How Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Can Harm LGBTQIA+ Young People And Their Families

Florida's Parental Rights in Education bill, otherwise known as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, was passed this week, barring educators from teaching students about gender identity and sexual orientation (via Healthline). But many LGBTQIA+ experts, allies, and members of the community are pointing out the absurdity of the reasoning behind this bill as well as the incredible damage it could cause to the well-being of students and their families, per NPR

Opponents of the bill feel that it's a slippery slope that potentially gives room for people to push harmful and inaccurate interpretations of what it means to educate students about gender identity and sexual orientation (via NPR). Their argument was evidenced by statements from Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who referred to the bill as the "anti-grooming bill" (per NPR). Grooming is when an adult builds a trusting and emotional connection with a minor to then sexually abuse them (via RAINN). 

According to Healthline, this kind of rhetoric regarding gender identity and sexual orientation is a serious cause for concern among supporters of the LGBTQIA+ community due to the immense harm it will potentially cause students and their families.

Potentially harmful effects of the 'Don't Say Gay' bill

Debates surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the harmful narratives about the LGBTQIA+ community, have already had a negative effect on the mental health of young people. According to a poll published by The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary and 66% of all LGBTQIA+ youth reported that these types of political debates have had negative consequences for their mental health.

One of the many downsides of the 'Don't Say Gay' bill is that it will erase an important pillar of support for students who have questions about their gender identity or sexual orientation. According to Healthline, many students feel safer talking about these subjects at school because it can allow them to explore their feelings on the topic in a safe environment that their home life may not necessarily provide. 

But this safe outlet has now been eliminated with the newly passed Parental Rights in Education bill. Clinical social worker and psychotherapist Heather Zayde told Healthline, "I think it's challenging because effectively there's a gag order against them, a lot of teachers have to be worried about their job safety. There are ways they can communicate to kids that 'we care about you, we care about who you are, we care about your family.' That is an immensely important thing to have. The worry, though, is because of these bills, teachers' hands are tied."