OPINION: Florida Gov. DeSantis passes ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, but who asked?


Kris Hall

(From left to right) Pride Center coordinator Tranh Pham (they/them), sociology major Ky Hervey (she/her), undeclared major Jamie Nielsen (they/he) and international relations major Emilie Jocson (she/they) denounce the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, in the Pride Center on April 6.

Kris Hall and Hannah Asuncion

As children, we learned from our parents and from our schools what the world is really like. Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will hide from children the existence of the LGBTQ+ community, a community they should know is absolutely OK for them to be a part of.

We waited with bated breath for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to deny the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. DeSantis signed the bill into law on Monday, prohibiting public schools from discussing any LGBTQ+ topics.

Emilie Jocson, whose pronouns are she/they, is an international relations student from the Philippines. They work at the Pride Center at Sacramento State and said they despise the Florida bill.

Emilie Jocson (she/they) second year international relations major dissects the problems with Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the University Union on April 6. “Just being unable to even learn a little bit about the LGBT community or explore their identity really screws them up,” Jocson said. (Kris Hall)

Jocson said the bill frustrates them because of the way that it teaches kids to address sexual orientation and gender expression with dishonesty and denial. If a child is starting to wonder about their identity, they don’t have an environment where they can discover the truth in themselves.

“[Florida is] essentially teaching these kids to lie to themselves in a way they aren’t able to say [gay] and [the bill] doesn’t really give them a sort of safe space to explore themselves,” Jocson said.

Florida came out of nowhere with this bill, which is officially called the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which allows parents to sue schools when teachers discuss LGBTQ+ topics in class. The bill primarily focuses on the rights of parents to decide what school districts can talk to children about and the use of binary gendered language.

The bill makes children a tool for homophobic parents to perpetuate the erasure of the LGBTQ+ community and for homophobic Americans to continue creating generations of repressed LGBTQ+ folks to remain in the closet.

The bill sets a precedent for Florida and other states to expand on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. The Texas lieutenant gov. Dan Patrick has already expressed interest in creating a Texas version of the bill.

Alabama and Tennessee are also still trying to mimic an Arizona bill that limited medical care for transgender youths which was shot down by the Supreme Court.

Jocson said they are also concerned about the precedent that the bill sets for the future of the state and the country.

“Sure it’s K-3 now, but then eventually what if it hits K-12?,” they said. They also expressed worry about what might happen to Florida students who must suppress their identity throughout the most formative years of their lives.

“And then you come into college and you don’t know what gay and bisexual are and you’re having a panic attack at the dorms because you suddenly find out you like girls.”

Jocson made the point that as other states start to support Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, they will become emboldened to enact their own bills.

“It becomes extremely scary,” Jocson said. “Once a state implements it, other states can get away with it.”

In no way whatsoever is there anything ‘good’ or ‘right’ about this bill. It just reinforces traditional cisgender and heterosexual values, which negates the momentum that the LGBTQ+ community has been building on for decades.

Cisgender and heterosexual norms still dominate American communities. Places like the Pride Center are examples of the front lines challenging those norms so that the LGBTQ community can be respected in the same regard as the contemporary heterosexual and cisgender norms.

Sure, critics call it the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, but this ignores all of the newer, more inclusive terms like queer, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, genderfluid, two-spirit, asexual, pansexual, etc; people who consider those terms important in self identifying will have to wait until their parents will them to think for themselves and can no longer control how they can express themselves.

Gay slurs are common in America among adults in our communities and by children who often don’t know any better. Without educating children about what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, even those who don’t identify with the community will be at a loss.

No one will teach them about the strengths of inclusion, the honor and courage it often takes to come out and what those who came before had to do in order for people today to have the conversations to change that so closets can start to disappear.

LGBTQ+ youth and employees need to be able to express and advocate for themselves and allies need to be able to speak in favor of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s not meant to be invasive,” Jocson said. “But rather you eventually just have to face the truth that people like this exist and that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and they will continue to exist no matter how hard you try to suppress it.”

To combat the oppressive intentions of the bill, people need to speak in direct defiance of the bill.

Shout gay from every rooftop.

DeSantis is making the argument that the open discussion of sexuality and gender identity is indoctrination, and uses such phrases as ‘injecting transgenderism’ when defending the bill he signed.

DeSantis is wrong; children need a safe place to express themselves without concern that the way they feel is wrong. School is supposed to be that safe place.

Jocson related this to the Pride Center at Sac State and how important places like it are to the LGBTQ+ community.

“That’s the whole thing about Pride Centers, they’re meant to be a safe space and a place where you can freely express yourself and talk about your identity and with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, you might as well just pave over the Pride Center,” Jocson said.“[The Florida bill] makes the safe space into an unsafe space because if the law does pass [in Texas], then Pride Centers could be subject to the law.”

As children learn more about themselves, they might discover things about their own identity that may not fit DeSantis’ idea of what is acceptable for a child to feel. Children need to know that it is completely natural and okay for them to feel any way they do about themselves.

Being educated in an environment where other parents can sue the school because a teacher said the word ‘gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual’ or any other common terms for gender or sexual identities is extremely offensive to those who do identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

We are in a progressive time in the United States where we can look at our society and figure out what we can do to deconstruct gender, race and centuries of wrongdoing our country has caused that created the current identity hierarchy that discriminates against so many in our messy society.

This bill and others that may come from it is a step in the opposite direction and ignores the boils on the face of the United States. andJocson said they are worried about the way that this bill might reverse the trajectory of how America treats the LGBTQ+ community.

“Of course, it affects the students because it just forces them back into hiding; back in the closet,” Jocson said. “ Suddenly it’s Sunday, it’s church again and I have to cross my legs and pretend to be a good Christian girl.”

The United States is supposed to make its citizens free to express themselves and feel welcome to follow their desires, but bills like this in Florida that prohibit speech that could heal the illness in this country is a direct violation of the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Without this bill, children will be safer and more prepared for their life ahead with the freedom to express themselves as they are.

Shout gay from the rooftops to protest the bill in Florida. Then, when the bill is repealed, we can sing.