People decided to take matters into their own hands reacting to the news that Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, began working at an anti-LGBTI school.
Pence started work at Immanuel Christian School in Northern Virginia last week. The school takes explicit stances against the LGBTI community.
Following the news, the Trevor Project sent copies of John Oliver’s book about Marlon Bundo to the school. Marlon Bundo is the Pence family pet rabbit and the book depicts him as gay.
Some other creators of LGBTI-inclusive children’s books have also decided to send copies of their books to the school as well.
Chaz Harris, the co-founder of Promised Land Tales, spoke to GSN about doing this, especially as someone who is not from the US.
They sent four copies of the company’s books — featuring LGBTI romances in fairytale settings — to the school, directly addressed to Pence.
Visibility shapes the world
While speaking to GSN, Harris addressed the importance of visibility and representation. He also revealed why, as an Englishman living in New Zealand, he decided to involve himself in US politics.
How do you think diverse stories can help and teach children, even if they’re not LGBTI?
The media we consume as kids shapes how we see the world around us. If we grow up without any education about LGBTQ+ people, that lack of visibility breeds intolerance, fear and ignorance. For kids who happen to be LGBTQ+, it’s even more important, because if we don’t see ourselves in stories, we don’t see ourselves in the world.
What is your response to people thinking this type of material is ‘inappropriate’ for children?
Our response is factual: some parents are LGBTQ+. Some kids are LGBTQ+. Some teachers are LGBTQ+ — some siblings, family members and friends are too.
LGBTQ+ people don’t suddenly appear out of thin air and begin to exist at a time that’s most convenient. Kids could see us walking down the street. That means there’s no age limit on it being inappropriate for kids to learn that we exist, and if we exist in the world we should exist in stories — even fairy tales.
As someone who doesn’t live in the US, what prompted you to take an action, one deeply embedded in US politics, like this?
As a queer-owned and led independent publisher of LGBTQ+ children’s books, it’s important to stand against intolerance. We created these books in defiance of that.
Also, 44% of our existing readers live in America, a country that is meant to be the leader of the free world. If the leaders of that same country actively endorse bigotry, it’s up to everyone else in the free world and the LGBTQ+ community globally to reject that and let them know we don’t share those values.
Beliefs that preach acceptance
Pence’s response to people’s criticism was to call ‘attacks’ on Christian education ‘offensive’.
Harris spoke to us about the dangers of discriminatory education, and policies that do not reflect Christian values.
What do you think of Mike Pence’s comments that attacking Christian education is ‘offensive’? Should religion have anything to do with this?
Christian education (or any form of education) should not discriminate against or oppress anyone. I would say the vast majority of Christians (at least those I know) are caring and accepting people who embody the values of Jesus Christ — a loving and kind ally to the most marginalised and outcast members of society.
If this school cannot show unconditional love, compassion and acceptance for everyone, that’s not Christian education, it’s something else.
Sending books may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it also addresses a more serious matter of our community. What message do you want to send to the school?
The idea that Christian education should involve intolerance and discrimination instead of acceptance and love is misguided and wrong. By erasing visibility, support and not allowing LGBTQ+ students to feel welcome and accepted, young lives are put at risk.
We’re no experts, but to us that doesn’t sound like a very Christian thing to do.
Promised Land books can be found here.