3/1/2022 0 Comments
Elessar Younglove (they/fae)
When I was 13 years old I transferred to a Catholic school. I struggled with a learning disability, and a smaller school was just what I needed. However, my Catholic schooling made me hate myself.
The way we talked about LGBTQ+ people plagued me with fear. Religion class was a part of my everyday life. Discussing my rights, and whether or not I should have them, was a part of my everyday life. I even had to take a quiz asking me if the Catholic Church supported gay marriage. My hand shook above the options - true or false. Did the Catholic Church support gay marriage? Was it acceptable to them? Was it dirty?
I circled true with a smile, feeling all the rebellion of a teenager losing points in religion class. The way my school discussed LGBTQ+ people shaped my life. In Florida, one piece of legislation aims, not to just shape students, but to dig homophobia into their skin.
Florida knows this as the "Don't Say Gay" bill. It states that school districts “may not encourage discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
This bill would prevent any discussion of gender identities or sexual orientations that are not "age appropriate" for a given classroom. All K-12 classrooms would be banned from such discussions. In effect, it would likely prevent learning about LGBTQ+ topics in elementary/middle school and severely restrict how it might be discussed in high school, if LGBTQ+ people are discussed at all.
Queer people have a history of being erased. We’re tortured, beaten, mocked, arrested, and much more throughout the world. Not long ago we couldn’t even be married. I distinctly remember the day that same-sex marriage was legalized, June 26th, because I was bombarded with attacks upon celebrating it. That day, I saw how deep homophobia could run. How many looked at LGBTQ+ people and thought us disgusting. One of these people is Florida’s governor. Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his support for this bill on Monday, February 7th. When asked by reporters he said it was “entirely inappropriate” for teachers to be having conversations about sexuality and gender identity.
LGBTQ+ people are often viewed as “the outsider,” or as “inappropriate conversations” by Gov. DeSantis and others. The hateful rhetoric that “kids are too young to learn about gender and sexuality” is not an attack on normative concepts of gender, such as boys being masculine or girls wearing dresses. It is not an attack on heterosexuality. It is an attack on us. It is an attack on “the outsiders.” The Don’t Say Gay Bill is an attempt to coerce entire generations of children into viewing gender and sexuality through one lens, a cisgender heterosexual lens. It is ironic and predictable that a politician seeks to silence his own community. Ironic, because Gov. DeSantis is a Republican. Republicans claim to pride themselves on free speech. But Gov. DeSantis doesn’t want free speech. Predictably, Gov. DeSantis wants to control the masses. He wants to teach them to wrinkle their noise at the queer community.
This bill would endanger children, parents, and staff members of Florida schools. Banning conversations surrounding gender and sexuality is dangerous because it denies Floridians self expression. What would the world look like if all Republican, white, male politicians dictated what we could and could not say? School is supposed to be a place of learning and growth. Gov. DeSantis needs to realize this playground belongs to the kids, not him.
As previously mentioned, when I was 13 years old I transferred to a Catholic school. Gay was a dirty word, and your grades could suffer if you used it. By this, I mean I was expected to deny my own rights in religion class. I was expected to submit, to label the queer community as a misfit group of others. But here’s what they didn’t teach me. Queer people are not “others.” They are your friends, your family, your educators and lawmakers. The queer community has changed the world. Where would we be without the Stonewall Riots, or Supreme Court cases like Obergefell v. Hodges and Bostock v. Clayton County? The real threat of discussing queer people in education is that Gov. DeSantis would have to acknowledge what action and progress looks like. It does not look like him.