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Florida GOP forcing LGBTQ students into the closet
Following on "critical race theory," Republicans move to ban discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity
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Virginia Republicans used “critical race theory” — an academic legal term and not something even taught in elementary schools — in the governor’s race in 2021 while most media didn’t expose it as white supremacist dog-whistling. Now Florida Republicans are expanding the “education” push to attack queer people.
This time the very Republicans who are obsessively whining about “cancel culture” want to cancel discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, and thus want to cancel LGBTQ kids.
Florida House Bill 1557 made it out of committee in the Florida Legislature, thinly disguised as allowing parents to have more say in what their children are being taught about. But it would outright ban specific discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. Its proponents say it’s not meant to stop the teaching of history or force LGBTQ students to be invisible — but that is precisely what it is intended to do.
“A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students,” House Bill 1557 and it’s identical companion, Senate Bill 183, state.
The House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Harding, said, “This bill is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent. That job can only be given to you by above.”
In other words, public schools should simply erase whole categories of people if some parents don’t like their children being taught about them.
That is not education. It’s indoctrination — into hate. And this is the same kind of culture war issue promoted as letting parents have a say in “education” that Glenn Youngkin pushed in Virginia but which was a racist dog whistle. Democrats didn’t take it seriously enough, while the media didn’t expose it. Which is why everyone must pay attention to Florida.
What about students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender talking about their own lives? What about students with gay and lesbian parents? Do they just not talk about their two moms or their two dads?
And how about history?
When Democratic Representative Ana Eskamani asked Harding about teaching about, say, the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse Night Club, a gay club in Orlando, in which the mass shooter — who’d made homophobic outbursts in the past — killed 49 people and injured 53 people on Latino night, Harding said he “didn’t believe” it would stop that from being taught.
“No, it doesn’t eliminate those conversations,” Harding said, as quoted by Florida’s Newschannel 8. “In fact, a tragedy like Pulse, where you have innocent people die is a horrific thing that in many cases is talked about and should be continued to be honored and talked about. So, relating to eliminating a conversation like that, no, I don’t believe that this includes that.”
But do you just take out the part regarding the club being gay and the killer’s homophobic tirades of the past?
Harding clarified that as far as discussions regarding LGBTQ+ topics, the bill would specifically be in “situations where a teacher is encouraging or initiating conversations through a procedure the school is doing.” He said the bill would not bar discussions in a blanket method, but did say the parents of students should be made aware or “alerted” about the discussions.
“Get the parents involved, when you make a change to how the student is treated,” Harding said.
What the hell does that mean? Ask parents’ permission to teach history? Get a signature from a possibly-objecting parent before another student can be open about his or her sexual orientation or gender identity?
Harding and other GOPers claim they don’t want to silence, they just don’t want discussion “encouraged,” using that word several times. It’s clear there’s a fear that students who might be LGBTQ could feel comfortable and come out if anything “encouraging” is said by a teacher — like, “there’s nothing wrong with being gay or trans.”
The goal here is to keep kids in the closet, fearful, and to allow parents to push conversion therapy programs.
Everything Harding says seems to betray that. He told Florida Politics that the schools are “infringing on the fundamental right to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”
“What this bill allows for is the parents to be able to pursue the school to, No. 1, get information from the school of what is being talked to and told to the child and also damages relating to how that has affected that child,” he said.
And if the parents are anti-LGBTQ, pushing bogus science and extremist religious views and forcing conversion therapy, they should be the ultimate authority, not educators and science.
Any law that legislates what can be discussed about sexual orientation and gender identity — and bans certain discussion — makes LGBTQ people in second class citizens. It’s similar to laws by Republicans in states —- including Florida — seeking to ban the teaching of history of African-Americans in this country, like the 1619 Project, and the founding of this nation. It’s directly from the white supremacist playbook.
The Florida bill, if it becomes law, will increase shame and gay-bashing in schools, and allow for bullying of LGBTQ students. It will lead to more emotional trauma and suicides among LGBTQ youth, 40% of whom, according to one recent study, have considered suicide in a world that often treats them with contempt and targets them with bigotry.
This is taking us backwards as Republicans push voter suppression laws and focus on culture war issues in order to get get bigots out to vote in the 2022 mid-terms, while they fool the media into thinking they’re focusing on “education.” It’s flat out hatred, and needs to be called out as that.