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Augusta County School Board engaging in the old game of ‘smear the queer’

lgbtq school
(© yurakrasil – stock.adobe.com)

The game evolved into being called “rough and tumble.” But in the ‘50s, this simple chaos of one kid running with a football and all the other guys trying to tackle him and taking the ball, was known as “smear the queer.”

At first, I really took no notice of this play on words. At eight or so, I had little familiarity of what it meant to be “queer” or the call to be cruel. Later, I grew to know both.

Early on, homosexuality was a muted discussion. One effeminate neighbor teenager was known as a “brownie.” My dad, in sharing his brother’s resignation and then embracing a daughter who dressed and acted manly, quoted Uncle Roy as saying: “What am I supposed to do, she’s my daughter?”.

Eventually I understood it all. Queer is bad, hate is good. It was everywhere, but nowhere starker than in the church. I anguished in the sermons that twisted God’s love as very conditional, and that this sin was the sin of all sins.

No time to acknowledge that, though we confessed to being sinners, we didn’t need to be made uncomfortable with reminders of our own weaknesses. The straying of the “straight”: adultery, pornography and lusting, that led to broken families and abandoned children, were not pulpit popular.

Televangelists were invited into many homes because their message soothed itching ears. Prosperity was our due. No time for self-reflection. It was the others who needed the message of salvation and the calling to get right with God. We were good.

Gladly, we saw in our own sons, and their friends, that the smallness that had infected my boyhood was not harming them. Kids from Buffalo Gap knew better than the church elders who their neighbors were. And how they were to be treated: “love as I have loved you.”

Our three boys brought many friends to our house. Boys, girls, white, black, straight and gay, all just nice kids. Their discerning was on character – good kids all – not an outdated hierarchy. And it was comforting that they knew their parents would welcome every friend.

Which brings me to the disturbing action of two members of the Augusta County School Board, Timothy Simmons and Sharon Griffin. A Fort Defiance student used art to express her feelings that her God had no place for her, a queer. John 3:16 was not applicable; belief in Him had qualifiers.

That these small-minded haters would choose to share their ignorance and subject our community to embarrassment is to be expected. Neither ran for office as student advocates, but each ran as right-wing politicians with all the national angst that sadly goes with it.

These are folks who love to rile the base. A winning political strategy, even if it runs over some innocents. Unfortunately, they strike me as just not very bright, but worse, unwilling to learn.

not enough to save you
Photo: Facebook

Fort Defiance student Abby Driscoll’s painting was art at its highest – thought-provoking, honest, haunting, creative – exactly what a teacher would hope to inspire. It harms no one to express despair and longing. It enriches the caring to know what troubles our children.

The salvation of gays is not a new or quiet issue. It has divided national denominations and local congregations. That we should have a personal testimony, from one who felt unloved in a local church, should be seen as instructive, hardly destructive.

While we, on the outside, have seen much improvement in the inclusion of gay neighbors into our lives, we learn from this spectacle there is still more to do. But not among those things are two school board bullies still wanting to play “smear the queer.”

Tracy Pyles is the former chair of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.