All of this (according to conservatives) comes down to parental rights. The idea is that parents will be allowed to decide when they want their children to learn about LGBTQ+ issues instead of having the school talk about them at an age that may be too early or confusing. Mind you, there are undoubtedly LGBTQ+ children (and teachers, custodians, principals, parents, and so on) in every school in Florida right now.
They might not be “out,” they might not have the language yet, but they’re there. The only thing that comes from not talking about LGBTQ+ identity is that people lack knowledge, and down the road, may live with internalized queerphobia and feelings of confusion and self-hate. It doesn’t stop anyone from being queer to simply be silent about it.
"We will continue to recognize that in the state of Florida, parents have a fundamental role in the education, health care, and well-being of their children,” DeSantis said on Monday, per CNN. “We will not move from that.” Again, “parental rights” here is simply code for wanting to control and stomp out marginalized folks and keep kids as sheltered as possible—it’s the same logic that’s operating when conservatives want to pull or ban books from classrooms and libraries because of parental “rights.”
In fact, Republicans would love nothing more than for queer people to go silent, so again, not surprising DeSantis finally signed this hateful legislation into law. While the Don’t Say Gay bill has attracted considerably more mainstream media outcry than other anti-LGBTQ+ measures, like the anti-trans efforts to keep trans girls out of girls’ sports, it all comes from the same place: Stomp out LGBTQ+ people as much as possible. It’s sick, it’s hateful, and there’s no justification for it, period.
As you might remember, Christina Pushaw, who serves as press secretary for DeSantis, recently went viral for taking to Twitter to suggest that anyone who opposes the Don’t Say Gay bill is actually a predator and grooming. Grooming is a dark, dark word when it comes to LGBTQ+ history, as many queer elders will almost certainly recall the days when gays and lesbians, for example, were separated from their children or not allowed to work with kids because of hysterical accusations that they would “groom” youth and “turn” them queer.
The messaging is intentional, just as it is when conservatives suggest that trans women going to women’s bathrooms will result in them being assaulted, or that trans girls are actually not girls at all and they’re trying to get into the locker room to be perverts. It’s dehumanizing and intentionally vilifies people who are already marginalized and especially vulnerable to violence.
Lastly, the law also mandates that school districts essentially “out” students to their parents or guardians, which could result in violence at home. The bill directs districts to create procedures for “notifying a student's parent if there is a change in the student's services or monitoring related to the student's mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being," which is basically a coded way of referring to students talking to, say, a trusted teacher, coach, or counselor about being LGBTQ+ or questioning.
Again, LGBTQ+ youth are already marginalized. They already face higher rates of bullying, depression, and anxiety. Now they’ll likely be afraid to talk to otherwise trusted adults in their lives because being outed at home could result in becoming homeless or abused. Again: The cruelty is the point.
As of now, the bill is set to take effect in July.