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Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill: What it is and what we can do about it.

On January 20, 2022, Republican Representative Joe Harding of Florida sponsored the “Parental Rights in Education” bill. It encourages parents to sue schools or teachers teaching LGBTQ+ topics. Known in the vernacular as “the Don’t Say Gay bill”,  it also suggests school faculty have the right to “out” students to their parents without consent. Akin to bans on teaching the history of slavery and Jim Crow, this bill follows in the footsteps of numerous Republican initiatives. Initiatives that view the only acceptable history to be the dominant one. America as a White Christian Nation, a beacon of democracy whose children might melt if they knew otherwise. Seeing a “pristine” past (back alley abortions but for lily white rich gals, queers in the closets, Blacks “knowing their place”) as legislated futures.

Queer protest against injustice in the ’80s

No Promo Homo Laws

Surprisingly, Florida’s bill is NOT the only one or even the first. The first was written into law in Tennessee. The cascading effect of the law was lethal. Within days, Montana followed. In South Carolina, you can’t talk about gay relationships outside the context of disease transmission. Many other states such as: Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and South Dakota have also introduced anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2022. And it’s only February!

*Queer advocates and supporters are rightfully haunted by the eerie resemblance to the “No Promo Homo” laws of an earlier era. The mass moral panic in Reagan’s America over the HIV AIDS crises led to a plethora of anti-gay provisions in public education.”( Brown Political Review.)

To get from there to where we are now, where every small town seems to have a Pride parade, where gay marriage seems a given, and where the history and culture of Queer life is visible, took a long hard slog with many setbacks and tears.

The violence –Matthew Shepard may be the poster child for Federal hate crimes but Queers haven’t yet reached a point of “Say Their Names” for the numbers of LGBTQ+  killed– and triumphs will all be erased if these fearful States have their way.

Recent banning of books –among them books with queer characters– is another, related attempt to discriminate.

The Effect of this Ban on Education

What’s really at stake the health and safety of all of our kids. To treat LGBTQ+ students differently, invites bullying, discrimination, stigma. What is the harm of teaching about slain gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk? Or reading Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”? Or reveling in Nan Goldin’s “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” celebrating NYC’s gay and trans communities in the Bowery? The harm again is that this and more is an affront to a tiny portion of the country promoting “traditional and moral” values. Not necessarily living by them. (see Church sex scandals, or better, off the charts support for that savior sent by God HIMSELF, Donald J. Trump.)

Schools should be a place of learning and becoming educated on as many histories as possible. This ban could make students think it is wrong to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. And suppress them from accepting who they know they are. Coming to terms with your sexuality is a tough journey. This ban could only make it tougher.

Not only would this be hard on queer students but it gives the message that LGBTQ+ people should not be accepted in society to other students –implicitly saying bullying queers is okay. This would make schools an even more dangerous place then they already are.

The Risk of Greater Depression in Queer Students

According to The Hill, “among middle and high school LGBTQ+ students, 19 percent who reported never learning about LGBTQ+ issues or people in school attempted suicide in the last year.”

If the ban is passed, there will be no support provided to LGBTQ+ youth. Making it especially difficulty if they come from a religious conservative family that rejects their queerness. In other words this bill is saving “parental rights” at the cost of LGBTQ+ youth.

A report from the Trevor Project stated that LGBTQ+ youth had 23 percent lower odds at attempting suicide when provided education of LGBTQ+ people and issues.

But we as a community can show our support for the LGBTQ+ community and help them fight these attempts to upend civil rights and harm education.

The Equality Act

Have you heard of the Equality Act? The Equality act is a bill in Congress that would, if passed, amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Meaning it would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federally funded programs, credit, and jury service.

Getting this bill passed would mean creating an equal and safer environment for the LGBTQ+ community, and easing their struggles a little bit. This doesn’t mean that homophobic people will cease to exist. But it is a step in aiding change in the minds of those people and creating open minds in generations to come in hopes that queer people can have the same rights as everyone else. You can show your support of this act by signing this petition that Change.org created.

Change has also created a petition to abolish the Florida ban, click here to sign it!

But why stop at just signing a petition? Equality Florida has given you the opportunity to easily “tell lawmakers to oppose the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.” All you have to do is enter your contact information and send the auto-generated message, and it gives you the ability to personalize the message before you send it! Click HERE and send your message!

If you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and need support in these troubling times that can be overwhelming, below is a list of resources for support.

Know that you are not alone and although it may seem like the whole world is after you, there are numerous resources available and people who support you.

*Queer is used interchangeably in this article with LGBTQ+

–Nicole el-Koussas + KL Dunn


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