News is bleak for LGBTQ+ folks across the nation, thanks largely to Republicans pushing hate on both the state and federal levels. We’ve seen an onslaught of anti-trans and anti-queer bills in recent years, ranging from sports to health care to books. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made a special name for himself by signing the infamous Don't Say Gay bill into law, which essentially seeks to keep public school staff (and students) in the closet. It’s already spawned copycat legislation.
How is the Don't Say Gay law (HB 1557) affecting queer parents in the state? According to a new report from the Williams Institute (a public policy research institute), more than 50% of LGBTQ+ parents who participated in the survey said they’re seriously considering moving out of Florida because they’re worried about how this law will affect their families. Seventeen percent said they’ve already started that process, like saving money, looking for new jobs, and checking out new homes. Others are considering pulling their children from public school, period.
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The sample size in this survey is admittedly small—just over 100 parents, coming in at 113 total. Parents were surveyed between June and September 2022.
Nearly 90% of parents said they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about the impacts of the Don’t Say Gay law on their families. Parents who were most concerned tended to have school-age children in public schools. Parents who expressed the least concern had children in private schools or who had not yet started school.
“Many are concerned that the bill will not only result in restricted or nonexistent education about the existence of diverse sexual and gender identities,” Abbie E. Goldberg, who serves as a psychology professor at Clark University, wrote in the report. “But it will result in a chilly or hostile school climate for LGBTQ educators, students, and families because it suggests that something is wrong with LGBTQ identities.”
Given the reported rates of depression, anxiety, bullying, and harassment against LGBTQ+ youth in schools as it is, this is no small fear. All youth deserve safe and inclusive spaces to learn and grow, and it’s patently unfair for vulnerable queer students to be ostracized and excluded based on their identity (or even assumed identity).
More than 20% of parents said they’d participated less in their community, workplace, or neighborhood in the last three to six months out of harassment concerns based on identity or expression. Interestingly, more than 20% said the so-called “parental rights” law got them to participate in community activism, including protesting the legislation, in recent months.
On the one hand, parents who have the means to move and give their children a better and safer life are of course valid in doing so. On the other, it’s scary to think of who might be left behind—folks who are low-income, or are caretakers for family members who can’t relocate, or who live with disabilities or health conditions that make it impossible to relocate. People live with so many nuances and that’s especially true when it comes to a family, not just one person.
It makes total sense why folks want to leave, but we can’t expect everyone to do so.
LGBTQ+ people will always be everywhere, no matter what laws conservatives toss at us. We need to keep mobilizing for folks who are left behind and move in solidarity with those who are able to stay and fight.