CONTRIBUTORS

Say ‘gay’ as loud as you want, Florida kids! We love and support you 100%

Fabiola Santiago
Miami Herald (TNS)
Moses May, 14, leads a student protest at Gaither High in Tampa, Florida, against what critics call the "Don't Say Gay" bills, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.  (Ivy Ceballo/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

You don’t know, dastards who rule the diverse state of Florida from the hills of Tallahassee, the pain and suffering gay children endure staying in the closet and not being accepted for who they are by society.

Or, maybe you do, and you’re just plain evil and taking shelter behind your so-called Christian facade.

Who else can vote for a bill — dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ for good reason — that hurts children, gay and otherwise, by fomenting a culture of silence in schools?

The bill, sold as parental rights in education legislation, passed Tuesday in the Florida Senate over a maelstrom of protests from students, after clearing the House along partisan lines on Feb. 8.

Partisan homophobia: It will now go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature, which is pretty much guaranteed, as the governor is the chief creator and enabler of the fascist atmosphere in the state that has given homophobic Floridians such as bill sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala the wings to successfully operate.

The same goes for uninformed younger Republicans like Sen. Ileana Garcia — who represents a big chunk of Miami Beach, one of the largest LGBTQ communities in Florida, and who only won her seat by a few votes in an election that included a candidate planted by a Republican operative.

Among the empty-headed things she said during a rant on the Senate floor: “Gay is not a permanent thing.”

She also mocked a transgender friend for wanting to become a woman. “Why do you want to deal with the hormones? Why do you want to have to worry about the extensions and the hair, and the boobs, and the nails?”

She’s up for reelection. Let’s see if her support for this bill costs her what it should — her ill-gotten seat.

Shame on you, Republican Florida legislators for having absolutely no backbone and ramming through all kinds of unnecessary and ruinous bills this session — the most egregious of which gratuitously aids and abets hate and rejection of Florida’s gay children by banning any discussion of sexual orientation in schools from kindergarten through third grade, when medical experts say children are forming their identity.

For some of these children, especially those who come from unenlightened homes and/or parents who have communications issues, schools is the only safe setting they know.

Civil-rights setback: This bill’s passage is nothing short of a slap to all of the gay community, which is quite a voting bloc and includes members of Florida’s legislative body. And it’s a community that has plenty of allies.

Polling shows that the majority of Floridians don’t support this hateful legislation targeting LGBTQ+ youth. A University of North Florida (UNF) survey found that 57% of respondents “either strongly or somewhat” opposed the bill.

Still, the GOP went ahead and persevered, catering to the 34% with sexual identity insecurities and so much right-wing disinformation on their plate that they can’t see the making of a nasty America that may never get along.

This passage is a huge civil-rights setback in Florida.

Let’s hope the homophobia comes back to bite you where you deserve, at the ballot box come November.

“We are incredibly saddened by this moment but promise to fight the bill however possible,” the advocacy organization Safe Schools South Florida said in a statement. “Thank you to our youth for their bravery.”

Indeed.

The children and adults in this group led the way, mounting local rallies they took all the way to the Florida Capitol.

Gay rights work in Florida: There’s much work ahead to be done in Florida, including challenging the legality of what would be this gag law in court.

For one, it targets a protected class of people.

“A prima facie case... of invidious discrimination,” charged Miami-Dade Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, an attorney.

May the legislators’ attempt to quash conversations about sexuality unleash a stronger civil-rights movement in a state that had overcome its dark history on gay issues.

But, for now, the important thing is to let our kids know that they’re free to be who they want to be, despite politicians who cater to a ridiculously antiquated base of insecure people.

Say “gay” as loud as you want, Florida kids! No matter what you hear, be beautiful you.

— Fabiola Santiago is a columnist for the Miami Herald.