Pride flag stock imageЕкатерина Базанова -

Did you read Romeo and Juliet in school? I read it at DeLand High School when I was about 14, and no one pitched a fit over the effects reading about such a controversial heterosexual relationship could have on my young brain.

Under Florida’s new “Parental Rights in Education” law, if Romeo and Juliet had been Romeo and Tybalt, a single angry parent or school official could have potentially shut down that entire unit. Heck, a teacher worried about potential job loss could have scuttled the whole thing before it even got that far.

The bill dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by its opponents is the latest in a series of big-government bills mandating what teachers are allowed to teach. It’s just the latest moral panic to “protect” kids by any means necessary.

This is the kind of stuff our legislators want to protect kids from. In the words of Sen. Travis Hutson, whose district includes part of West Volusia: “I think the genesis or crux of the bill … is that a teacher doesn’t initiate, via curriculum, like a homework assignment, saying ‘Sally has two moms or Johnny has two dads,’ and then a math equation coming at them.”

It’s clear what the goal is here. If even mentioning fictional same-sex parents is inappropriate, surely real-life examples are out of the question.

It’s not about keeping the word “gay” out of classrooms, but about scaring teachers into avoiding all discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, no matter how innocuous, and forcing kids — of all ages — out of any shred of autonomy when it comes to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Per the bill: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Catch the amount of work that that “or in a manner …” clause is doing? Gov. Ron DeSantis and many of the bill’s supporters have insisted that this bill is about getting “groomers” and inappropriate discussions out of kindergarten, specifically, lying about the contents of the bill in the meantime.

But that’s not how it will play out. All it does is continue the march toward writing the alienation of LGBT kids into Florida law.

Data from the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. Click to read the full report.

Look, LGBT folks, especially youth, don’t have it easy, and the statistics are damning. According to The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention among LGBT youth, the organization received more than 11,000 calls or texts from Florida to their youth suicide-prevention hotline from March 2020 to April 2021.

You can pretend LGBT youth don’t exist all you want, but no amount of bigoted, backward legislation will eliminate their lived experience. It will only make their lives harder.

Conversations about sexual orientations and gender identities are going to happen in classrooms as long as Billy wants to know about Sally’s two dads or Johnny wants to know what a “fag” is.

Anyone paying attention should be concerned that the party that’s supposed to be for small government is using “protecting the children” as a weapon to decide what teachers are allowed to discuss.

Never mind the chilling effect this could have on discussions of sex ed; if you’re trying to scare teachers and students out of even uttering certain words, I think we can safely rule out your concerns about protecting anyone.


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