Opinion: “Don’t Say Gay” bill is a ridiculous attempt by Florida governor

Lily Rulnick, Reporter

The “Parental Rights in Education” bill, more popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on March 28. The bill, which prohibits the education of sexual orientation or anything related to LGBTQIA+ matters, is a huge step backwards for our nation.

Despite what DeSantis may think, this bill is not going to stop people from identifying with the LGBTQIA+ community, but it will encourage ignorance, hatred and division.

Lines 97-101 of the bill read, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards [for grades 4-12].” 

If the reasoning behind students not receiving education on these matters is because the topics are deemed inappropriate according to “state standards,” Florida should focus on changing its standards, not the law. 

Also, “appropriate” is incredibly ambiguous and implies that people who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community are taboo. Nothing concerning how people identify has the ability to be inappropriate, it’s just who they are.

Not only is this law absolutely ridiculous, but it is also incredibly dangerous. In an interview with “Healthline,” Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Jason Nagata explained that prejudiced laws like this have the ability to “worsen mental health and suicide rates among LGBTQ[IA+] people.” 

By putting the idea in children’s head that identifying with the LGBTQIA+ community is wrong, it invalidates their identities. It doesn’t necessarily change how they identify, but it can make them believe something is wrong with them, which is certainly not the case.

The bill is even more harmful because it targets children specifically. During a time of growth when children are already trying to figure out their identity, having one’s identity and feelings politicized can be incredibly detrimental to a child’s mental health and development.

“Stressed children can withdraw from normal activities, have difficulty concentrating, have poorer academic performance, and resort to behaviors present at a younger age,” Nagata said. “Stressed teens are more susceptible to substance use and suicide.”

It also requires schools to notify parents if their children seek counseling regarding their sexual identity. In many cases, students seek help from counselors because it would be unsafe for them to discuss their identities with their parents. With counselors no longer available as a resource, students will be discouraged from asking for help when they need it, which can be life-threatening.

Just because Florida students won’t learn or talk about LGBTQIA+ matters doesn’t mean it won’t prevent them from identifying with that community. All this bill is doing is encourage hatred and division, which is something that our politicians should be working against, not for.