Well, Florida sickeningly did it. The “don’t say gay” bill has become law. This horrible legislation is based on ignorance, intolerance, and prejudice. What is worse is that it will increase the suffering of innocent LGBTQ youth and will lead to higher suicide rates among this already vulnerable population. Don’t believe me? Well, keep reading, and I’ll explain.
The Trevor Project is a national organization which provides support for LGBTQ young people in crisis who may be considering suicide. In 2021, they conducted a nationwide survey of close to 35,000 LGBTQ young people (aged 13 to 24), and here are some key numbers that they found. 42% of LGBTQ youth had seriously considered suicide in the past year, and for transgender/nonbinary youth, that number was 52%. 72% of LGBTQ young people reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the previous two weeks, and only one in three indicated that they lived in an LGBTQ affirming home. In the past year, 48% said that they wanted professional counseling but had not received it, and LGBTQ youth who had been subjected to conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide when compared to those who had not been subjected to the barbaric practice.
Think about those numbers. I mean really think about them. And here’s another one to consider: of minors who have experienced homelessness, around 40% identify as LGBTQ. The reason they’re homeless is often due to their LGBTQ status (like being kicked out because of it or running away due to their home environment being vicious and toxic). These statistics are scary and prove how far society still needs to go in terms of LGBTQ acceptance, understanding, and rights.
Now, let’s go back to this new law. It’s dangerous because it places serious limitations on schools’ abilities to discuss and deal with LGBTQ issues. The law says “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.” The latter part of this in particular is quite vague and could easily be abused so that older students will likely be affected as well. The result will be many teachers being afraid to discuss LGBTQ history and issues (to any age) which in turn will make LGBTQ students feel even more isolated, marginalized, and confused.
With faculty often being hesitant to discuss LGBTQ issues, another disturbing outcome of this law will undoubtedly be many students being less likely to come to teachers and counselors about LGBTQ related situations they are having to deal with in their personal lives. Why is this important you may wonder? Well, go back to the numbers above, in particular the part where only one in three youth say they live in an LGBTQ affirming home. The fact is: a significant number of minors have parents who are very prejudiced against the LGBTQ Community, and because of this, many students have been more likely to come out to a school counselor or teacher before they were ready to tell their prejudiced parents. With the “don’t say gay” law, this important outlet for many of these students will essentially be taken away.
The cold hard reality is that this law will worsen situations for many LGBTQ youth (especially their mental health) due to their becoming more isolated, marginalized, closeted, confused, and frightened as a result of the conditions created by the law. Instead of being able to seek out and receive support when they need it, too many are going to end up suffering in silence, afraid of anyone discovering their secret. This in turn will worsen their quality of life and thus lead to increased suicide rates.
So I hope you will join me in spreading the word in demanding this horrible law be struck down. I also plead with you to speak out against other similar bills and laws in other states because the well-being of innocent LGBTQ youth (for some, even their lives) are at stake.