Dangers of the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Law used as opportunity for oppression, hatred

     On March 8, 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its opponents. However, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is actively harming the queer community and is a dogwhistle that allows politicians to actively create hate and discrimination. 

      This law bans instruction around gender identity and sexual orientation, but also “classroom discussion” about these topics for those in K-3rd grade. But, all grades are affected by the provision that requires discussions to be “age and developmentally appropriate.” However, the language used in the law is vague, and classroom instruction could easily be construed to mean that students with gay parents wouldn’t be able to talk about their family in front of the class or nonbinary teachers using they/them pronouns could be construed as education on gender identity. In addition, the terms “age and developmentally appropriate” are extremely subjective and could easily create restrictive spaces for older students. This could lead to different schools actively avoiding and not talking about queer issues, or even their presence, because it wouldn’t be “developmentally appropriate.” This would suffocate conversations for children who need to work through their own questions and issues of sexual-identity and gender. 

This bill suffocates children and creates a passageway for them to be oppressed by the homophobic actions of lawmakers.

      The bill also lets parents sue school districts over teachings that they don’t like, and the district would have to pay for it. For many school districts with a lack of funding, they wouldn’t be able to afford to be sued so this could, and already has, prompted schools to shut out teachings or conversations about LGBTQ issues. According to the Washington Post, some librarians across the country are accusing their schools of removing LGBTQ+ related books from their shelves before it starts a fight, and even some schools in the state have started to peel safe-space stickers from the windows. This is a horrible effect of this legislation, and creates an active space of homophobia. This isolates a population and cuts off a lifeline for many students. According to the Trevor Project, 42% of LGBTQ+ students have seriously considered suicide in the past year, and this bill isolates a vulnerable population even further. 

      This bill depends on the bogeyman of school systems “infringing on parental rights” to disguise demonizing LGBTQ people as an “other.” While the bill itself doesn’t say the words “gay”, “transgender”, and “nonbinary”, they use the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” While “straight”, “man”, and “woman” are all either sexual orientations or gender identities, these laws are presented as neutral when in actuality, these laws are likely to only be applied to queer individuals. Despite the bill’s language, DeSantis even went as far as to call people who would support the bill “groomers” on Twitter, a term that has been historically used as a dogwhistle to paint queer people as pedophiles. This bill has been one of the starts of a widespread trend to attack gay rights and attack the community: a proposed bill in Tennessee would ban schools from “normalizing” gay lifestyles or issues, a proposed bill in Kansas would make the depiction of homosexuality in classrooms a misdemeanor, and undertaking gender-affirming treatments in Texas is considered “child abuse.” Supporters of these bills often view these bills as supporting “parental rights” but these bills are simply restricting speech in schools while also actively beating down young queer people. By erasing a huge subsection of people, this bill suffocates children and creates a passageway for them to be oppressed by the homophobic actions of lawmakers.