Say Gay, Say Trans, Save Lives


Cate Bouvet

Students hold pride flags as they share about queer issues during the walkout organized by the Gay Straight Alliance on April 1.

Cate Bouvet, Reporter

On March 28, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed House Bill 1557, commonly referred to as the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill.’ The law gives parents the power to sue school districts for discussing gender and sexuality in ways that they deem are not developmentally appropriate. It will go into effect on July 1 in Florida. The law’s ambiguous wording will have life-threatening consequences for LGBTQ+ youth. According to PBS News hour, over 20 states have introduced ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws this year. 

The most controversial section in the law dictates that “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.”

This part of the law will have upsetting consequences on all youth. It aims to dictate what is discussed in schools at the expense of students’ education and lives. 

The Trevor Project reported that 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including over half of transgender and non-binary youth polled. According to NPR, the law allows parents to deny mental health services to their children, which would be a detrimental step backward in supporting the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth. Without mental health resources and acceptance at school, LGBTQ+ youth will die at the expense of this law. 

To exclude and ignore LGBTQ+ youth and pretend their identities do not exist within the classroom walls will not lead to fewer LGBTQ+ youth, which seems to be the goal of the law. However, the law will lead to students feeling alone and not represented in the place where they spend most of their time. Schools should be inclusive, yet the law spreads a message that at school, queer students need to be silent about themselves and hide their identity. 

According to NPR, the law also requires parents to be the first notified of any health or support services offered to their kids in schools and allows them to deny those services on behalf of their children. These extreme requirements for parental disclosure will lead students to feel uncomfortable with counselors, destroying a vital resource for students who need help. In the past year, the Trevor Project found in a nationwide survey of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-24 that nearly half of LGBTQ+ youth have wanted counseling from a mental health professional but did not receive it. 

Parents do not always know what is best for their children when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. Frequently, LGBTQ+ youth face homelessness when their parents do not accept them. The True Colors Fund found that out of the 1.6 million homeless youth each year, 40 percent of them identify as LGBTQ+. However, LGBTQ+ youth represent 7 percent of the total youth population. Acceptance in the classroom is important, especially when it is the only safe resource for LGBTQ+ youth whose families are not accepting. 

Forcing teachers to interpret what is ‘developmentally appropriate’ for students is vague and will make teachers uneasy about reaching out and supporting LGBTQ+ students. Supporters of the law have used undefined and vague language purposely. They intend to stop discussions of all LGBTQ+ topics by threatening the prospect of parents suing school districts, which would affect both the resources school districts have and teachers’ employment. Teachers often play a vital role in helping students, but if they are threatened to be sued or to lose their job for any classroom discussions of sexual orientation or gender, an important outlet for teens is lost. 

If teachers are uncertain about their curriculum and what falls under the laws of undefined language like “developmentally appropriate,” “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” students’ education will suffer. A lack of a strong health curriculum on the safety precautions for non-heterosexual sex at any school will only put students’ health in danger and cause irreparable damage. 

Similar legislation to ban these discussions in more than a dozen other states, including Texas, has been promised. When put into place, the vague parental notification requirements could require teachers to tell LGBTQ+ students’ legal guardians about the student’s sexual orientation or gender identity without students’ knowledge or consent, further endangering the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. 

Including LGBTQ+ topics in health curriculums and classroom discussions is vital for protecting the health, safety, and feeling of belonging of students. School-provided resources and safe and trustworthy classrooms save LGBTQ+ lives, but this law endangers them. Hundreds of schools have protested the law by organizing walkouts. Students must take action and show lawmakers like DeSantis that anti-LGBTQ+ laws are unacceptable and unwelcome in schools. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues and is part of the LGBTQ+ community, consider reaching out to 1-866-488-7386 to speak with a counselor from the Trevor Project.