Two men are back-to-back in front of a white background.
Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Ethan: Hey, Phil. I thought you said the Maine GOP was going to focus like a laser on the economy? Instead, their first ad is a disgusting throwback to the anti-LGBTQ culture-wars.

Phil: Not my choice to lead with that spot, but I do think the lesson plan referenced was a bit over the top. Not sure kindergarteners should be told doctors “made a mistake” when they declared a boy a boy at birth, or a girl a girl. Even if that individual decides later in life that they are more comfortable in a different gender. 

Ethan: Since gender questions start as early as first grade, I can’t think of a better time to begin that conversation. But more importantly, how about we leave the elementary school lesson plans to elementary school teachers? Especially with you being a local control guy.

Phil: I’m also for parent control, but this was a state sponsored-program, overseen by Gov. Janet Mills’ Department of Education and paid for with public funds. They should have vetted the content better and moved it to an age level where students are able to comprehend it.  

Ethan: Able to comprehend it? The whole point of the lesson is to help kids understand the issue.

Phil: I suspect the creator of the lesson could have been a bit more diplomatic in the use of her words. Doctors don’t make “mistakes” regarding gender at birth. They go with what they see until further evidence begins to emerge.

Ethan: I think blaming the teacher misses the forest for the trees. The Maine GOP is the one that deserves the scorn here. Teachers in Maine should not have to worry about their faces being smeared across the evening news so some operative can raise money from the rabid base of his party. Especially at the expense of LGBT youth.

Phil: Agree, yet even your nominee agreed that the lesson plan in question was questionable and approved that it should be pulled.

Ethan: Yes, that was cowardly. Sad that she did not stand up for LGBTQ kids and their families and a mistake to think this was smart politically. Mainers support trans rights, having voted for one of the strongest trans protections against discrimination in employment, housing and finance all the way back in 2005. 

Phil: Yes, I supported that law as well, but not many people I know think this is what we should be talking about in kindergarten.

Ethan: Then I suspect the people you talk to aren’t aware that 82 percent of trans people say they seriously considered suicide, and 40 percent actually try. With staggering numbers like that, the earlier we can help someone gain strength in who they are, and acceptance among their peers, the better. 

Phil: Agree (did I say that again). But it’s not whether students should understand that some discover themselves differently as they age, it’s simply when they are introduced to the subject. My granddaughter is in first grade. She wouldn’t know what this topic is about.

Ethan: If your granddaughter is questioning her gender in any way, I guarantee she would know what the topic is about. And if she isn’t, it is vital that she understand what may be going on for some of her classmates.

Phil: For sure. And I have no doubt her parents are doing a great job making sure she is open with herself and open about her peers. But at this age, I simply think that conversation is better in the home. 

Ethan: Well, at least agree it should not be in a television ad.

Phil: Indeed, let’s hope those who decide kindergarteners’ curriculum prevent them in the first place.