“Don’t Say Gay” bill is harmful to students

Books+with+queer+characters+and+themes+used+to+only+occupy+one+area+in+the+library%2C+but+now+theyre+ubiquitous+all+over+the+library.

Photo by Al Curle

Books with queer characters and themes used to only occupy one area in the library, but now they’re ubiquitous all over the library.

Al Curle, Staff Writer

A weary student confides in a teacher whom they trust and tells them that they are queer, seeking advice and wanting an adult to reassure them that they’re normal, but by law the teacher must turn them in to their parents, who may not be as accepting. This may seem like a dystopia or tale of a far away land that we strive to be better than, but, this is Florida today.

The so called Don’t Say Gay bill, as named by its opposition, seeks to ban the discussion, teaching, or even mention of queer people or topics in school before grade three along with requiring teachers to out students, or reveal their identity without consent, to parents. This is not only explicitly stated law, but parents are also able to sue the school if their kids say they feel uncomfortable by being exposed to queer topics in the classroom. 

This is harmful to students in the worst way possible because it robs kids of the ability to describe themselves, and it directly goes against the idea of education. 

Transgender people are one of the groups in the LGBTQ community most succeptible to severe mental health issues and suicidal tendencies. There are many factors that lead to this including “a diagnosis of depression, desiring gender affirming surgery, a history of physical assault and experiences of institutional discrimination,” according to a BMC Psychiatry paper titled Factors associated with suicide attempts among Australian transgender adults

While this study is about adults, all of the factors listed still affect students in high school or younger. Young people also don’t have the developmental strength to better cope with such problems, meaning if they affect adults to the point of doing the unthinkable, it’s terrifying to think about what it does to kids. Trans kids aren’t the only ones affected though. Other queer kids bear the brunt of this horrible legislation.

Fifty percent of all queer kids, as reported by Lesly University, receive a negative reaction from their parents after coming out and of those 50% of those kids, a fourth of total queer kids who come out, are kicked out and rendered homeless. This homelessness kills, especially for kids.

Aside from these deadly consequences another problem arises — our values. Education is the place where we as people come to learn, grow, and to be presented with new ideas that we then incorporate in our world view.

Since queer people exist and, as they are our fellow human being, they cannot be swept under the rug. We have to give kids the language and understanding to process this concept. Is that not the goal of education? To give ourselves the tools to process the world around us? To have the language to put into words what we and others feel and to empathize with each other? 

So why is it that those in power in certain places, such as Florida, want to rob our children of these tools? To rob our kids of the ability to understand the world around them? Education on queer topics is as simple as saying, “Queer people exist. this is what they call themselves and how they identify.” These simple and basic ideas to the point that a kindergartener could, and in many cases do, understand and process. So why do our elected officials want to rob us of this?

There are perhaps many reasons, but I can only think of one. 

Surely our elected officials are not as childish as to destroy our education system’s values and purpose because of their disgust of those whom they see as other. Surely we’re mature enough to accept and educate our children about those who are different from us. 

However, if we cannot be mature enough to teach our children about topics that make us uncomfortable, then we are no better than those who burnt books in public squares because they were uncomfortable with the demographics discussed in them.