Pretty much all gay kids know what it’s like to be bullied. And they all know the feeling of betrayal that comes the first time a straight friend doesn’t stick up for them when the bullies come around. And any kid who’s been bullied knows that you can’t give bullies an inch because they’ll take a mile. If you give them your lunch money once, they’ll just keep coming back for it.

We all know that these days, the Maine Republican Party is nothing but a gang of playground bullies in fancy ties. In case you have somehow missed The Great LGBTQ Educational Video Clip of 2022 Controversy (soon to have its own Wikipedia page, I’m sure), the party has put out a gubernatorial campaign ad accusing Janet Mills, Maine’s Democratic governor, of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on “radical school lessons.”

Their proof? A five-minute video clip, made two years ago, of a teacher explaining, in a very age-appropriate way, what the acronym “LGBT” stands for. It was posted, along with dozens of other video clips, on the Maine Department of Education website, to give kids stuff to watch and learn from during distance learning. (Remember the sudden jury-rigging of distance learning in 2020, when teachers were building the plane as they were flying it?) The video was never part of a mandatory curriculum in any classroom. It was also age-appropriate. The teacher, Kailina Mills (no relation to the governor), did a great job making it and does not deserve to be at the center of a culture war firestorm. I encourage you to watch the clip yourself – while pulled from the official DOE website, it is available online.

What Gov. Mills should have done was laugh in the face of the attack ad. But she gave the Republican Party her lunch money instead. She supported the Department of Education pulling the video from its website.

Surprise, surprise, the Republican Party has not played fair and pulled the ad now that their alleged concern has been addressed. On the contrary, they are increasing their spending on it. I’m guessing Janet Mills was popular in elementary school as a kid because, clearly, she didn’t know enough about traditional bully behavior to expect this. I mean, this is what politics is. Gov. Mills could make funding available for a school community garden, and the next day her opponents would be running an ad saying “Janet Mills wants to turn YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL into a STALINIST COLLECTIVE FARM!”

I had my first crush on a girl when I was 11. Kids I thought were my friends told me that was “gross” and called me a “homo” for the first time when I was 12. So I ask you, what is the right age to teach kids that gay people are a fine and normal part of life? Middle school? High school? Or should it be when they are younger – before they have a chance to get mean and hurtful?

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On the topic of “age appropriateness”: I am of the opinion that if a child is old enough to see straight people in an activity, they are old enough to see gay people in the same activity. If you’re reading them a picture book about a family of bears with a mommy and a daddy, there’s no reason not to read them a picture book about a family of bears with two mommies.

I mean, if a kindergartner has watched “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Little Mermaid,” they’ve already been exposed to the concepts of “romance” and “transition.” If they can handle the idea of Princess Tiana turning into a frog and back again, they can handle the concept of transgender people.

On May 17, the governor tweeted that “every day, I stand with” the LGBTQ community and “will always support” them. The video pull happened less than a week later. So which is it? Does Janet Mills stand with us, or does she think that acknowledging our existence is inherently inappropriate for children?

Conservatives don’t want one or two specific books or videos removed from classroom circulation. Republicans don’t want children to see or hear about LGBTQ people in a positive light, period. This is because they want to grow another crop of bullies to take their place. If kids learn from a young age that transgender people exist and are no big deal, they won’t grow up to be soul-starved politicians who eagerly vote to ban access to health care.

Because of the time required for getting the Sunday paper all laid out and sent off to the printers, I submit these columns a couple of days before they show up on your doorstep. News moves pretty fast these days. And as I am finishing up this writing, I am looking over at Twitter on my phone and am seeing breaking news alerts of yet another school shooting. Texas. At least 18 dead. By the time you read this over Sunday brunch, the toll may have risen.

Uvalde will join the instantly recognizable names of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland. Our children are learning that there is a non-zero chance they will be shot to death in their own classrooms. I don’t want to see ad spots. I want to see plans and policies from both Maine Democrats and Maine Republicans to prevent a horror like this from happening in our state.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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