The Parental Rights in Education bill, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is designed to prevent school educators and staff from discussing topics related to gender and sexuality in the classroom. If teachers go against this policy, families could sue the school and the teacher.
At first, one might question why there is so much public outrage; there is no mention of not being able to say gay, and the bill’s purpose is to stop teachers from discussing complex issues with their young students. However, when the Florida legislature was writing this bill, their goal was very different. The bill was written in neutrality, meaning it should equally censor discussions about being LGBTQ+ and being straight or cisgender. However, when a law is written by homophobes it will have homophobic effects. When saying “gender identity” and “sexual orientation,” no one thinks of cis heterosexual people because those terms are not connected to being straight. Florida is hiding their homophobia and transphobia in plain sight.
How will this bill affect kids? Teachers were not required to talk about LGBTQ+ issues before, so why does this matter now? The bill’s lack of detail causes confusion among teachers, as they now are forbidden from teaching topics on LGBTQ+ but it is unknown whether they are even allowed to talk about a student’s life in relation to LGBTQ+. This may also be confusing for students with family members who identify as LGBTQ+ , as the bill suggests that they too must be censored.
If students are not allowed to discuss topics on gender and identity, it also will increase the stigma that LGBTQ+ is undesirable. A 2016 Pew Research survey found that 87% of Americans knew someone who was LGBTQ+, showing that kids will learn what being gay means, so why not teach them earlier?
Those who are in support of the bill try to lessen its severity, arguing that it will only affect kindergarten through third grade students. However, this may also affect kids who have started to question their own identity. Although most come out later in life, a study by Healthline found that four out of 10 gay men claim they know they are gay before the age of ten.
Students who identify as LGBTQ+ are currently being ostracized as the discussion of their existence is being restricted. LGBTQ+ kids are already more likely to be bullied and deal with depression and suicide; legislating against their existance can only add to these mental health problems. A poll conducted by Morning Consult revealed that around 85% of LGBTQ+ youth felt the bill’s discussion negatively affected their well-being. The study also found that LGBTQ+ kids who were educated about their sexual identities were 23% percent less likely to attempt suicide.
Rather than silencing the conversation of gender and sexuality, schools should be promoting it, allowing youth to identify themselves at a younger age. Dismissing and censoring these crucial conversations will not help young people but only leave them with more questions and uncertainties.