Self-Mutilation and Same-Sex Marriage

June 9, 2010
Journalism students at my school have, for the most part, a lot of freedom in choosing what they write about, but a few topics are – “forbidden” may be too strong a word - avoided. I realize that freedom of speech doesn’t exist within a high school; but in an environment where students are encouraged to have opinions and to speak out for what they believe is right, it seems wrong to me to tell them to be silent on an issue that concerns the civil rights of a tenth of the population. The issue I am referring to is same-sex marriage.
At the beginning of the school year, when our class was brainstorming ideas for articles, a student suggested gay marriage, but our journalism teacher admitted that he tended to shy away from that topic. He told us that an article about “cutting” was published in the school newspaper a few years ago, which made the school administration afraid that students would start cutting themselves after reading the article. He said that our newspaper, "The Mountaineer", was not allowed to promote cutting. (“Promote” apparently means “acknowledge its existence”.)
What, you may ask, does this have to do with writing about gay marriage? I would tell you, but I too fail to see the parallel between self-mutilation and gay marriage. However, I do know that as we are not allowed to “promote” cutting, we are also not allowed to “promote” same-sex marriage. The administration has given its reason for not allowing articles about the former. What is their reason for the latter? Are they afraid that an article about gay marriage would make teenagers all want to gay-marry each other?
Obviously, no respectable school newspaper would say that self-mutilation was a good thing, but what is wrong with, in the opinion section, promoting same-sex marriage? Every opinion article promotes something. If students are allowed to promote recycling or promote the healthcare bill or promote cutting back on caffeine, why are they not allowed to promote gay marriage or, for that matter, to promote the ban on gay marriage? If an article is in the opinion section of the newspaper, it is understood that the article represents the writer’s viewpoint, which the reader may or may not agree with.
I support gay marriage, but I would be happy to see an article in "The Mountaineer" supporting the opposite viewpoint. Being exposed to differing opinions makes a person open-minded and enables the person to decide for himself what to believe. Gay marriage is one of the biggest issues of our time, and it ought to be debated in high schools, not forbidden as if it were dangerous and ignoring it would make it go away. It is wrong that the only time one hears the word “gay” at my high school is as a synonym for “dumb”.
I realize that gay marriage and homosexuality in general are controversial topics. An article written about same-sex marriage would most likely offend a few people. Some parents, believing so strongly that marriage is between a man and a woman and anything else is wrong, might be furious if their children were exposed to an article that defended what they considered a grave sin. On the other hand, those strongly in favor of gay rights might be incensed by an article written against gay marriage, which they might consider hate speech.
However, the fact that people have such strong and varied opinions on gay marriage is the reason I believe journalism students ought to be able to write about it. There is no point in writing about something that no one cares about or everyone agrees on. I believe that gay marriage must be openly discussed, so that our generation will have less fear and narrow-mindedness than the previous generation. Prejudice does not simply fade away over time, and a sensitive subject will remain a sensitive subject if people do not speak out about it.

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This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

JenniferShiress said...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm
This is almost the exact same thing that is happening in my school and my journalism class. We have to follow a rule that says that our principal has to be okay with all of the articles whether they are opinions or not. Some of the articles that were turned down involved gay bullying and the fact that adolescents around the world are commiting suicide because of anti-gay bullying within it's halls. I definetly feel where you are coming from.
RiverSong said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

Love it.  You should send this to your school newspaper. ;)


DinoNugget replied...
May 31, 2011 at 9:58 am
Better yet, administration itself.  Seriously, RiverSong as a point.  You have to show this to someone with power, influence!  I loved this article.  Write on!
EPluribusUnum This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm
This is a great article. RiverSong is right, this really does belong in your school newspaper. Maybe there's even a way to get it into your local newspaper.
MarinaOreo said...
Oct. 1, 2010 at 10:45 am
Nice job. :) 
goldicecubes said...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I completely agree. For any controversial article, someone isn't going to agree with what is said. Does that mean it should be ignored? No, I think it should be discussed.

Learn about every aspect of the topic and decide for yourself.

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