#DontSayGay is a turning point

If you don’t know why, you have not been listening.

The hardest part of today was people claiming we are making a big deal of Florida’s #DontSayGay / #HB1557 to fuel the fire of the “culture war” and belittle Republicans’ legitimate concerns for their children’s well-being.

Monday and Tuesday on the Florida State Senate were heartbreaking and I can say, without hype or playing in the hands of any group, that it robbed us of the dignity and equality conferred to us by the Declaration of Human Rights. It robbed us of the dignity which the previous generation had ripped from the Supreme Court’s throat. Over the weekend, Cruella Pushaw, press secretary for DeSantis, accused of “grooming” our own children. That she dares say something like this out loud and get away with it is in 2022 in the United States is repugnant. This is nothing less than hate speech. Comparing LGBTQ+ people to pedophiles is an incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence against a minority which should be protected.

Every single arguments of people supporting or minimizing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has been proven wrong. Not a single teacher in Florida has been caught teaching inappropriate content on gay or trans people to kids aged 4 to 8. It is a fact. The bill is superfluous as safeguards are already in place and if inappropriate content were taught parents would have plenty of existing recourse. It is also a fact. The bill is impossible to implement without recording every classroom with a bodycam. As such will have the intended chilling effect on teachers threatened by litigation. Again, a fact. It is only intended to give a shot to Ron DeSantis in the Presidential primaries and not to protect children. A fact. Finally, it is going to lead to an avalanche of similar bills in the US — some even worse like #HB800 in Tennessee — which we will have to fight one by one. Another fact.

A cursory reading of the bill or listening to the Senate’s debate make these points obvious. If you are gay, you are attentive. This is how we managed to survive for centuries. You read the bill people call “Don’t Say Gay”. You take 5 minutes out of your gym routine and you read the damn bill. Period.

They are also wrong when they claim that kids that age should not know about gay people or trans individuals. That it is too early. Florida Senator Shevrin Jones himself, who cried during the debate begging his republican colleagues to “do no harm”, wrote in 2018 when he came out “I knew I was gay back in kindergarten. I knew it”. I had the same experience. Many of us did. So what does too early means in this context? It is not about sex, it is not about genitals or oral sex for chrissake, it is about an age-appropriate reality. My sons have known about gay, lesbian and trans people for 3 years and are not traumatized, perverted or in the process of transitioning. You cannot “groom” people into gayness or transition. It just does not happen. Adult discomfort or disgust does not make a topic “age-inappropriate”. Prejudice and suspicions are not a basis to legislate.

The result of this bill is that teachers will simply avoid mentioning #LGBTQ+ issues whether it is Harvey Milk or a simple student’s family tree. And it is a tragedy because a simple mention of human diversity in sexual orientation or gender identity in my childhood and that of most of us would have made a huge difference.

The last argument I heard today is that we are asking too much and are just bolstering the votes for Trump. But why should always be the ones tiptoeing around the families that want us to disappear so they don’t have to acknowledge reality to their children. These are our schools. We are paying for them. Don’t they have Southern Baptist churches in Ocala Fl Senator Dennis Baxley can send his grandkids to if he is so terrified nefarious teachers are grooming his sacro-saint boys to become girls?

We contributed to a corporate pushback against this bill, wrote to Senators, begged companies to take a stance and monitored the debate on the Senate Floor because there is not a single doubt this bill is unjustified, hurtful and a political manipulation. “A solution in search of a problem”, as many described it. Perhaps even more tragic, it is a step backward for our community from light into shame.

If you are gay, you ought to know better…I have heard the Republican on the Senate floor this week: they hate and fear trans people. I heard the illiterate and confused Senator Ileana Garcia claim that trans people either die of suicide or cancer. And nobody said anything to her. She wasn’t booed — she sat right back satisfied with her rant. They want trans kids to just disappear. They want them to “get over it” — as Baxley told us on the floor. I quote trans kids need to “get over wanting to be celebrities”. Try walking in the shoes of trans kids or their parents for one day in a Florida public school system Baxley! Try and call us back.

The way we were treated by Disney this week is immoral- you cannot take our money, use our talent and capital and tell us to fend for ourselves when our human rights are violated. Where was Office Depot? where were the Miami Dolphins that claimed to love us this last pride? and the many Miami-based cruise companies which we financially subsidized during the COVID crisis? where was G4S / Allied International which was securing Pulse during the Orlando shooting?

As #LarryKramer used to say: “We are not crumbs! We should not accept crumbs! We must not accept crumbs! and we must stop acting like crumbs.”

Governor Ron DeSantis and Governor Greg Abbott have declared war against LGBTQ+ people in the past few weeks and this is one we will win. Senator Burgess, Senator Baxley and State Senator Manny Diaz Jr. are going to regret hustling for Governor Ron DeSantis. We defeated smarter politicians before. We can do it again. But we must read the damn bill and get enraged.



Fabrice is on the Board of Outright Action International. Previously he was an officer at the UN Human Rights Office and World Bank

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Fabrice Houdart

Fabrice is on the Board of Outright Action International. Previously he was an officer at the UN Human Rights Office and World Bank