Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill promotes homophobia in schools

Molly St. Clair, Feature Editor

A Florida bill titled “Parental Rights in Education” passed in the Florida Senate. It is currently on its way to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk for final review and, if approved, will be effective July 1. 

When I first heard the name “Parental Rights in Education”, I assumed its contents would cover topics like overall safety in schools; something that I thought would be a top priority for parents. With school shootings running rampant in today’s society, a bill with safety measures for these scenarios should be important to adults. 

But the true motives of the bill are hidden behind extreme blanket statements regarding the “parental rights” that its name suggests. Within the general wording used lies the words, “prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels”. If “Parental Rights in Education” is passed, teachers in Florida will not be able to discuss gender identity in a school setting. It also prevents teachers from withholding information about ‘gender issues’ from parents. These regulations have given the bill the name “Don’t Say Gay” by many of its opposers. 

From a young age, children are taught that school is a place where all individuals are embraced. We start to form relationships with others based on what we have in common, but also with those different from us. Teachers instruct their students to live by the  ‘golden rule”; treat others the way you want to be treated. This bill goes completely against this idea. It preaches the narrative that if you identify as anything other than cis-gendered and straight, your story and consequential treatment is an afterthought; ultimately teaching children to ignore those different from them. 

Those in favor of the bill argue that elementary school children don’t understand the concept of gender identity and therefore discussion over the subject will only confuse them. But it seems that they are forgetting just how much young children understand about themselves. Toddlers cry and throw tantrums because their parents and adults in their lives don’t acknowledge their feelings and simply assume they are being dramatic. Their emotions are deep and complex; they just don’t know how to explain that to the world. So, why would assume they don’t understand their own gender identity as well? 

This is the very reason why discussion over LGBTQ+ experiences are absolutely necessary. Like it or not, there are children who identify as queer from a very young age. Prohibiting the conversation is only going to increase problems for these children later in life. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to consider suicide. They feel alone and as if there is no one to talk to about what they’re going through. By silencing this discussion in schools, possibly the only place where some of these kids feel comfortable or safe, we are simply pushing the discriminatory narrative that being gay is not okay. 

Although this bill only applies to Florida, the ideas presented in the “Parental Rights in Education” bill spread far beyond state borderlines. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill truly demonstrates just how little regard there is for LGBTQ+ youth in our country.