Eleven years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center inaugurated "Mix It Up Day," a nationwide event where students are encouraged to eat lunch with students with whom they would not normally eat. I know: Pretty gay, right?!?
Actually, no. Not at all. Not in any sense of the word. But that hasn't stopped the American Family Association from condemning "Mix It Up Day" as a nefarious attempt to recruit unsuspecting schoolchildren into the hedonistic ranks of the creeping homosexual subculture. The conservative activist group--and thanks, right-wing troglodytes, for turning "family" into code for ignorant bigotry--has called on parents to keep kids out of school on October 30--lest their children come home all gayed up!
The event, of course, has nothing to do with homosexuality, except perhaps in an incidental way. The "Mix It Up" program "is not about sexual orientation but rather about breaking up social cliques, which are especially evident in a school cafeteria." "Mix It Up" is part of the SPLC's "Teaching Tolerance" project, which seeks to combat bigotry and, obviously, intolerance wherever it may crop up. Sure, on "Mix It Up Day someone will presumably end up dining with a gay student; someone else will dine with a bunch of science geeks; and someone else will finally get the chance to talk to Charlene, the cheerleader he has pined for since freshman year but who never knew he existed so she could never see that they were meant for each other and he could love her in a way that Chad the wide receiver never could and--
Sorry, I got distracted.
The American Family Association seems to labor under the kind of misconception that has caused paleoconservatives to react with atavistic dread to the concept of same-sex marriage: The fact that people CAN marry people of the same sex does not make it MANDATORY to do so. The fact that people will be "forced" to eat lunch with a relative stranger on October 30 does not mandate that the new lunch buddy be gay. I hasten to point out that the program calls for students to dine WITH--not ON--each other.
Furthermore, conservatives are terrified at the thought that dining with a gay student could turn a straight kid gay. But by that reasoning, isn't it equally plausible that dining with a straight kid could bring the poor benighted deviant child back into the good graces of God and community? Or is the lure of homosexuality just so great that no one can hope to resist? For a group that hates gay people, the AFA sure does give them a lot of credit.
Look, AFA, talking to or eating with--or even, dare I say, befriending--a gay person will not make a straight person gay. In much the same way, if I were to dine with any representative of your group, I wouldn't turn into a moron. Luckily, the world doesn't work that way.