Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill went into effect on July 1st and members of the LGBTQ community are already experiencing the negative consequences. The law states that educators are prohibited from discussing the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida’s classrooms – and the law has inspired copy-cat bills around the country.
Educators in the state have been left high and dry without any guidance on what the law specifically bans, causing teachers, especially LGBTQ teachers, to fear that saying or doing anything in violation would put their jobs in jeopardy. LGBTQ educators are not allowed to discuss their partners, have a photo of their partner showing in their classroom or display anything with a rainbow.
Our LGBTQ elected officials in Florida are not taking this anti-LGBTQ legislation lightly. Florida state Senator Shevrin Jones has spoken out numerous times condemning the bill, citing a rise of right-wing extremism as the root issue against LGBTQ progress.
Republicans are practicing fascism and they’re using our classrooms as their laboratory to do it.
No one should have to live in a state or a country where they have to fear living their truth. No one, no where! pic.twitter.com/M2fFmG79og
— Shevrin “Shev” Jones (@ShevrinJones) July 2, 2022
Florida state representative Michele Rayner Goolsby penned an op-ed for The Advocate to voice her frustrations with current LGBTQ erasure in the Florida legislature. “I want to live in a world where every child can go home to their parents and guardians and talk about the things they are curious about or notice within their own bodies whether it relates to gender identity and sexual orientation or not.” Rep. Rayner noted as she passionately criticized anti-LGBTQ legislation.
"As the first out Black queer woman to ever hold public office in Florida, I felt the weight of this session and my role in it to speak up," writes state representative Michele Rayner. @RepMKRG https://t.co/1VptMWuzn8
— The Advocate (@TheAdvocateMag) July 1, 2022
We are in a Stonewall moment. I hope we used June to get revived, filled up and access joy. Now…it’s time we fight.
And- let’s make sure we elect folks with PROVEN records of fighting for us. There is NO time to guess what side folks are going be on. https://t.co/yo3VKvhSQk
— Michele Rayner-Goolsby (she/they) (@micheleforfl) July 1, 2022
Florida state Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith has vocally campaigned against the bill and spoke with Gay Times to discuss the cruel message it sends to everyone when LGBTQ people are deemed “inappropriate or even dangerous to be had in front of our young people.” Smith mentions the importance of representation explaining that anti-LGBTQ policies are less likely to be passed if members of the LGBTQ community are included in the legislative process.
“The culture of fear that this bill has created and the chilling effect [means that] educators and school districts are scared to approach anything related to LGBTQ people or issues out of fear of lawsuits and professional ruin.” -Rep. @CarlosGSmith https://t.co/2d2zfnLDM9
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) July 1, 2022
Other situations that are a direct result of the bill’s passage include anti-bullying videos flagged as a violation if it mentions LGBTQ students and the removal of LGBTQ protections in student handbooks. Parents can report teachers to their school districts if they suspect them of violating the vague language in the law. Teachers are expected to alert parents of any student that discusses sexual and gender identities, essentially forcing teachers to out their students if that information is revealed.
The overall acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the United States has grown within the past two decades. For years, members of the LGBTQ community were forced to hide their true identities from the rest of the world to avoid ostracism from their families and violence from bigots.
Now, with the implementation of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, some of the proudest members of the LGBTQ community are being forced back into the closet and must pretend that they do not exist.
This bill will not only silence LGBTQ students but paint a target on LGBTQ teachers and school leaders.
We must elect more LGBTQ leaders to repeal this disgusting extremism and protect LGBTQ kids. Learn about all our Florida candidates here.