For some, the feeling of being born into the wrong body triggers a lifelong search to find their true identity. For others, a transition from who you’ve been identified as to who you truly are happens during adolescence.
But it seems the Florida Department of Education isn’t interested in how students in the state identify. On July 19, it approved new rules that will shift the lives of LGBTQ+-identifying youths — rules that experts say will make life tougher for students who face discrimination for being Black and Queer.
Indeed, a July 2023 study published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science found that Black and Latino LGBTQ+ youth living in states that pass “Don’t Say Gay” and other anti-LGBTQ legislation are 32% more likely to be experience symptoms of depression.
Tyler Harvey, program administrator at the Yale School of Medicine’s SEICHE Center for Health and Justice and co-author of the study told Diverse Education that “those laws and policies with social environments in which queer and trans people exist within have very real impacts on their health, and in this case, their mental health.”
In a separate survey released in 2020, more than half of LGBTQ+ students said their schools weren’t affirming places. And, 55% of Black LGBTQ+ students who attended schools without an inclusive curriculum said they felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation.
Silencing LGBTQ+ Youth — and Their Teachers
Florida’s new rules actually put into practice three laws passed by the state legislature earlier this year. They’re part of an ongoing move to restrict the rights of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming students in public schools.
One law prohibits teachers from asking and addressing students by their preferred pronoun if it doesn’t align with their assigned gender at birth. It also bans teachers from sharing their preferred pronouns with students if it doesn’t align with their assigned sex at birth.
Teachers or administrators are also required to tell parents if their child requests to be addressed by a different name or pronoun.
“As an educator, I am so glad that I DO NOT live in Florida. One’s sense of self may not fully conform to one’s biology and that should never be denied,” Anthony Singelis wrote on Twitter.
In addition to disregarding one’s preferred pronouns, a law also prevents transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming students and teachers from using the bathroom of their choice.
The rule states that, “K-12 education institutions be designated for exclusive use by biological males or biological females, or that there is a unisex restroom/changing facility.” Institutions are also required to update their student code of conduct to certify their compliance with the ruling.
The rules come at roughly the same time that the Florida Board of Education has also released a controversial new set of curriculum standards, which includes teaching that enslaved Black people benefited from slavery.
But It’s Not Just in Florida
Since 2021, roughly 20 Republican-led states have rapidly enacted laws restricting LGBTQ rights — many of them directed toward controlling what happens in the nation’s public schools.
In a press release, a representative of Florida referred to these as “Rules to Protect Children” and “Rules aimed at letting kids be kids.” According to the department, these are “rules to strengthen and enhance the safety and welfare of students in K-12 public schools and protect parental rights.”
The Board of Education clarifies that violations of the law could result in the suspension of an educator’s license. The Department of Education did not clarify whether parents can request the teachers honor their children’s pronouns when they differ from the sex assigned at birth.
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