As if Florida hasn’t garnered enough controversy and hatred already, the state has just passed HB 1557, a new legislation casually known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” And yes, it’s just as bad as it sounds. -- Donovan harris, 9th grade
As if Florida hasn’t garnered enough controversy and hatred already, the state has just passed HB 1557, a new legislation casually known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” And yes, it’s just as bad as it sounds. This bill will ban any discussions and education of LGBTQ+ topics in schools before and during third grade. The bill was passed on February 28 of this year, and is set to take effect on July 1, 2022.
Florida state representative Joe Harding proposed the bill to keep parents “in the know and involved on what’s going on” with their children’s education, claiming, "What we're preventing is a school district deciding they're going to create a curriculum to insert themselves.” He continued, "Let the families be families. The school district doesn't need to insert themselves at that point when children are still learning how to read and do basic math." The bill was passed on February 28 of this year, and is set to take effect on July 1, 2022. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has, of course, openly supported the bill, claiming “How many parents want their kids to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction?”
The bill has undoubtedly sparked backlash among the LGBTQ+ community, with the Human Rights Campaign claiming the bill is dangerous and undermines protection for these kids. Will Larkins, a junior at Winter Park High School, is the president and cofounder of the school’s Queer Student Union. He has been one of the organizers of the “It’s Say Gay Anyway Walkouts”. They have spoken openly about their objection to the bill, even speaking at the Don’t Say Gay Bill Florida Senate Committee. Following this, Larkins published an article for the New York times’ Opinion, admitting “I have come to realize that those who have been so openly hateful toward me often knew little about the queer community — they thought being L.G.B.T.Q. was a conscious choice. Education didn’t just give me a sense of self worth but also the knowledge of a community and lifeline there for countless young people.”
This bill creates several risk factors for young people in the LGBTQ+ community, as it forces them back into the closet (if they are already out). It can also force them to continue hiding their identities. In the worst case scenario, this bill could set a trend for other states to pass similar anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
OSA student Hazel Phillips says “[The bill] will teach people that being queer is abnormal, as no one will be talking about it, which will give kids internalized homophobia.” This is definitely setting a dangerous precedent for LQBTQ+ youth. “LGBTQ teenagers are four times as likely to attempt suicide as their straight counterparts.”
Furthermore, Larkins says that teenagers who learn about LGBTQ issues and people are 23 percent less likely to attempt suicide. “We have a mental health crisis in the queer community, and Governor DeSantis and the Republican Party want to outlaw the solution.” OSA student Gemma Jackson had this to say about the bill: “I think the Don't Say Gay bill will cause immeasurable harm to LGBTQ+ children, which is just so heartbreaking. People still find queerness “inappropriate” enough that they think it’s wrong to discuss it with kids. This is the root of homophobia: teaching children that queerness is something to be ashamed of. Those kids will grow up thinking there is something wrong with them if they are queer, and that is a really hard thing to unlearn. As a queer person, I’ve had to deal with internalized homophobia against myself which is a really hard thing to cope with, and this bill will just make that worse for so many kids.”