Freedom to Choose: Why Choice Matters in Democratic Morality and Freedom

By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.

I recently read an article at Breitbart News’ website that a group of Atlantans (residents of the city of Atlanta, Georgia) are coming together to create a new private school serving K-12 students.  They chose a particular demographic to specifically cater to: Lesbians, male homosexuals, bisexuals, and transsexuals/transgender youth– a demographic symbolized more or less in the acronym “LGBT.”  The school, called Pride School Atlanta, is being founded by a transgender teacher named Christian Zsilavetz.  I’ll let you read the reason:

“When [LGBT] kids can see you, when they know that they can come to you, they’re less likely to die (or be suicidal), for one,” Zsilavetz said. “They’re less likely to get pregnant, when they don’t really want to get pregnant. They’re less likely to get into drugs and alcohol and into depression.”

The full article can be found at

First, before we continue our discussion, we need to always keep in mind that Pride School Atlanta is intended to cater to kindergarteners (students averaging 5 years old) all the way to 12th graders (students averaging 17 years old).  This includes children who won’t even be old enough to understand the concept of sexuality and young teenagers who will be in the cusp of puberty and the sexual confusion that it wreaks.   This raises questions about the ability of these students to make such a drastic and consequential identity claim about themselves so early in life.  The decision will be directly related to why they choose to attend this school that is designed to cater toward LGBT students.  Should their sexuality change or wobble toward more heterosexual behavior, there could be a repetitive problem of environment except in the reverse.

Secondly, the basis of the students’ sexuality being a discriminated identity in this context is first based off of the LGBT sexuality being “non-normative.”  Non-normative means against the mold, or not conforming to general standards, or at its most specific sentiment it means not natural.  Often, in order to avoid labeling LGBT persons as “not natural,” there has been language introduced to change the “non-normative” into “special” or “exceptional.”   This would change LGBT persons into minority groups akin to child prodigies, persons with unique skills, or students of exceptional abilities.  Exceptionalism has been an ongoing ideological instrument that has been used specifically for sexual minorities with unforeseen effects…even in the face of other historical minorities like those of African descent, Indian descent, Jewish descent, and any other ethnicity.  To note that these historical minorities are exceptional, possessing unique skills, or prodigies solely based on their minority status would be racist.  We tend to call such statements racial stereotypes.  But language of exceptionalism has been used repetitively concerning sexual minorities.  The two can even mesh and become indistinguishable if their contexts were switched, so normalized it has become.  You can see this full-blown in the exceptional context and the language used in this “coming out” scene of a blockbuster action film.  You can hear direct admission of this political tactic being used here in this revelatory commentary.

But, Zsilavetz makes some startling claims that, if we aren’t careful, can slip our attention even though they contradict…well…biological reality.  Zsilavetz claims that if homosexual students from 5 years old to 17 years old see adult peers and younger peers who conform to homosexual, bisexual, or transsexual behavior, then they will be “less likely to get pregnant.”  Now, this is astonishing, since I am pretty sure that homosexuals and a good deal of transsexuals will never have the possibility of ever worrying about that problem, especially if they are 5 years old.  In fact, the Pride School Atlanta may be one of the few private schools where this issue can be lower on the radar.  Zsilavetz also claims that LGBT children are less likely to die if they are around like-minded and like-behaved peers.  If the rules of parenthetical English used to add clarity to Zsilavetz’s statement are clear, then Zsilavetz really seems to mean that LGBT students can suffer from spontaneous death by not being surrounded by LGBT peers.  But what does this mean about the need for the diversity of experience and exposure for all American students?  Zsilavetz is clear that heterosexual students are also welcome at Pride School Atlanta, but what about students with moral or religious conflicts with LGBT lifestyles?  Should they be tolerated in the student environment as well?  Because beliefs can change one way or the other…especially during high school years.

I am sure that “spontaneous death” is not what is meant by the statement Zsilavetz gave, but it can be implied by what is sloppily written.  Could Zsilavetz have meant death by neglect, chronic depression from alienation, or exasperating circumstances caused by pressures to conform to heteronormative behavior?  Who knows.  Suicide among LGBT youth, especially for transsexuals, has been a longstanding and serious problem (if that link is no longer working, you can refer to this source also from that site, this government source, or this document suggesting remedies, which I don’t necessarily totally, personally endorse).  It has even contributed to these very same sexual behaviors being labeled as psychological disorders by past editions of the DSM, the standard manual for American psychologists.  But Zsilavetz’s concern for suicide has been mentioned and included after the phrase about death that I am talking about, and it is added as in to say (and don’t forget this, this qualifies too).  It is written “…they’re less likely to die (or be suicidal)…” and not like this “they are less likely to die (be suicidal)…”  There is some room for grammatical confusion there.

But nonetheless, this private school, called Pride School Atlanta, will be built, it seems.  And I am glad that it can be built.  It is a token to our democratic ability of free-franchise and freedom of assembly.  The fact that the school caters to a particular group could be looked upon as discrimination, but it would be no different than private Christian schools, private girl’s schools, or historically black colleges and universities (hbcu’s).  Well, maybe there is a difference for hbcu’s.

