Trans, gay teens on how ‘don’t say gay’ law and Texas order harm LGBTQ kids
Florida's new law passed on March 8
⭐️HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW⭐️
- Some Canadian students are protesting actions in the U.S. they see as anti-LGBTQ.
- This includes a new ‘don’t say gay’ law passed in Florida.
- It also includes an order in Texas against gender-affirming care for transgender kids.
- Teens say the two laws may cause long-term damage for LGBTQ youth.
- Read on to hear what they had to say. ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️
This week, some students in Canada walked out of school to protest two recent events in the United States that they say are causing harm to LGBTQ youth.
In Florida, a bill passed on Tuesday that will prevent kids in Grade 3 and younger from discussing gender identity and sexuality in class.
Meanwhile, on Feb. 22, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state officials to start investigating parents who seek gender-affirming care for their transgender children as a form of child abuse.
“I wanted to make sure it was known to these kids, that there are people who understand what they’re going through and they’re not just going to sit and watch them get bullied.” - Will Rollo, 16
CBC Kids News asked two LGBTQ teens to share their thoughts on what’s been happening and what they’re doing to tackle it.
First, let’s get a sense of what’s happening in the U.S. that is causing the protests and iron out some important definitions.
Florida’s new law
Florida’s new law, which comes into effect in July, has been called the “don’t say gay” bill by people who oppose it. Officially, it is called the Parental Rights in Education Bill.
The law prevents public school teachers of kindergarten to Grade 3 students from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation in their classrooms.
The law also prohibits teaching “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students,” which some say could be interpreted to apply to students far older than the third grade.
Some Republican politicians in the U.S. say the bill is meant to prevent schools from promoting ideologies — or a set of beliefs — that they see as inappropriate to young students.
Republican state Sen. Danny Burgess said that Florida should “trust the child’s parents” to have these types of discussions and that the bill gives parents, rather than schools, the authority to do that.
The Texas order
On Feb. 22, the Texas governor ordered officials to consider reports of gender-affirming care for transgender kids as child abuse.
Abbott's order goes against the stance taken by the nation's largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which view gender-affirming care as beneficial and effective.
On March 2, U.S. President Joe Biden denounced Abbott's directive as a “cynical and dangerous campaign targeting transgender children and their parents.”
Currently, it’s unclear how the order will hold up in court, since it was not passed as law, but the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is already investigating several parents of transgender youth.
Teens say these changes are damaging
Will Rollo, 16, led more than 100 students to walk out of class at his school in London, Ontario, on March 3 to protest the new rules in Florida and Texas.
Will, who said he was bullied “relentlessly” as a kid for his identity — and was even assaulted for being transgender — said he doesn’t want LGBTQ kids in the U.S. to feel alone.
Even if Canadians aren’t being directly affected by what’s happening in the U.S., he told CBC Kids News that standing up is his responsibility as part of the LGBTQ community.
“I wanted to make sure it was known to these kids that there are people who understand what they’re going through and they’re not just going to sit and watch them get bullied.”
Brody Neville, a 12-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, agreed.
Brody, who lost nearly all of his friends when he came out as gay last year, said that the new laws could be harmful for gay and trans kids just looking for acceptance.
“It could make them really sad that they can’t be themselves, and some people, homophobic people, might even be happy.”
He also said that discussing LGBTQ lifestyles at a young age would have had a positive impact on him.
He said it could benefit kids in the U.S., too.
“I feel like it would help them come out and help them feel supported. It could also make them feel brave.”
Kids need access to safe information
Will said he sees the Florida bill, in particular, as hypocritical.
He said that the bill claims to prevent discussions around gender identity and sexuality, but it’s actually only preventing discussion around genders and sexualities that fall outside the norm.
That’s because, he said, what’s normal is already woven into the curriculum, through books and pictures that depict mommies with daddies, girls in dresses and boys in blue, for example.
“The idea that we can avoid gender or sexuality until age nine is preposterous. Me, personally, and everyone I know have been fed cisgender, heterosexual media since we were born.”
Will said that the new law will ensure that kids who don’t see themselves as cisgender and heterosexual will feel lost and alienated and will simply delay their journey of self-discovery.
“We need it in the classroom, because we will go looking for it in other places and it will just breed more problems. All this bill is doing is preventing students from getting that info in a safe, healthy and monitored way.”
Similarly, Will said that the order from the governor of Texas will simply delay transgender teens from getting the care they need and will signal to transgender kids that who they are is wrong.
What should Canada do?
Will said he wants Canada’s political leaders to stand with the LGBTQ community and take action to help stop what’s happening.
“Our minister of education and Justin Trudeau should officially denounce these bills and express their support for LGBTQ+ communities in the U.S.”
CBC Kids News reached out to the federal government for a response.
Johise Namwira, a spokesperson for the minister for women and gender equality and youth, said the office advocates internationally for LGBTQ communities and that, “the stigma that fuels homophobia, transphobia and biphobia must be eliminated.”
Brody also suggested that sending support could really help the kids in need.
“We could create more awareness of what’s happening. Maybe we could also all send encouraging tweets or posts on social media about the kids who might be affected by this.”
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With files from The Associated Press, Reuters and Angela McInnes/CBC