Head to head: Don’t be afraid to say gay

As of March 8, the Florida Senate passed House Bill 1557, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by the public. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on March 27. 

With the passing of this bill, the way that Floridan children in the education system will be taught about LGBTQ+ topics and discussions will be taking a complete step back. 

The Parental Rights in Education bill states, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade three or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” 

The part of this bill that people have been using to push it are the words “age appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate.” Yes, I would assume that it is common sense that we should not be teaching five to eight year olds inappropriate topics that they do not have the capacity to understand, such as sex. 

If a teacher is talking about sex to children as young as five – which people are for some reason correlating with being sexual orientation – then of course they should be fired and never teach again. 

However, sexual orientation is not an inappropriate topic; it’s informative and realistic. Gay people exist and instead of hiding this fact from kids, we can normalize LGBTQ+ questions being asked by naturally curious children if they see another child with two moms or two dads.  

It would be the equivalent to not talking about race in a classroom or censoring talks about race. 

Which we already do to a certain extent when discussing the wrongs that have been done to people of color, but that’s another discussion. Right now, the concern is about our children’s education being censored surrounding LGBTQ+ topics. 

I understand if parents don’t want their kids to learn certain things or if they think it’s too much, but that doesn’t mean you get to control what every kid learns in school; at that point I would turn to homeschooling for parents that want to have more control over their children’s education. 

I remember when I was eight and watching “Modern Family” with my parents, I kept hearing the word “gay” over and over. I looked at my dad and asked what it meant because I had never heard of it before. 

“It’s when two men love each other,” is what my dad said and I just nodded and continued on with my day and life. Kids are relatively good at understanding information when it’s explained to them in a way they can understand. 

I’m not saying we should create this whole new curriculum where we teach our kids starting from the age of five what being gay is, but we should not shun their questions away or illustrate it in a complex way and should be able to educate them on reality.   

When my children get to the discussion of Stonewall, which was a beginning for gay rights in America in 1969, I want them to be aware of what happened and know that Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, was a prominent figure in the Stonewall uprisings for LGBTQ+ rights.  

I don’t want their knowledge about real-world events to be censored. If we can discuss and show children from five to eight videos of acts of violence or terrorism at school, we can explain to them why love is love.

We don’t have to completely understand why people are different, but we do have to respect them. 

There is already talk about a similar bill trying to be passed in Louisiana where teachers, staff and presenters would not be allowed to discuss their sexual orientation or gender identity with students from kindergarten to grade 12. 

This would once again be censoring our students’ knowledge as well as creating this old stereotype of how someone can be “influenced” to be gay, even though being gay is not a choice and is not caused by influence. 

As a former Floridian and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, this bill angers me and I want to see steps forward in our states for LGBTQ+ people and our education system, instead of taking steps back. 

​​Editor’s note: This opinion piece is one of two articles in a head-to-head series. Read the other opinion piece here.