Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill is a Direct Insult to Progression

Censorship within public education has been a repetitive issue. It seems like every year, a school board or federal entity takes it upon themselves to dictate what educational materials belong in classrooms and which ones do not. However, Florida’s legislators have recently crossed the line with the creation of a new proposed bill designed to completely silence any discussions of sexuality or gender identity in primary schools at the expense of students’ education and society’s social progression. 

Despite being rooted in homophobia and unacceptable levels of censorship, the bill, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has continually moved forward within the legal process. After passing through multiple committees that deemed the bill acceptable, it was handed off to the Judiciary Committee for review, which places it dangerously close to passing. Joe Harding, member of the Florida House of Representatives, is the primary sponsor of the legislation. According to the bill’s text, written by Harding, its main intention is to strengthen parents’ control over their children’s education and return the parental right to make decisions on what material is reviewed in schools. Thus, the bill encourages parents to take serious legal action against school districts that violate the rules of the proposed bill, adding a significant monetary consequence to already underfunded public schools to ensure complete compliance from teachers and staff. 

However, parents are not the most reliable sources, and personal biases may prevent them from discontinuing a generational cycle of ignorance. The purpose of education has always been about ensuring the development of a person by supplying them with the necessary information and resources to properly grow and mature into a functioning member of society, and sexuality and gender identity are a natural part of development. A child normally enters the first stage of gender identity development around the age of two as they begin to notice the physical differences between sexes. By the age of three, they are starting to become familiar with their own sex label, and, by the age of four, they have a general sense of their gender identity. These are crucial learning years for children and they should be given a reliable, unbiased, and fully informed space to learn about and safely discuss sexuality and gender identity. Choosing to ignore and silence these discussions surrounding a critical portion of a child’s forming identity is harmful to the education system as a whole and directly goes against what schools were designed to do by breeding ignorance and stunting students’ development. 

Historically, implementing measures to prevent dialogue regarding sexuality and gender identity has not delivered favorable outcomes. Take, for example, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill created by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The bill ended the ban on members of the LGBTQ+ serving in the American military by creating a “compromise” where these individuals were welcomed into the services at the expense of hiding their identity. If they were discovered to be gay by colleagues or administrators, they were immediately discharged, which created a sense of fearfulness and shame in soldiers who were forced to hide their identity. Similar to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, this legislation ultimately reinforced the stigma surrounding homosexuality by supporting silence and intensifying the preconception that being gay is something to be ashamed of and kept hidden. While the bill was repealed by President Barack Obama in 2010, it seems reactionary politics have now come full circle with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and its reversion to previous discriminations. 

Furthermore, the bill makes the argument that sexuality and gender identity are “inappropriate” topics to discuss in primary school. However, there are various ways to introduce complex topics like sexuality and gender identity to children in an age appropriate manner that is conducive to learning and development. Silence is the opposite approach. Dr. Wanjiku Njoroge, an adjunct professor at Yale and program director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the following in response to the question of discussing race with children, “In the absence of these conversations, silence is powerful: If they hear nothing about race, they figure out that there’s something different about that topic. And that difference can become imbued with negativity.” Similar logic can be applied to sexuality and gender identity. Children should feel supported in their identity, not apologetic for it.  

Overall, censorship in public schools would do a great disservice to future generations and the education of these children. School is designed to be a place of learning; discourse and discussion are vital to development. Ultimately, no government official or otherwise should be able to stand in the way of a child’s education and the production of well-educated individuals.

Art by Angela Liang for the UCSD Guardian.

6 thoughts on “Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill is a Direct Insult to Progression

  1. Anthony – Perhaps you could add something to the conversation. Except you just came with a moral stick of a woke-era priest.

  2. Emily, I think I should stop using your name as an insult. You brought forward very fair arguments. Very reasonable.

  3. Ruh roh raggy, retard alert. No hun, you left the Democratic Party along with your other stupid little reactionary wine moms because you are forever stuck in the past and only have one way of thinking. So maybe you should take you degenerate little piece of shit ass and crawl back to the ignorant hole you crawled from and go back to your wife beating husband in your little suburban household where you do not have to deal with any real troubles in your life. Unlike you, I actually interact with people outside of my little echo chamber and know that there are so many queer kids out there who were extremely unhappy in their lives because their parents and communities would always push the agenda of heteronormativity, and as a result, would live with the constant stress of “not being normal” and being rejected by family and friends for just being themselves. Maybe if the lump of flesh between your ears worked a little, it would maybe think of the thousands of homeless queer kids who were kicked out of their homes and relentlessly bullied in school because their families and communities would not accept them for who they are. No, the problem is not the student in their dorm room who would questions the decisions of reactionary, backwards looking, ignoramuses like you. But instead, lies with those who refuses to take a look out of their little bubble to realize there are many who are suffering because of the decision those in power make to maintain the status quo.

  4. Emily – these are opinion pieces. Why do you feel you must attack the person that wrote the piece, who you don’t know. Your points are fine, but the fear and anger and personal attacks make you look like the one that will look back on this with some humility someday – one would hope anyway. Please consider rational discourse in the future. Your current discourse is abusive and unacceptable.

  5. The arrogance of youth is on full display here.

    Read the bill.

    Stop using a catchy, inaccurate catchphrase to drum up faux outrage.

    Don’t condescend to parents when you’ve clearly never been one.

    Don’t assume that everybody who supports this bill is a Trump loving homophobic right winger evangelical and that they need help from people like you to be enlightened.

    “However, parents are not the most reliable sources, and personal biases may prevent them from discontinuing a generational cycle of ignorance. “

    I see. So you think a teacher is better equipped to teach them about their identity. Got it. A person who has not been with the child every day of their lives, held them when they were sick, made sure they were fed and clean, comforted them when they had a nightmare.

    Will you come off your righteous ideological perch and do those things for my child? It’s very easy to pontificate and preach from your dorm room, isn’t it?

    It is not ignorant to believe teenagers shouldn’t cut their breasts off to be their true selves.

    It is not ignorant to want little kids to just be little kids without all of this crap shoved down their throats via power of suggestion. Give them time to grow into who they are.

    It’s not ignorant for asking what the long term effects of puberty blockers and cross sex hormones are.

    It’s not ignorant for ensuring young children aren’t presented topics like sexuality that they are too young to understand.

    It’s not ignorant for parents to want to raise their kids with their values.

    It’s not ignorant for parents to care what their kids are taught.

    It’s called being a responsible parent.

    Our kids do not belong to the schools, and they don’t belong to your cultish ideology that is turning a generation of kids into helpless, anxious, androgynous, lifetime medical patients.

    The core problem with your perspective is your ugly, cynical view of parents, painting all of us with broad strokes, dripping with contempt.

    You are the ignorant one. You are why I and most of my parent friends have left the Democratic Party after being a lifelong supporter. You will look back someday on this piece and understand how truly little you knew about the world.

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