it's okay to say gay!
Anne Belevetz '23
With every step forward in finally accepting everyone as they are, it seems like another few steps back when homophobes get a say in government. The “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Bill, was signed in Florida on March 28. Basically, the bill says that teachers teaching grades kindergarten through third grade are not allowed to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity. Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is justifying this bill by saying instruction in schools should be "age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate." DeSantis and supporters of the bill are saying that it has been implemented to protect children and parents, but the way I see it, DeSantis is therefore claiming that talking about sexual orientation and gender identity is inappropriate.
Those who support DeSantis’ bill claim it is in place so that parents have the chance to introduce LGBTQIA+ topics to their children. These parents can also sue the school or teachers who talk about these topics if they see fit. But, there’s nothing to introduce. Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community is normal, not something that needs to be avoided. Acting like it is unnatural is building a stigma around the community and personal identity which is damaging to children and adults in the community.
DeSantis continues to make statements about this issue for example, "We will make sure parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination." With that reasoning, no relationships should be taught in school. Why should children be exposed to heterosexual relationships but not homosexual relationships? He has also said that critics of the bill are allowing for “sexualizing kids in kindergarten.” This statement also suggests that there is something inherently inappropriate about the LGBTQIA+ community. DeSantis’ homophobia sure is showing.
The Trevor Project reports data that shows LGBTQ youth suicide risks decrease when they are in spaces that accept and affirm their identity. The current suicide risks for LGBTQ students in Florida public schools reported at 40% have seriously considered suicide, 32% have made a plan, and 23% have attempted. In comparison to their non-LGBTQ peers who reported that 10% consider, 7% made a plan, and 5% attempted. So growing up in a school district and place where LGBTQIA+ youth will not be encouraged and accepted could potentially be physically dangerous.
It’s baffling that such transphobic and homophobic ideas still exist in our country and that other states like Ohio, Louisana, and Texas are considering passing a similar bill. Without exposure to all identities and sexualities, the stigma around the LGBTQIA+ community will increase and affect later generations.