“Don’t Say Gay”- A Short Response to DeSantis

Being LGBTQ+ is seemingly–once again–a taboo.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a motion proposed by Gov. DeSantis, has just advanced past the senate in Florida’s legislature and is now in the judiciary committee. Despite protests and critique from LGBTQ+ rights groups and even President Joe Biden, the bill, which would prohibit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, grows closer to passing each day.

The bill, formally known as HB 1557/SB 1834 or the Parental Rights in Education bill, was dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by LGBTQ+ rights activists. It is a discriminatory paper designed to allow for policing of LGBTQ+ rights.

If passed, the bill would be in effect for the next school year and would be implemented on July 1st.

“Don’t Say Gay” is unsurprisingly vague, and has few clear outlines. Interviews with State Rep. Joe Harding, who introduced the bill, showed that even officials such as himself and DeSantis cannot make clear statements or provide clear parameters for the law. This unfortunately allows for “Don’t Say Gay” to be made into a blanket statement of a law.

Here’s what the bill means for Florida schools, and some of the issues that arise as a result.

One of the main stipulations of “Don’t Say Gay” reads as such:
Districts and educators “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
Blanket statement. Florida doesn’t have a statute for what primary grade levels are, and the bill doesn’t define it either. Additionally, how can a school determine what is completely age appropriate or developmentally appropriate when every child develops differently?

If there is no definition for primary grade levels in the bill or in Florida law, and a child is considered a child until they are 18 years old, it is possible that the effect of the bill can stretch all the way through to high school-aged students. Neither Harding nor DeSantis have made any claims to suggest otherwise, and DeSantis was even quoted as saying that it was “entirely inappropriate” for teachers and students to have discussions about gender identity. He did not list any context to which this was acceptable.

DeSantis makes emphasis to include parents in the going-ons of schools for the protection of the parental ability to control their child, hence the title of the bill. He has failed to mention a situation in which a parent doesn’t have protections in the school system.

The bill strongly implies that if a child in the school was attempting to make conversation about gender identity or sexual orientation, that they may be able to be reported to their parents through a counselor or the teachers. This is blatantly stripping away the protections of LGBTQ+ students. If a child is not “out” to their parents, informing them against the child’s consent could potentially put them in a dangerous situation. Homophobia still runs rampant in many communities in the South, and the school administration doesn’t have a way of knowing if they could be hurting a child more than helping. Every child deserves a parent, but not every parent deserves a child.

The bill seems to operate off of the idea that LGBTQ+ individuals are dangerous or inappropriate for children. I don’t see the difference in how they present as compared to straight couples, besides being same sex. The relationships themselves, or even just the concept, according to DeSantis, are taboo. Thus, all supporters of “Don’t Say Gay” founded the bill off of blatant homophobia.

Until DeSantis can provide a logical, non-discriminative explanation as to why the conversation of sexual orientation cannot be had in schools, it is best to provide support for communities in FL such as Equality Florida, and hope that the bill doesn’t pass on to other states as well.

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