When Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law, banning public school teachers from kindergarten through third grade from holding classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, most progressives saw it as an attack on LGBT rights. Overnight, the inflammatory and misleading moniker “Don’t Say Gay” was applied to the new law, setting off alarms across the country.
New York City mayor Eric Adams launched a digital campaign in five Florida markets to condemn the law, while the ACLU began its own campaign: “Just Say ‘No’ to ‘Don’t Say Gay.’” The ACLU suggested that the Florida law could keep classic authors like Langston Hughes and American poet Walt Whitman out of school libraries. Former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said that the law would result in suicides of young LGBT people. NPR’s coverage of the story skirted objectivity when it highlighted the view that the law would hurt LGBT children, despite DeSantis’s claim that the law would merely safeguard toddlers from a “woke gender ideology.” Progressives are also fixating on what Florida state representative Joe Harding, the House bill’s sponsor, was quoted as saying on February 17: that classroom instruction on such topics could be prohibited beyond third grade if it was determined not to be “age or developmentally appropriate.”
There’s much to unpack here, namely: Are first- and second-graders liable to commit suicide because their local public school will not support their emerging gender identity? On the contrary, the notion that third-graders can be aware of themselves as “trans” is a fantasy produced by the woke narrative industry. There likely isn’t a third-grader in the world who would find it necessary to jump from a tall building because his trans identity (and where would he have gotten this notion, anyway, at such a tender age?) is not taken seriously at school. What Buttigieg and others are really arguing for is preparatory training for schoolchildren on these issues, so that, if the kids eventually come out as LGB (but more likely trans), they will have already been “primed” in these matters.
The Wall Street Journal correctly observed that reaction to the bill in many quarters, both for and against, is overwrought. The bill’s opponents aren’t part of a covert operation literally to seduce young school children into sex. The “grooming” at issue here would be better termed “woke gender indoctrination.” Meantime, the White House has joined the hysteria on the other side, referring to the bill as “cruel.” As White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “It is certainly something that is not helping, you know, young people who are members of the LGBTQI+ community who are already vulnerable, already being bullied.”
There appears to be universal consensus on the part of progressives to ignore the fact that the law refers only to young children slightly past toddler age and not “youth” maturing into sexual awareness. CNN, for example, weighed in by quoting radical-feminist gender theorist Judith Butler. “Parents and communities want to exercise forms of censorship to stop their children from knowing about how the world is being organized and how different people are living their lives,” Butler said. She seems to be suggesting that parents need to give up any attempts to control what their young children are exposed to.
The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide-prevention crisis center for gay and lesbian youth, responded to the Florida law by citing irrelevant studies showing that gay and lesbian youth face higher health and suicide risks than “their cisgender or straight peers.” But like the Human Rights Campaign, President Biden, Pete Buttigieg, the Disney Corporation, and many others, the Trevor Project is conflating “youth” with children under ten when it comes to trans issues. (Note, too, the Trevor Project’s use of the word “cisgender”—a word invented by the trans lobby as a way to reshape society by changing how we speak.) More troubling, however, is the Trevor Project’s absurd contention that the signing of the bill into law “erases LGBTQ identity, history, and culture—as well as LGBTQ students themselves.”
The Florida law has plenty of company nationwide. At least 150 bills that the Left has labeled “anti-LGBT” are being considered around the country. Take a closer look at these bills, and you discover that none has anything to do with the “LGB” part of the acronym—that is, the civil rights of consenting adults based on sexual orientation. Rather, they touch on transgender issues like “gender-affirming” care or biological males taking part in women’s sports.
I have not been surprised by the reactions from many in the LGBT community over these laws. Over the years, I have seen the gay movement take many shapes, beginning in 1969 when, living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I joined the Boston Gay Liberation Front (GLF) while writing for the gay underground press. When the mainstream gay and lesbian movement took shape, the emphasis was on basic civil rights.
Today’s LGBTQ movement, like the old GLF, has grown into a left-wing monolith where being “gay” is but a microscopic concern. This became apparent with the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, after which the movement seemed to have nowhere to go except in support of the trans movement. Many lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) groups are fighting today against the merging of trans issues with those involving sexual orientation, since the two causes lumped together have proved a volatile mix. While more tolerant views on sexual orientation have gone mainstream in the United States, the trans issue has been highly divisive, especially when it comes to biological men competing in women’s sports—and to indoctrinating young children in trans ideology.
The Florida law is not about homophobia or transphobia; it’s about not subjecting young children to public school instruction on topics traditionally left to families, at least before a child reaches a certain level of maturity. To say that public schools have no business teaching children under age ten about sex should not be controversial. And that is what the Florida law says.
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