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Why Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Is A Direct Attack On Children’s Mental Health

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A proposed legislation in Florida, that has been dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, is just another attempt at censorship by Republican lawmakers for what schools are allowed and not allowed to teach young children. 

The newest restriction is taking aim at how teachers are able to discuss sexuality and gender identity to their students, with supporters claiming the bill empowers parents who deserve to have a say in what their children learn.

However, the proposed bill will only further hinder protection for LGBTQ+ children and also limit a conversation around sexuality and gender identity, and would be implemented from kindergarten through third grade.

Under the "Don't Say Gay" bill, Florida school districts "may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students."

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Of course the bill doesn't specify what exactly constitutes as "age-appropriate" or "developmentally appropriate," and what that means for material that can be taught in the classrooms.

It will also allow parents to sue schools that "encourage" discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity and don't comply with their wishes to withhold information they deem "inappropriate."

Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill will no doubt have disastrous impacts on youth mental health.

If the Florida House approves the bill it will only further isolate LGBTQ students and create an unsafe environment for them while attending school. 

By these lawmakers forcing schools to outright condemn sexuality and gender expression, to the point where they cannot be discussed in an educational format and are seen as something negative, will only further stigmatize LGBTQ students, while also contributing to hostility and harassment of openly gay children in public schools.

This bill is doing more harm than good and is effectively silencing LGBTQ youth and subsequently trying to erase entire moments in history, while also withholding critical information that deserves to be both taught and discussed openly with absolutely no restrictions.

If anything, this proposed bill will also greatly affect the mental health of LGBTQ youth, especially if they are ostracized and essentially forced back into the closet, but this time with the doors firmly locked and the key thrown away.

A recent survey conducted by the Trevor Project found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year.

Meanwhile a recent poll, which found 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth, and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

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The connection between these statistics and the proposed bill cannot be ignored.

Florida is making a clear and deliberate attack on LGBTQ expression and, in doing so, threatens the mental wellbeing of young people.

The negative impact that LGBTQ youths will face, especially for those who live in non-affirming households, will be detrimental.

If all they are hearing, both at home and in school, that the idea of gender identity and sexual orientation is something to be ashamed about, that will have lasting consequences stretching through their adolescence and into adulthood.

It will further marginalize them and make them feel like an "other," which can lead to dangerous consequences, including attempted suicide.

According to the Trevor Project's survey, nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth across the United States, found that 42% of respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of trans and nonbinary youth.

LGBTQ youth who experienced discrimination in the past year reported attempting suicide at more than twice the rate of those who did not.

A recent amendment to the "Don't Say Gay" bill that had been proposed by State Rep. Joe Harding that would have forced teachers to out their students to their parents within six weeks of finding out the child is queer was recently withdrawn.

There was also no exception made for if the child is living in a home where if outing them could result in "abuse, abandonment, or neglect." Despite Harding removing the amendment, the intention is still there, which is a blatant attack against LGBTQ youth, with no worry for the repercussions.

Instead of erasure, LGTBQ youths should be allowed to learn about their history, along with the spectrum of sexuality and gender, especially because the concept of gender starts developing gradually when a child is between the ages of 3 and 5. 

Schools not just in Florida, but all across the country, should be implementing safe spaces, expanding networks of support, and making sure that LGBTQ youths feel both heard and seen.

It's harmful for young children and even teenagers to see lawmakers and people in power debating on whether they deserve to exist or not, and it's hard not to internalize all of that hate.

These young minds are listening, whether Florida lawmakers believe it or not. They are watching as their rights are being stripped away, and instead of feeling proud of who they are and how they choose to express themselves, they are forced to lock the biggest parts of themselves away.

Forcing LGBTQ youths to hide their identities and not be allowed to discuss the fundamental parts of themselves is as brutal as it is dangerous.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.