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‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill stigmatizes LGBTQ+ youth

‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill stigmatizes LGBTQ+ youth

‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill stigmatizes LGBTQ+ youth
March 10
20:35 2022

Content Warning: This article contains language and content related to suicide, viewer discretion is advised.

Right now we are witnessing unparalleled attacks against LGBTQ+ youth. In the first two months of the year, conservative state legislators have filed 31 more anti-LGBTQ+ bills than they did last year. The Parental Rights in Education bill recently passed in the Florida Senate and House is only one of many homophobic bills being drafted. That being said, it is becoming increasingly systematically and socially violent against a demographic already at high risk for suicide.

 The aptly named “Don’t Say Gay” by its critics aims to ban LGBTQ+ curriculum from Florida primary school classrooms and even gives parents the ability to sue if teachers engage in this material. Representative Joe Harding, the man who introduced the legislation, claims the bill will “improve the quality of life for the state’s children.”

Though the bill will censor sexual orientation and gender identity, Harding has stated the bill will not bar classroom discussions of LGBTQ+ history or conversations about gay/trans family members. Despite this, the bill still stigmatizes LGBTQ+ topics, implicitly teaching children that there is something inappropriate about alternative genders and sexuality. By doing so, this bill further alienates LGBTQ+ students and children.

However, it is imperative at this point that we start making safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. Having at least one LGBTQ+ affirming space lowers the risk of suicide, according to a study by the Trevor Project. We directly harm young community members by making school a place that is not LGBTQ+ friendly. 

The stigmatization this law creates has not only internalized consequences for the youth but can also affect how their peers treat them. Making the LGBTQ+ community a taboo talking point furthers the point that they are different and immoral compared to their straight-cisgendered classmates, which can lead to homophobic and transphobic bullying. 

The backing behind the banning of gay and LGTBQ+ discourse in the classroom is because many conservative parents and politicians think they are protecting their children from the “LGBTQ+ agenda.” The gay/trans “agenda” is a far-right talking point to demoralize the community and create fear-mongering of homosexuality to young, impressionable children. 

While the plans of said agenda are vague at best, one point constantly reiterated throughout time is that these agendas aim to direct children into the gay “lifestyle.” The implications of this are mainly sexual, as the LGBTQ+ community has constantly been framed as sexually deviant and immoral.

This is best exemplified by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his press secretary Christina Pushaw, who stated the accurate description of the bill is an “anti-grooming bill.” This reinstates the harmful rhetoric that frames the LGBTQ+ underneath a pedophilic lens. 

This trope has plagued the LGBTQ+ since the ’50s and their warnings of the dangerous “homosexual.” Despite most of the media being saturated with heteronormative and cis-normative constructs, it is never suggested that learning about these roles are detrimental or perverted.

Conversely, many LGBTQ+ leaders and protestors propose they are not trying to induct children into the LGBTQ+ but protect those in the community from harmful rhetoric and legislation like the bill itself. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill can largely be seen as a bill that comes from homophoic fears of the LGBTQ+. It comes from the internal beliefs that being queer is a moral fallacy. 

However, the pushback is largely misguided and damaging. Teaching the LGBTQ+ youth that they are immoral only furthers damage mentally and socially. 

The first step to acceptance and normalization of these identities is talking about it freely in school, where most young people socialize. We must make school a safe place where all children feel welcomed to be who they are. Whether gay or straight, trans or cis, we must teach children they are worthy to be here.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Lake Smith

Lake Smith

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