We as a state and as a society have struggled to overcome slavery, Jim Crow laws, Native American genocide, boarding schools for Native American children, racism against Black, Brown, Native and Asian human beings. We don’t have to look far to see the dark era of exclusionism in Alaska and particularly in Juneau. The infamous Winter Pond Photo of downtown Juneau showing the sign above the restaurant that advertises, “All White Help,” comes to mind. The internment of Aleuts and Japanese Americans in WWII. Now, the discrimination sword is pointing to our gay and transgender friends and families. HB 105, SB 96, HB 27, seek to discriminate against and stigmatize LGBTQ+ children in our schools in the name of family values.
Shall we post signs above our schools that read “We Don’t Love Our LGBTQ+ Neighbors Here”? Shall we force LGBTQ+ people to wear a yellow star? Shall we have separate water fountains as well as separate restrooms? These people aren’t breaking any laws. They are peacefully going about their lives trying to find their way in our community. Let us not pass laws that make them feel less human than their straight brothers and sisters. I am disturbed by the idea of “Don’t Say Gay” laws and transgender sports or bathroom prohibition laws in Alaska. Just because some closed-minded folks down in Florida are homophobic doesn’t mean we have to pass copycat homophobic laws in Alaska. I believe we can do a better job by empowering our teachers and trusting our schools to overcome our differences.
I believe these laws will create prejudices where no prejudices currently exist. As a father and a grandfather I believe these laws are anti-family. They drive a wedge between neighbors. LGBTQ+ people are part of our community. They have been part of humanity from time immemorial. Why should we place laws stigmatizing them? These kids need the support that the schools can provide at this very vulnerable time. There is no danger of a child catching LGBTQ+ at school like the flu. There is no need to burden teachers, school administrators or society with this narrow view of propriety. Once began, where would the discrimination stop, at fourth grade? No, once prejudice is implanted it grows like weeds in a flower garden. There is no doubt that this legislation will implant discrimination at an early age.
Between the legislation mentioned above, our attorney general gutting protections for LGBTQ+ at the Alaska Commission for Human Rights, and Alaska joining a law suit opposing extending protections for LGBTQ+ people at the federal level, it seems the state is at war with our LGBTQ+ community.
My father told me my rights end at my body, that I have no right to force myself or my views on others. Let us be clear: this legislation seeks to force the view of the few on all.
You can’t sweep these people, these teachers, artists, community leaders, families, children with two dads or two moms under the table with exclusionary legislation in the name of family values. Is it a family value to judge, to cast the first stone, to exclude those who don’t look like us? These people are families! They are our community—our future. Accepting others even though they aren’t exactly like us IS a family value.
LGBTQ+ human beings are a vibrant, beautiful and a very valuable part of our community and society. All they want is the right not to be persecuted for their humanity. The right not to be excluded from the basic human rights protections afforded to everyone else.
I am calling on Juneau’s legislators to stand against these proposed laws. I am calling on the CBJ assembly to pass a resolution against this legislation and affirming our commitment to welcoming all our citizens.
I’ll stand with my gay friends, my LGBTQ+ community. I prefer their company to those who seek to pursue this exclusionary legislation.
•Rick Bierman father who raised a family through the Juneau school system, a grandfather and has LGBTQ+ friends and family. Bierman resides in Juneau.