Branstad, LGBTQ Youth & Bullying



Governor Terry Branstad has gotten himself into quite a pickle.  It started late last month with a rumor that Governor Branstad didn’t want his name attached to Iowa Safe Schools Annual Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth.  Branstad didn’t address the issue at first, and then ultimately caved bringing on the wrath of The FAMiLY Leader’s CEO Bob Vander Plaats which made some believe the 2010 gubernatorial primary never ended.

Ok, I’m a little late addressing this, but since the conference doesn’t take place until March it’s still pretty relevant.  Some thoughts:

Branstad’s initial inclination to have “Governor’s” removed from the title of the conference was the correct one.  Iowa Safe Schools is a non-profit organization that is a special interest group focused on one particular group of kids – LGBTQ kids… which I have a problem with that label as applied to kids, more on that later.  The Governor is in no way required to lend his name to every conference out there.

He was not on top of the press on this.  Jason Clayworth, an openly homosexual reporter for The Des Moines Register who first turned this non-story into a story.  He tends to do this with anything related to the homosexual community.  Each new administration sponsors or doesn’t sponsor things all of the time.  The Governor’s office could have come out to say we have our own bullying initiative.  This group is just about one type of young person, but we care about all kids in Iowa who are bullied, not just ones who identify themselves as gay.

So he wasn’t on top of this.  But I don’t recall this being made an issue of last year.  After all this conference was held last year.  So I wonder where was Vander Plaats’ outrage last year?  I have to believe The FAMiLY Leader’s involvement was counterproductive.  Especially the email they sent out publicly thanking the Governor for making the right call in removing his name from the conference was not only likely premature, but it probably helped to draw the ire of homosexual groups.

The Governor’s office should have know about the potential conflict and should have been prepared months ago so this could have been done as quietly as possible.  They dropped the ball.  The FAMiLY Leader should know that right now they’re a lightning rod for negative press and just let Branstad do his thing.

The subsequent presser The FAMiLY Leader sent out blasting Branstad came across as a noisy gong.  They could have been helpful behind the scenes suggesting how Branstad could have navigated through this, but they didn’t.  It would seem like they prefer pressers, emails and press conferences to doing the actual work it takes to make things happen behind the scenes.

So Branstad caved and now he looks bad to his core constituency.  He gave The FAMiLY Leader another reason to hammer at him.  Something he really doesn’t need, and in the process he endorsed the LGBTQ lifestyle under the guise of being “anti-bullying.”  This conference, nor the anti-bullying bill that passed in the Iowa Legislature back in 2007 was about bullying.  It was about promoting the LGBTQ lifestyle, as you can see in what Iowa Safe Schools is about and what this conference is really about.

The mission of the Annual Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth is to a) engage and educate students, educators, parents, community leaders, youth-serving professionals, policy makers, and others concerned about issues relevant to the LGBTQ community, and b) encourage networking and activism to inspire our communities to promote diversity, equality, and social justice.

Their own data shows that physical appearance has more to do with bullying than with sexual orientation.  So I asked in 2007 and I ask now, what about the fat white kid who gets bullied on the school playground?  Do we not care about him?  I do and so should the Governor.

That’s not about bullying, that’s about promoting the LGBTQ lifestyle.  Back to applying to LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning) label to youth.  As someone who has worked with kids for almost 20 years I really have a problem with this.  I have to wonder how many times a young person who had a same-sex attraction was made to believe they were gay?  Far too often youth are led to believe that their identity is wrapped up in their sexual attraction.  It is not.  Someone is not guilty of being a homosexual just because they have homosexual feelings and temptations.

Frankly, Iowa Safe Schools, shouldn’t even need to exist because those who are followers of Christ should lead (hear this Bob Vander Plaats?) in ending bullying of all types.  Especially kids who are struggling with homosexuality.  Because frankly being called names will just confirm the lie that is in the heart of those who are struggling with this.

In a workshop I led for a youth ministry conference in 2009 adapting material from Exodus International I pointed out:

Men and women who have this issue in their lives can almost universally testify to being called “fag” “queer” “dyke” “sissy” etc, long before they were ever aware of any homosexual urges. People speak into their gender confusion: saying to a young boy, “You’re such a girl. Why do you act like your mother?” and so forth. A lot of times, this abuse doesn’t occur because the abuser is really accusing them of homosexuality, but just ridiculing them because of their appearance or something else (i.e. performing poorly in a sport).

Homosexuality like a lot of other sinful behavior is many times an issue of broken relationships and a distorted reality.  Those who follow Christ realize their identity is in Him, not in their behavior.  Those who struggle with this issue don’t.  We need to help kids realize this.  It’s hard work, but our lack of doing this as the body of Christ is one of the reasons we’re dealing with this in the political arena now.

My two cents.  Branstad caved and he communicated acceptance, not true tolerance, but The FAMiLY Leader and all followers of Christ need to be more proactive in loving young people who are struggling with sexual identity issue.

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