May 24th, 2022, 08:00 AM

'Don't Say Gay,' How Educational Censorship Will Harm America

By Molly Wilhelm
Image Credit: Unsplash / Christian Lue
Numerous states follow Florida in proposing devastating anti-LGBTQ legislation.

At least a dozen states have proposed similar legislation to Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill, according to NPR. These bills infringe upon the rights of LGBTQ individuals and ignore essential educational principles of open discussion and diversity of thought.  

The Florida law, often referred to as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by policy opposers, prevents the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in the classroom before the third grade. For students above the third grade, the Florida bill outlines that classroom education regarding topics of gender identity and sexual orientation must be “age-appropriate,” a term left relatively undefined according to The Washington Post. If this new policy is breached, parents are able to sue the school district, according to NPR

“We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum,” Gov. DeSantis said, according to a clip from a news conference shared on Twitter by CNN.  

Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and Iowa are among the states proposing bills similar to the one originally signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. A comparison between the differing bills can be found on the Forbes website. All the proposed bills seek to limit or ban discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation at least at the primary educational level, according to NPR.  

Students in primary school are typically between the ages of six and 11 years, according to UNICEF. This raises concerns when acknowledging that  38% of gay men, 23% percent of lesbian women, and 18% of bisexual adults said they began to recognize that they were not heterosexual before the age of ten, according to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013.  

73% of transgender women and 78% of transgender men experienced gender dysphoria, or the strong desire to be of another gender, for the first time by the age of seven years old, according to a study published by Cedars Sinai

Image Credit: Unsplash / Cecilie Johnsen

LGBTQ students will be prevented from discussing their own identities throughout some of their most formative years. The censorship promoted by this bill could have devastating effects on the health of LGBTQ youth. “Personal, family, and social acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity affects the mental health and personal safety of LGBT individuals,” according to Mental Health America.  

Pediatric psychologists warn against the damaging effects of these bills, according to The Guardian. Censorship laws similar to that proposed in Florida could increase stigmatization of and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  

These anti-LGBTQ educational policies are merely one segment of a much larger-scale anti-LGBTQ legislative wave. A total of 238 bills aimed at limiting the rights of LGBTQ individuals have been proposed at the state level this year alone in the United States, according to NBC News. A broader shift towards increased classroom censorship is occurring in the United States; a trend primed by the anti-Critical Race Theory movement, according to The Guardian.  

Image Credit: Unsplash / Kenny Eliason

Excessive censorship in public schools prevents the desired outcomes of American education. Knowledge about global communities and the ‘diverse cultural heritage’ within America is encouraged by the United States National Education Goals. Censoring students from discussing diversified identities goes against this core educational ambition in the United States.  

With a profuse number of states following in Florida’s footsteps, we must act immediately. You can sign the petition created by the Humans Rights Campaign, voice your concerns to your elected state officials, vote in the upcoming midterm elections, and donate to LGBTQ advocacy groups like Equality Florida