by Camil Piperni
On March 28 of this year, the Florida governor passed a bill that will ban discussion about LGBTQ+ content in schools starting in early July. “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,” the bill says.
The state representative who proposed the bill, Joseph Harding, also said children ages “six, were what he viewed as qualifying for the primary grade levels. The bill, if passed, would bar discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The idea that being queer (a label that by definition includes every person who doesn’t identify as cisgender or heterosexual) is something that is inherently sexual and should be kept from children is something you don’t need to look far to find. It’s behind the words of every parent who brings up the topic of keeping children from queer people. It’s implied in the canceling of cartoons that feature queer characters. One of Disney’s most popular cartoons, The Owl House, was never renewed for a full third season - the news announced directly after the main character, a 14-year old bisexual girl named Luz, confesses to her crush that she likes her.
The backlash was as expected: parents and adults began demanding the show’s removal, citing Luz and Amity’s relationship as inappropriate and overly sexual. The behavior they’re talking about is less overt and explicit than the vast majority of Disney shows that feature straight characters and straight relationships. The most “explicit” moment in the show, according to their terms, is an awkward kiss on the cheek.
This isn’t new. The term “think of the children!” is used so often when referring to queer education - and it implies that even the concept is explicit enough to be kept away. This logic is even seen at a conference held at a school where the bill was signed - kids hold up a poster saying Protect Children, Support Parents. What’s not kept away from children is media with these same actions, these same portrayals and demonstrations of love like the Owl House’s kiss scene - when the subjects are straight.
The bill uses terms that demonstrate a clear perspective on LGBTQ+ inclusive teaching. The word appropriate suggests this education is by nature inappropriate to hear - specifically for the suggested age group of kids “six, seven, eight to 11-years old.”
This is what’s banned as the bill is passed: educating kids about how to respect themselves as queer youth, and helping kids understand and respect queer people they know and will know throughout their lives. It's often in elementary school and middle school (the schools that will be affected by the ban) where kids begin to come to terms with who they are and who they’re attracted to. It’s also one of the times where kids are still young and can be affected by bullying, self-hate and isolation. For instance, isolation caused by a lack of information that they can use to understand they aren’t alone. Or, self-hate because the bill creates a clear implication that being queer is something adult and explicit - and that message can be easily internalized.
This bill is disguised as something to protect young students from learning about things that aren’t “developmentally appropriate”, but in reality it will hurt kids the most. Not only might they face bullying and alienation from their peers, but they’ll face the same things from the government and their teachers.
The bill doesn’t protect children and support parents - it has the potential to break children down, and instead prioritizes homophobes.