On Tuesday, January 23rd, I attended a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board public hearing. They were discussing a revision to their multicultural clause, which describes different cultures and identities that are protected in the classroom. The revision would make the clause now include gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Of the roughly 30 people that spoke at the public hearing about this policy change, the vast majority of people were outraged that this policy had the slightest potential of being approved. Whether they were pastors or parents, almost every single person that spoke against the revision did so because of their religious values that they believed would be imposed upon by the teachings the policy would enforce. The multicultural policy that was already in place included education excellence regardless of race, religion, and natural origin. Some people had a problem with gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation being compared to race, religion, or natural origin. The Rev. Flip Benham strongly disagreed with the revision, stating “You can’t make a moral wrong a civil right. Being black isn’t a sin. Being Chinese isn’t a sin. Homosexual sodomy is a sin.” The pastor also called out councilwoman Carol Sawyer for her sign at the women’s march and her activism, claiming that she is putting a political agenda in schools. The pastor got quite heated, and had to be taken out by security, as did a couple other citizens that were yelling during the hearing. The ironic thing about Rev. Flip Benham arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t be compared to race, religion, and natural origin, is that unlike the traits being proposed, religion is something you DO choose. Even if you were raised in a certain religion, someone made a conscious decision to participate in that religion at some point. The aspect of someone’s identity that really shouldn’t be compared, if any, is religion, however, it should still be protected, just like the other aspects of one’s identity. The people against the policy that were so heated that they had to be removed, or even the people with coherent and very thought out speeches, all were arguing essentially the same argument, and it’s pretty easy to logically argue against. The Rev. Flip Benham is just one example of the many pastors came to the podium quoting scripture, declaring the sinful nature of homosexuality and a “transgender lifestyle.” I totally understand if your religion is not okay with you being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, as a churchgoer of many years with a Catholic father and a Christian upbringing, I really do understand the inner conflict. However, no matter how much empathy I feel toward people who are just trying to do the right thing for their religion, I can’t understand, logically, how they can expect all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to enforce their religion. Our country was founded on freedom of religion, and despite what people think, that means your religion will not be the same as everyone else’s. Another argument people brought up many times was that this would rob them of their chance to talk to their children about “sensitive moral questions.” Many parents were under the impression that their children would learn about gay sex, how to be transgender and things that would “confuse them.” I heard a parent say that students learn enough about human sexuality in health class. This policy doesn’t require teachings of “homosexual sodomy,” or anything of that nature. The fact people would confuse this policy with teachings of sodomy is ridiculous. Instead of thinking “this could confuse our children,” maybe they should say “oh, maybe if LGBTQ+ culture, history and information was taught like heterosexual culture, history and information, LGBTQ+ students would grow up to have lower rates of suicide, mental illness, and less issues accepting themselves. The policy is promising educational excellence regardless of race, color, religion, nationality, and now, thanks to the 7-2 vote for the revision, “gender identity/expression or sexual orientation.” That may be vague, and could possibly include teachings about the LGBTQ+ community, which would not be a bad thing, but that isn’t the debate that was being had at that public hearing, and people seemed to be blinded by their religion or anger to see that. They were too worried about other people’s values being taught. My friend Nikolai Mather, a UNC Charlotte student, invited me to the meeting. He came to the podium after many speakers against the policy change, trying to tell everyone the ultimate reason we were even having the discussion: “Let me remind all y’all why we’re here and why this proposal was recommended: to protect trans kids.” He went on to describe “threats, name calling and discrimination from peers and teachers on a daily basis,” that he received when he came out as a trans man. No one should have to go through that, despite what your values are. Nikolai made that point, and luckily, the policy committee saw it that way too. The most important thing this policy includes is protection for kids. It protects and encourages an education for students regardless of their identity and all that could encompass. It requires that teachers, peers and administration treat each student’s education equally and with respect. For people who were holding signs about loving their children and shouting about it so much, I can’t fathom how they would be against such a thing.

Madison is the Editor-in-Chief for the Niner Times. She is a junior double majoring in Communication and Spanish, with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Madison is from Fayetteville, North Carolina, so naturally she loves J. Cole and has seen his house more times than she can count. When she isn’t binge watching a TV show or writing for the Niner Times, she’s working at Mellow Mushroom, drinking iced coffee or attending a concert with her friends. For any inquiries, she can be reached at editor@ninertimes.com.