We Should Say Gay

Why Florida’s Homophobic Bill is a stab at human rights for members of the LGBTQ+ Community

The Florida House and Senate attempted to pass a bill taking away a multitude of rights for young members of the LGBTQ+ community. The bill, entitled “Don’t Say Gay,” was initially introduced on Jan. 11, 2022. The first debate over the bill took place on Jan. 20, when the committee’s vote passed the bill. On Feb. 17, the committee advanced the bill, however, a major sponsor of the bill removed the attempted amendment on February 22, 2022. 

           This bill would allow and even require the school counselors, teachers and staff members to tell the parents of students who confide in them that they are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, even if the student is not openly gay at home. Schools typically have confidentiality  rules in place to ensure the ability of all students to confide in a trusted adult. Parents should only be informed of what the student has told a counselor, teacher or other staff member if they are in danger. This prevents the student’s parents from learning something they might not want them to know, such as their sexuality. The hesitation towardings coming out could stem from unaccepting parents, domestic abuse or simply a child not being ready to disclose that aspect of their lives. 

      The bill allows parents to file lawsuits against schools who know of their child’s sexual orientation and do not inform them within six weeks. According to the Trevor Project, an organization focused on helping LGBTQ+ teens find mental health resources, only a third of youths in the LGBTQ+ community receive parental support. The other two thirds of the community are rejected by their families, or do not come out until adulthood.  This bill puts these children at risk. Many of these children forced to come out to their parents will be put through conversion therapy, with 83% of youths being forced through it while under the age of 18, as seen in the research done by the Trevor Project. 

        This bill will also prevent students from discussing queer topics at school. Silencing the voices of educators attempting to expand young children’s understanding of the LGBTQ+ community is a violation of our constitutional right of freedom of speech.  The bill will allow the state to create standards for the classroom on what can be taught in regards to the LGBTQ+ community. Under proposed guidelines, elementary school students will not be able to converse and learn about different sexual orientations. This bill puts the rights of young members of the LGBTQ+ community at risk. If a second grader is confused about their gender, they should have the right to confide in a responsible adult in order to learn about themselves without feeling judgment or fearing exposure. Students who seek such consolation will be jeopardized if their unsupportive parents or guardians were to find out about their sexual identity. This will diminish all sense of trust and safety and leave them without an adult they trust to confide in. 

        Young members of the LGBTQ+ community already face a plethora of mental health challenges due to the prejudice and oppression that comes with their sexuality and/or gender identity. The Trevor Project estimates that every 45 seconds, a young member of the LGBTQ+ community between the ages of 13 and 24 attempts suicide in the United States. This rate is much higher than that of heterosexual and cisgender youths, as gay youths are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts. This bill might cause these numbers to rise, as these children will no longer feel any support or care during a confusing period of their lives. Currently, one in four transgender children have attempted suicide while nine in ten have considered it. For the same reasons, this bill will do only harm for these children. 

The passage of this bill will put every queer Florida youth at risk. President Biden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg have attempted to push back against the bill, emphasizing that a lot is at stake with the current suicide rate of LGBTQ+ teens being as high as it is. 

      Another point to consider is that LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for domestic abuse, and forcing young children and adolescents out of the closet will only exacerbate this reality. When gay youths are unable to come out to their parents on their own accord, it puts a strain on both parent and child, even if the parents are supportive. By preventing this bill from passing into an amendment, hundreds of gay and trans and non-gender conforming children are able to decide the time and place they come out. It also allows LGBTQ+ inclusive education to continue, which results in more empathy and creates more allies. When an entire community is ostracized, it causes more misunderstanding, which creates more prejudice and oppression for members of the community. 

         The Don’t Say Gay bill put the lives of many teens and children at risk. It takes away people’s rights to freedom of speech and autonomy, as they are forced to come out on terms that are not their own. This bill should be vetoed not only because of its danger to the mental well-being of queer individuals, but also because of its unconsitutionality. The bill would  take away the rights of young members of the LGBTQ+ community and make them face the potentially harmful implications of being outed.