For black Americans, hbcu’s have been historically strategic in the development of education within their demographic community.  America was not always a nation of unlimited education open to all men and women; that was a recent development mandated by the Supreme Court in 1954 and fully enforced in the late 1970s (I’m told Boston was the last bastion to fall, don’t quote me).  Persons of African descent could be and sometimes were killed for seeking an education throughout certain periods in American history, so the formation of schools and colleges catering to their community was a must for civil survival.  I’m not aware if LGBT persons in American history suffered the same fate for seeking education and basic human rights (unless they were of African descent).  I don’t recall homosexuals being targeted for chattel slavery, being denied their humanity, and having an entire war fought for their freedom.  I also don’t recall homosexuals having to fight the government in order to set up their own business sectors even after being recognized as humans and then citizens, only to have those places firebombed by angry white American mobs jealous of their good fortune.  Choice was needed as a survival necessity for black Americans in the past.  And thankfully, choice was allowed in our democracy, even as our country’s government proved hypocritical and mortally hostile to democratic freedom.  Many hbcu’s are still in business today because of their historical struggle for choice, but their journey was not a peaceful one.  This is all the more reason to defend the choice for the Pride School of Atlanta.

You see, America has at the heart of its precepts the principle of choice.  People choose legislators to make laws for them.  People choose new laws to get passed.  People choose representatives in government.  People choose which chain stores they want to shop at.  People choose their occupations, friends, circles of influences, media sources, news sources, religious affiliations, neighborhoods…whatever is conducive to civil life and human life in general (to establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility) is chosen by the person(s) involved.  But, what we are witnessing now is a degradation of these values.  It is no secret that erotic freedom and religious freedom are headed toward a political collision.  As this private school is lauded for its selectivity of LGBT students and faculty, another private school with a confessional mission statement is lambasted for staying true to its selectivity allowed by the very same principle of choice.

The counter-argument is, “Well if you’re so pro-choice, what about you being pro-choice when black Americans couldn’t eat at the same lunch counters as white Americans?”  Oh, you really mean when black Americans weren’t allowed at school and had to resort to building/attending hbcu’s?  But, what is the question really asking?  Does the questioner mean to say that today’s people won’t know that it is unethical to give money to a company that enforces Jim Crow laws unless such companies are outlawed?  Can we not tell that an action is unjust until it is made illegal?  What kind of backwards moral logic is that?  Chattel slavery was unjust long before and long after it was made illegal in this country.  In fact, it was the volition of citizens to act according to their moral compasses that made the chattel slavery illegal in the first place.  The same happened with racial segregation.  It seems that this very heavy morally-charged question assumes that I and my fellow citizens are incapable of using our moral compasses unless somebody makes the decision for us.  The fear is that if citizens are allowed to have private institutions that discriminate against certain persons, then we won’t know the difference between moral discrimination and immoral discrimination.  In other words, we morally won’t know to not give our money to a racist restaurant if one is ever allowed to open.

And leading the charge for the uprooting the individual’s ability for moral discernment is the erotic revolution that allows Pride School Atlanta to exist.  For example, in some areas of modern public society men and women cannot be discriminated in public changing rooms or bathrooms because any discrimination must be made illegal in order for citizens to be able to tell the difference between moral discrimination and immoral discrimination.  It has gotten to the point of Christian college groups and even Christian colleges not being able to choose Christian leaders or faculty to represent their “Christian-ness.”   Is there really anything immoral about Christian groups designed by Christians and created for Christian purposes to require their leaders to be Christians?  To put it another way, should Donald Trump be allowed to run as a Democrat because Democrats shouldn’t discriminate against him?  Ideological discrimination vs ideological discrimination folks, take your pick.  This really has gotten out of hand towards positioning LGBT “exceptionalism” as one of the few legitimate safe spaces for democratic selectivity in any private setting whatsoever.

This is literally laying new bricks while blasting away at the building’s foundations.  It isn’t a question of if the inevitable happens, it is merely a question of when.

But what are we really saying when we compare religious colleges requiring faculty to adhere to confessions of faith that they have already sworn to uphold with the past state-wide Jim Crow mandates designed to establish a racialized hierarchy of superiority to the point of death?  How do we compare Ole Miss’s murderous refusal to let people of color attend its public educational facility to a Muslim charter school not allowing a Calvinist Protestant to serve as its president?  How do we compare James Meredith‘s (and countless others’) educational situation to that of the modern homosexual student who feels left out on prom-night?  Do these really cross-compare, or are there differences that we should acknowledge first and continue to acknowledge as the conversation moves forward?

But also, what about the distrust of our moral compass that the question “What about segregated lunch counters” entails?  Should we really restrict our every choice to the point that only “the good choice” is available for us?  First of all, who gets the privilege to choose what that “good choice” is?  I cannot imagine this working for choosing what we should drink with our dinners, or what medicines we should take for our chronic headaches (I see you Denver, Colorado).  In the cause of “being a good person” the “What about segregated lunch counters” question suggests that we cannot be good people unless we are only able to choose what is proven to be the good and acceptable decision…but how do we choose what that is?  Who chooses?!  These are questions that we all need to struggle with moving forward.

And let’s not forget, deny, or allow to be lost what answering these questions implies.  It implies that we individually and then collectively have the moral freedom democracy provides for us to choose a suitable answer.  And this is only because the democratic right to choose has been provided for us in that most sacred of our nation’s documents: The Constitution of the United States of America.

[UPDATED February 28, 2017 with an additional text and corresponding link to replace the broken URL above.  Selection is underlined.]


11 thoughts on “Freedom to Choose: Why Choice Matters in Democratic Morality and Freedom

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