days were. Kate piped up, “At assembly today we all looked like a rainbow!”

And that was that.


11 Comments on “School Pride”

  1. 1 Mary said at 10:27 am on June 22nd, 2012:

    Woa~! Yes, that must have been a weird one for the parents. Also bet that the parents were paying much better attention than the kids. Your comment about waiting on the finer points until the kids are naturally curious was very smart.
    Still don’t know what intersex OR ally is. But I’m totally fine with whatever they are.

  2. 2 kristen from motherload said at 10:39 am on June 22nd, 2012:

    Good point re: parents paying more attention than the kids, Mary. You smart lady.

  3. 3 Dona said at 11:52 am on June 22nd, 2012:

    Intersex is when someone has biology that is both male and female. Testes + ovaries, for example. Often it is “corrected” in early childhood but there’s a lot of controversy about that. Often intersex people present androgenously, so I’m not surprised that photo reminded you of SNL’s Pat. Good the school didn’t go into detail on this one, huh?

    I am bisexual but committed and monogomous with a man, my daughter’s father. And all the pride events this month have got me thinking about how much and when I will talk to my daughter about my own orientation and life choices. Ever? Only if I need it as an example? Only if she finds the wedding album from my first marriage, which was to a woman? Where is the parenting guide to this stuff?

  4. 4 Alexandra said at 8:19 pm on June 23rd, 2012:


    Who’s the info for anyway?

    Kids dont want to know.

    Mine just want a straight answer when they ask a question.

    They really don’t want to know any extra. They don’t.

  5. 5 Kerri said at 4:51 pm on June 24th, 2012:

    I guess if you use one term, you *should* use them all. Because if you don’t, you’re saying, OK, “gay” isn’t weird, and “lesbian” is normal, too, but that “intersex” thing — that’s weird. We can’t talk about that yet. So I’m hoping the school’s point was, none of it’s weird.

    We have an LGBTQQIA group at our school. The name is annoying to publish — and there’s always arguments about what comes first (is it GLBTQQIA, or LGBTQ2IA? How come it’s not the one I suggested, ABIGQLTQ? A-big-quilt-cue?) — but they’re all included because they’re all “normal”.

    Also, I’m totally making that fruit salad. Awesome!

  6. 6 heather said at 5:41 pm on June 24th, 2012:

    “Ally” is someone who is hetero but is a supporter of the queer community.

  7. 7 kristen from motherload said at 7:58 pm on June 24th, 2012:


    Yes, I assumed that was the def of intersex, and a friend confirmed it for me later. I guess it’s the new PC term for hermaphrodite. (Some friends and I were laughing the other night about how many of our parents say “Oriental” instead of “Asian.” Oy! I’m uncool in a similar way because I didn’t know intersex was the new norm.)

    As for where the parenting manual is for this stuff—check your glove compartment. Or the junk drawer in your kitchen. If you can’t find it in those places, it’s either in your basement… or you’re SOL.

    I’m all for honesty as the questions are asked, but answering in an age-appropriate way. I’m always surprised by how satisfied my kids can be with a really small amount of information.

    Good luck! xoxox

  8. 8 kristen from motherload said at 8:04 pm on June 24th, 2012:


    Agreed. But I guess living in the uber PC bubble that is the San Francisco Bay Area the inclusiveness thing gets to *absurd* proportions. It seems there are always folks who are poised to be pissed off no matter how hard you try to include everyone.

    Case in point: My kid’s school doesn’t have any sort of holiday pageant/party/gathering because some parent(s) apparently bitched about it in years past. Even if you sing about several holidays–or just about snow or community or peace–you’re still bound to piss someone off.

    At some point the super crazy PC-ness becomes *incredibly* exhausting. IMHO. :)


  9. 9 kristen from motherload said at 8:08 pm on June 24th, 2012:

    Yes, Heather, thanks. I did learn that in the assembly that day. I guess I should have mentioned here that eventually I got the definitions of all these terms. :)

    I definitely feel like I’m an ally. I’m just concerned about those folks who don’t see themselves as allies!

    Shouldn’t we ALL be allies?!

  10. 10 Lori said at 2:48 pm on June 25th, 2012:

    So here’s my take… There was a Diversity and Inclusion meeting where the Pride Day assembly planning was taking place that all school families (adults not kids) were invited to [I was not able to go to this planning meeting]… And then mesh that with the “living in the uber PC bubble that is the San Francisco Bay Area the inclusiveness thing gets to *absurd* proportions.” and just may have your your answer…. On the flip side, there may be parents or kids in the school community that identify as intersex. There are parents that identify with most of the other words on that list in the school community.

    Seeing “Queer” bothered me. It was once I word I used often, the whole reclaiming a word once used to hurt me thing… But then once I became a parent, I’ve found that trying to explain the nuance of using put-down words sometimes but not other times is really confusing for an under 5 year old brain so I don’t use those words any more. I would have preferred that to have been left off and not represented as “this is a word that is academically used to define LGBT people”

    I have to admit, I have found that most of the “there is no one way to be” assemblies over the course of the school year have been WAAAAAAYYYY over my 5 year old child’s head. And with this particular one, we have a personal interest, being a two mom family and all. I was hoping for a bit more “LGBT from a 5 year old perspective”. But once I saw that list of words I thought “Oh well, here’s another assembly that is geared for much older kids.”

    On the very first slide in the presentation there was a photo of our family. My kid spent the entire assembly crying and frustrated because the kid sitting next to us didn’t see our picture and didn’t believe that my kid was pictured in the slide. So they bickered the entire time.

    I don’t think it helped that the 2/3 students were leaving to go on a field trip and were too excited to sit still for anything. I get the concept that if you introduce words to kids eventually they absorb it… We’ve been taking our child to SF Pride since babyhood. Until this year my kid just thought it was about rainbows, no matter how many books, stories we’ve told, nor how many time we’ve explained gay or lesbian, it’s not really part of my kid’s vocabulary. After this assembly my kid used the word lesbian for the first time, totally out of context – I so wish I could remember what was said, it was hysterical. In my kid’s play boys marry girls. So much for absorbing a life time of Pride parades and lesbian moms. (Thanks Disney.)

    So, to sum, I loved the rainbow colors, love the slide show, but the list of words and their “explanation” were not age appropriate for K/1 level kids. And I don’t mean that in a prude way, I mean that in a cognitive way. Not sure if I captured my full experience here, there’s more I can share off line. So just another good excuse for finally making that lunch date together!

  11. 11 kristen from motherload said at 9:13 pm on June 25th, 2012:

    Agreed, agreed. I too was wondering why Queer was on the list…

    I so wish you remembered the the funny out-of-context lesbian line!

    And yes, we are long overdue for our lunch!!

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