“Don’t Say Gay.” Should Kids Be Exposed to LGBTQ+ Matters?

June 26, 2023 9:20PM PDT

“Protect Children. Support Parents.” It’s only four words, yet schools in Florida can now be sued for anything remotely related to the LGBTQ+ community.

All it takes is one parent. One complaint. In May 2023, Jenna Barbee was under state investigation for showing “Strange World,” a Disney-animated, PG movie emphasizing the importance of the environment. Barbee got parental consent and the gay couple was nowhere near relevant to the main idea, but no. It is still an indoctrination of political beliefs into the education system.1

The worst part? Florida is not the only one. Since 2021, 42 “Don’t Say Gay” bills have been introduced across 24 states.

The passing of Florida’s bill has sparked outrage and controversy across the nation, with 14 states following suit.2

Despite the fact that only 1 “Don’t Say Gay” Bill has passed, states still maintain absurd restrictions nonetheless.

Another wave of restrictions, termed “No Promo Homo” Laws, have been passed in 4 states (LA, MS, OK, TX) and are generally paired with abstinence-only sex education.3

For example, Texas’s Health and Safety Code mandates “emphasis…that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.”4

Now the real question arises: Should states ban the integration of LGBTQ+ matters in school curricula?

The answer is no.

Being queer is not a perverse or inappropriate topic of conversation. It is a natural part of human growth and self-discovery. If students are not educated about what the LGBTQ+ community is when they’re young, the process of discovery will be so much more mentally tolling when they’re older.

It is precisely the idea that being LGBTQ+ is taboo that causes fear of rejection, intolerance, and bullying. Students will learn about the community one way or another; it’s better it be in a professional, educational setting over random sources from social media.

Especially due to the ambiguity in many of these bills, even slightly restrictive bills can have massive repercussions. If kids are asked to draw their families, what do children with two dads draw? Should teachers restrict that?

Barbee resigned before the investigation reached completion because she felt it was a losing battle. Due to fear of prosecution and alienation, teachers and students aren’t even given a right to defend themselves through fair trials. DeSantis and politicians alike discuss the value of rights, freedom, and children. But whose rights are really protected when governments are spending all of their time and resources on an animated male relationship over actual crime?5

Objection 1: LGBTQ+ Matters are an Indoctrination of Politics Into Education.

It’s not the fault of students that politicians cannot fathom different types of love. Experts conclude that the politicization of one’s identity is both dehumanizing and stress-inducing. Especially at a young age, students are more fragile and vulnerable than ever. Feeling invalidated or just another point of debate can create long-lasting cycles of low confidence and shame.6

Furthermore, if it is okay to talk about climate change or the 4th of July, both of which are related to politics, what differentiates LGBTQ+ rights? The queer community is more than just a talk at the dinner table; real people are affected and neglected on a daily basis.

Objection 2: Kids Are “Too Young.”

Nobody is forcing students to be gay. Educating someone that the LGBTQ+ community exists and is accepted is very different from commanding them to be LGBTQ+.

The LGBTQ+ community applies to students of all ages. Whether kids are raised by queer parents/family members, came out early, or are in the process of questioning, it is extremely reductive to analogize LGBTQ+ education to other censored content like sex.

Additionally, students will still identify as part of the community regardless of when they learn about it. Barbee testified how her students were already discussing the issue before she showed them the movie.7 Furthermore, while there is no singular “gay gene,” studies find that a mix of various biological factors drive homosexuality which a little lecture won’t change.8

And lastly, even if it was an indoctrination, so what? Why is it bad for students to be gay? Or transgender? Or bisexual? If everyone is equal in America, why are we trying to constrain the number of people that identify as queer?

Objection 3: Parental Rights!

So what? Should parents have the right to decide if their kid learns math? Science? History? If every parent had their own curriculum, school would be largely infeasible.

The purpose of the public education system is to guide students by teaching them the necessary subjects for their future. Given the quantity of LGBTQ+ students who have historically been bullied due to “No Promo Homo” laws, it’s safe to say that education on gender and sexuality is pretty crucial.9

This is also embedded in the legal system through the parens patriae doctrine. The doctrine states that the State must act as a substitute parent to a child if their parents cannot properly raise them.10 If a parent cannot accept their child for who they are and instills feelings of shame and self-disgust, that is arguably an instance in which the doctrine should apply.

The doctrine is already pervasive in the education system, thereby giving officials the power to decide what is taught in schools. Even for controversial topics like sex education, parents who object must ultimately withdraw their students from public schools.11

Parental rights should not come at the expense of gay rights. It is not the right of the parent to decide how a child lives their entire life and it does not impact a parent who their child loves.

In the end, students learning about LGBTQ+ matters is inevitable regardless of who teaches it.

It’s better to foster a sense of inclusiveness and community over false information from friends and media, which is why no amount of “parental rights” should ever justify eradicating gay rights.

Works Cited:

1: https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/16/us/florida-teacher-lgbtq-disney-movie-investigation-tuesday/index.html

2: https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/which-states-are-considering-dont-say-gay-bills-and-where-they-stand/2023/02

3: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/gender-and-schooling/202203/how-don-t-say-gay-and-parental-rights-laws-can-harm-students

4: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/HS/htm/HS.163.htm

5: See 1

6: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-floridas-dont-say-gay-bill-is-so-dangerous

7: See 1

8: https://theconversation.com/stop-calling-it-a-choice-biological-factors-drive-homosexuality-122764

9: See 3

10: https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/juvenile-justice-philosophy-and-demise-parens-patriae-criminal

11. See 3


  • Shrey Raju

    Shrey Raju is a senior at Mission San Jose High School. With a passion for politics, philosophy, and LGBTQ+ activism, Shrey aims to effect change through his writing, keeping people informed on current issues and igniting conversations to inspire change. Outside of the organization, he is also an avid debater, researcher, and advocate at his local school.

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