Recently, law makers in Florida passed a bill that was signed into law by Governor DeSantis. It is called the “Parental Rights in Education” bill; most commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill as pegged in the media and by human activist groups. In Texas, Senate Bill 1311 allows parents and doctors who support transgender children to face legal action. Children in the middle of gender reaffirming treatment are having these treatment options cancelled. This causes very real damage to their bodies. We should be worried.
Since the inception and passing of these bills, multiple other states have introduced similar forms of Florida’s recently passed bill. These states include Ohio, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Louisiana, and others.
The numerous bills differ on some levels including forbidding faculty to not speak about their own gender identities, instruction about sexual lifestyles, acts or practices, and banning books or instructional materials that normalize or support an LGBTQ+ lifestyle. Our society, and the LGBTQ+ community, has worked too hard and come too far only to be pushed back to a time that predates the Stonewall Riots.
The argument by lawmakers and some groups is that these topics should be left to parents and guardians. I could not disagree more. In the wake of these bills we have seen children and young adult books such as I am Jazz and Almost Perfect pulled from school shelves. Books such as these are used to help teach diversity, inclusion, and understanding; something not all children are exposed to learning at home, something not all parents have the understanding or willingness themselves to teach.
All topics around diversity and inclusion, not just LGBTQ+ topics, should not be left solely to parents and guardians. Education is meant to be a team effort between the school and family.
What’s The Impact?
We are now living in a world where it is illegal for a teacher who is in a same sex relationship to talk about their spouse or family. A child who has two parents of the same gender at home can no longer share stories of what they did with their moms over the weekend. The implications of these actions taking place are incredibly far reaching. They are chipping away at the freedoms our country was founded on.
Bullying, harassment, and suicide statistics are incredibly high for children and adults who identify in the LGBTQ+ community. Behavior and laws like this will only lead to an increase in lives lost. This is due to a lack of understanding, empathy, and safe spaces. According to The Trevor Project, at least one LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the US, with LGBTQ+ youth four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
I want my children to grow up and live in a world where people are all treated equally, where everyone has the same rights and the same ability to be understood. I truly believe that for this to happen, in order for our society to evolve and develop, we must start having these age-appropriate conversations with our children as young as possible. Not putting it off until after third grade. We should not be picking and choosing what books they can check out of the school library, not leaving the discussions to the parents, and not making children feel like they can’t be comfortable or be themselves in spaces that are meant to be safe and nurturing.
How Can We Fix It?
We need to do better. We need to push back. If we do not start standing up for our children, then who will? If we do not stop one group from being attacked and pushed into hiding, which one will be next?