A discriminatory House Bill 1557 passed the Florida House of Representatives on March 1. It is appropriately called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics because it restricts any discussions about LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom. The bill bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity whenever it is “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” The authors of the bill tried to portray it as a “protection” of parents’ rights to have input over what their child is learning in school. The bill claims that parents have the “fundamental right” to be notified whenever LGBTQ+ topics come up in class and allows them to pursue legal action against the school if they disagree with this content or if they think they were not properly notified.
The bill is intentionally vague in order to make it easy for homophobic and transphobic parents to assert their censorship on the entire classroom or school. It threatens the well-being of LGBTQ+ students, who will be denied an inclusive curriculum. As a result, it will worsen the already-existing tendency to bully, harass and ostracize LGBTQ+ students, as well as teachers who speak up for LGBTQ+ rights. It reinforces the idea that any talk of sexual orientation or gender identity is inappropriate. The bill also does not indicate any age at which it would be deemed acceptable for students to learn about LGBTQ+ topics or even express their LGBTQ+ identity. A young student may be too fearful to speak of their gay or transgender parent to their classmates because it might be deemed “inappropriate.” Homophobic or transphobic parents could argue that any child’s age is too young to know that gay and transgender people even exist! With such a bill, students will be afraid to tell their teacher that they prefer to go by different pronouns or if they have a crush on someone of the same gender, because they could be retaliated against. Children will get the message that if they are gay or transgender their very existence is inappropriate and they should stay silent about it. It teaches students that they matter less than others if they can’t talk about themselves or their LGBTQ+ relatives. Ultimately, the bill caters to the prejudice of some adults and grants them authority over when and how students are allowed to perceive themselves.
The Florida bill passed just as 15 similar bills have cropped up across the country, including in Texas, Tennessee, Kansas, Indiana and Oklahoma. We must oppose all these bills that seek to silence the existence of LGBTQ+ people. We must resist the attacks that tell students how they are allowed to express themselves, who they are allowed to love, and whether their identity is right or wrong.