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Just Say Gay

By: Eva Mandelbaum

The Parental Rights in Education Bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, was passed by the Florida Senate on Tuesday, March 8th.

According to NBC News, the bill bans "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity" in kindergarten through third grade and prohibits teaching about the topic in manners that are not considered "age appropriate" (which could extend to all grade levels). Parents can pursue legal action against school districts for any violations. If a teacher finds out that their student is gay, they are obliged to inform the student’s parents. This can place the student in a difficult situation if their parents are not accepting.

This bill was first passed by the Florida House of Representatives on Feb. 24, and now that the Senate also approved the bill, it's headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis, where it almost certainly will be signed into law.

LGBTQIA+ advocates have denounced the bill, stating that it will harm queer students by discouraging representation and inclusivity. Stifling the conversation about sexuality will stigmatize being gay, ultimately making LGBTQIA+ students feel ashamed of their identities.

This bill is a step backwards. After all of the work that has been done to move away from the homophobia and cruelty of the past, this bill sets the tone for a discriminatory environment in public schools going forward. It dehumanizes gay students and makes them feel isolated and unheard. This bill is not only devastating for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, but it also infringes upon the freedom of speech and the right to knowledge of all students and teachers in Florida.

There has been action taken, and there is still hope for the future. Students in Florida have participated in walkouts and protests, chanting things like, “We say gay,” in hopes of drawing the attention of lawmakers and the general public. Students can also send letters to lawmakers in Florida to voice their opinions, do research on the subject, and have meaningful discussions with friends, family, and peers to keep the conversation about the LGBTQIA+ community going.

Despite the backwards decisions of Florida politicians, keep saying gay. It’s not a bad word, rather it’s a core piece of the identities of many. Just say gay.

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