I asked a childhood friend of mine about support for gays and lesbians in the rural area where we grew up and was told:
We have both Middle School and High School support groups for gay and lesbian students. While it is a general expectation that none of the staff focus on issues of their own sexuality, there are several staff who are themselves gay, so that is a built-in channel of support. In the elementary school, it doesn’t come up very often. A couple of years ago, while going through a workshop on suicide, another counselor and I practiced through a scenario in which she played the role of a gay student in this small town. Pretty much her own life story, really. We talked about finding supports in this small town, as there are some good things in place. We also talked about getting out to a bigger area where she could find more people to lean on who were gay-friendly or gay themselves. I think that was really helpful for me personally to think through the issue in a person-centered way. My early (conservative Christian) upbringing probably would have leaned me toward the same type of counseling you got back in the day, but I hope that I am much closer to the point where I see people like Jesus would.
Come out! Come out! Everyone needs to share a story like this to help basic human LGBT rights progress. Telling these stories, however, requires coming out of a closet: a story about what it’s like to be a gay student, how your family is no different from anyone else just because you have two moms, how your lesbian daughter is just as much of a good upstanding citizen and kind generous person, all of these stories require someone who is not necessarily LGBT (and is usually straight) to open a closet door.
The story above is such an improvement from my experience of attending public school in a rural area and a small town where there was no support for gay and lesbian kids.
For the staff at these schools, I wonder what would qualify as focusing on issues of their own sexuality. If someone wears a wedding ring, does that indicate something about their sexuality? If a woman mentions her husband then she has explicitly mentioned something about her sexuality, and I’m pretty sure that is not disallowed. Usually when people are asked not to discuss their sexuality it’s a specific request for a gay or lesbian person to not mention their significant other. For example, if I meet someone and mention my wife I’ve automatically implied that I’m a lesbian (or a man who mentions his wife automatically implies that he’s straight).
I recently asked a church whether or not it was gay-friendly and why it doesn’t show up on lists of gay-friendly churches. I won’t include the name of the church here because it isn’t relevant. It further shows how people think they are friendly while, in the same paragraph, describing how my marriage is not as worthy (or even affirmed or acknowledged) as a straight married couple. I think the person who wrote this to me believes that this is welcoming and friendly (even though the word friendly is in quotes):
[We are] definitely “friendly” to gays and lesbians. We hope to welcome anyone who comes to church wanting to seek or worship Jesus. Where we differ from the churches listed is that we do not affirm a homosexual lifestyle, since we cannot find such an affirmation in Scripture. But I would guess we differ from other churches that [you] may have attended in that we are not condemning of gays or lesbians. As to leadership issues we continue to support the denomination’s current constitutional view: church officers must live in a faithful marriage relationship between a man and a woman, or in chaste singleness. Hope that assists.
Even if the above is clearly not friendly or accepting of my family, it’s a huge positive change for churches and schools to not condemn, and for someone to respond to me instead of ignoring me. The writer, representing the church, clearly has good decent intentions, if not exactly friendly and welcoming words.