Guest Commentary: Alamedan David Teeters

At Monday night’s school board hearing, Alamedan David Teeters rose to speak in favor of the AUSD Safe Schools curriculum. What he said was extremely moving, he put himself out there, talking about LGBT issues that he’s been uncomfortable with. But also explaining how his journey to understanding his own perspectives has helped himself and his family grow in the process of working through his issues.

With his permission (and editing to remove the names of his children), I am reprinting what he said:

Members of the Board:

I am David Teeters and this is my family.

My wife, Marty, is a violinist with the SF Opera.

[My two daughters] are students at Franklin.

I speak as an Eagle Scout, a former high school teacher, a local architect, and as a Dad.

We came to Alameda in September of ’01 and we have walked the streets and rung the phones for the fund-raising campaigns the school district has launched in the last 8 years.  [My daughters] were born in Alameda and last year joined us in the Measure H campaign, ringing doorbells in Marty’s precinct, first to persuade and then to get out the vote.  Like many of you we watched anxiously as the count swung in our favor.  In celebration, we felt our family extend beyond the 4 of us.

The girls were also making friends, and as chance saw fit, a best friend started to identify with the opposite sex.  I had known gay men and women but never a transgender person… and I had a negative bias.  But I was already close to this kid’s parents… so I spoke to a therapist whose knowledge of children I very much trusted, and he assured me there was no downside to a close friendship with my daughters.  He reinforced my own sense that love is what matters most in a home, and parents who teach by example and with a minimum of hypocrisy.

I don’t claim there are no differences between a family headed by a gay couple and our own or that the needs of a transgender family are no different than mine.  But when a gay couple brings their family to our house for dinner and we argue politics, I listen with an open heart and I learn.  When our friends with a transgender kid go canoe-camping with us, I watch their kid and my daughters struggle for mutual understanding and I see them learn.  And again, our family grows larger, by extension.

I’ve had the good fortune of voting, with only one exception, for all of you.  I voted for you because you work hard and believe that public education is essential to democracy… and because you would lead with an enlightened heart… to advance the democratic goals of equal opportunity and fairness, including the protection of all minorities.  The least you and we can do for these kids and their families is promote an inclusive environment in the primary school that is their social world.  This curriculum says that these kids are part of our community.  And to allow students to opt out of lessons that extend inclusiveness to LGBT families is to contradict the very purpose of the curriculum.

When people say this is a moral issue, I agree: fairness has ALWAYS been a moral issue.

A moment ago, I asked you “to lead with an enlightened heart” and I’d like to close with a quote from the Oxford English Dictionary –

The 4th definition of enlighten:  “In Biblical phrase;  to remove dimness or blindness from the eyes and… the heart”

Thank you for your consideration.

David Teeters