We know Republicans are working hard to demonize and isolate LGBTQ+ people as we build up to midterm elections. In a better world, conservatives would campaign on action items that actually help people, like COVID-19 relief, student debt forgiveness, and of course, affordable and accessible health care for all. But because we’re talking about Republicans here, we’re seeing a lot of major players try to get elected by riling up their voter base and spreading hateful rhetoric about queer folks of all ages—including youth.
We’ve seen the Don't Say Gay bills, unfortunately, catch steam in conservative circles. In fact, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis already signed one discriminatory bill into law. Following in the same line, as covered by the Tallahassee Democrat, one school board in Florida recently approved guidelines that would essentially permit school administrators to “out” trans and non-binary youth to not only their parents (a potentially dangerous situation in itself) but to the parents of their peers. In short: This is not good.
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As reported by LGBTQ Nation, the Leon County School Board recently developed a guide for teachers when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ students. Overall, this is a good thing. Sadly, some provisions in the document itself are not good. In fact, they could open already vulnerable youth up to more danger.
The document directs the school to notify parents or guardians if a student who is “open about their gender identity” attends an overnight school trip or is a member of their student’s physical education class. The provision allows the parents of cis children to request “reasonable” accommodations.
First, it’s decidedly vague language. Cis people are nearly always “open about their gender identity.” For trans students, what does this mean? Be “open” to whom? When? To what degree? What are these accommodations for cis youth? The document specifies that trans youth may use the locker rooms and bathrooms that align with their gender identity (good!) but the accommodations and outing are… very bad.
No matter how those questions are answered, a guideline like this basically “outs” trans youth to a ton of people who don’t need to know their personal information. This is exactly the sort of thing that can lead to trans youth being bullied or excluded. It can also lead to hysteria and paranoia for folks who are feeding into right-wing hysteria. Trans people are not inherently more dangerous or predatory than anyone else. Cis people do not need warnings or disclaimers that trans folks will be present.
There’s also the reality that a policy like this might not be applied equally. For example, a Black trans youth, who is already more likely to be suspended or kicked out of school, might face additional scrutiny from teachers or parents than a white trans youth. A disabled nonbinary youth might have barriers to attending an overnight field trip in terms of access. Adding on parents trying to figure out who is not cisgender, for example, can just add to the stress.
At the end of the day, all people—including youth—deserve privacy and dignity. While this guideline passed in a 4-0 vote, it will be up for review in six months. And in the meantime, we can’t stop fighting for trans youth everywhere.