To the editor:
A few months ago I was speaking with someone who questioned the need for a Pride Club at Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School and Croton-Harmon High School. Their reasoning was that such student organizations are not needed in a progressive and tolerant community such as Croton, where there is acceptance of individual diversity.
Last October, PVC’s Ms. Mustacchi noted in the school district annual report that there is some “stigma attached to [Pride] club membership” and “peer pressure to drop out.” From what I can see on social media, some Croton students are reflecting the attitude of some Croton parents.
Last week served as another reminder why Pride Clubs remain needed in Croton schools. Our community self-image as tolerant is not always in accord with reality.
On March 24, New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin wrote about the personnel turmoil at the White House. A Croton resident did not agree with Mr. Goodwin’s analysis, and sent out a comment on social media expressing his view. In language not suitable for publication in this newspaper, the Croton resident said that Mr. Goodwin fellates Mr. Trump each morning.
This was not a comment by an ignorant child. The person is a senior executive at a major accounting firm, with decades of business experience. He is also a Croton parent active on social media. This person believes that the worst possible insult is to call somebody gay. He has no hesitation in publicly expressing homophobia in graphically sexual terms.
None of us is without bias and yes—bigotry. But normally we need to lose our temper or get drunk before releasing our inner Mel Gibson in a public forum.
That is changing. Today bigotry is perfectly acceptable so long as it is used for the purpose of demeaning someone who does not support your favored political party. That is true nationwide, and it is true in Croton.
One Croton “progressive” activist has tweeted homophobic remarks about political opponents over the years. Recently that activist gave his analysis of the last Village election as: “Croton United really sucked balls.”
For those who are not up to speed on schoolyard insults, this is a variant on the derogatory name “teabagger” given to supporters of the right-wing Tea Party a few years ago. That term originated as vulgar slang in the 1990s but was repurposed as a political insult in 2007 by the Communications Director for the Indiana Democratic Party.
The penultimate example of this bigoted tactic is the originator: LGBT activist Dan Savage’s 2003 online neologism project targeting then-Senator Rick Santorum. The implicit self-loathing was an irony lost on Mr. Savage, but it is not lost on young people. According to the Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 10-24, and LGBT youth attempt suicide at a rate almost 5 times that of their non-LGBT classmates.
When parents make being gay a favored insult to use in political discourse, they do real damage to their children and to all children. It is painful for me as a Croton resident to see that in 2018 it is necessary for the Croton-Harmon Union Free School District to have a webpage with responses for students to give “If someone says ‘That’s So Gay.’”
In all 4 of the instances I have discussed above, there are some common elements. The substantive issue was a political disagreement, the response was an ad hominem attack, the substance of the attack was reference to a sex act, and although all the acts can be done by couples of opposite gender the etymology of each slur was based in a homophobic viewpoint.
And most importantly, in all 4 instances the slurs were from “progressive” Democrats. These are people who know what they are supposed to say. What they actually believe in their heart is a different matter. Homophobia is not the exclusive province of the Republican Party, either nationwide or here in Croton.
To those 2 Croton residents expressing bigotry on social media, I would say that you need to stop conflating politics with sex acts involving male genitalia.
Who someone chooses to spend this lifetime with, and what they choose to do or not do within their relationship, is none of your business. None.
Both of you should try practicing some of that progressive tolerance which you preach. At very least you might try and get to know some of your neighbors: not every Croton household is a replication of Ozzie & Harriet.
Some of your neighbors are lesbian and gay. Just like you, they live here in Croton with their family. They value our parks, riverfront, and sense of community. Just like you, they mow their lawns, gripe about property taxes, and feel passionately about the dummy light.
To the Croton students, and especially the members of the Pride Clubs, I would say: continue to support your fellow students regardless of gender or orientation. Know that the arc of history bends towards justice only because you are bending that arc. You are the next generation, and you don’t have to accept bigotry and discrimination—not from adults, not on social media, and not here in Croton.
--Paul Steinberg, Croton-on-Hudson
--Paul Steinberg, Croton-on-Hudson