The slur was not directed at me, however I cringed anyway. “Groomer” has discovered its method into our discourse ever since Christina Pushaw, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s former press secretary, helped popularize the time period as a synonym for “pedophile,” and a few on the American proper started directing it at households like mine.
I walked on. A bunch knelt on the sidewalk to hope. The person who led it requested God to “save America from homosexuality.”
This man was a part of a well-coordinated assortment of extremist and Christian fundamentalist organizations — amongst them Moms for Liberty, the Proud Boys and the Christian Family Coalition — that had gathered to strain the board to reject the proposal.
In 2021, the board voted 7-1 in favor of the identical measure. This yr, at this assembly, they voted 8-1 against it.
Behind the reversal was Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act — higher recognized by the identify its critics have given it, the “don’t say homosexual” regulation — which DeSantis signed on March 28. It’s one in all many proposed or handed by conservative politicians throughout the nation seeking to codify discrimination in opposition to LGBTQ folks.
In deliberately vague language, the regulation prohibits “instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identification in kindergarten via third grade and, past them, “in a way that’s not age applicable or developmentally applicable for college kids in accordance with state requirements.” The important thing to its energy is that the “requirements” are ill-defined — shifting educators to proceed with extreme caution, to keep away from authorized entanglements.
Certainly, a number of audio system on the assembly issued veiled threats to make use of DeSantis’s regulation. And college officers had been cautious. Steve Gallon III, the board’s vice chair, said, “My obligation as an elected college board member is one which has to adjust to the regulation that has now modified.”
By no means thoughts that the one instruction talked about within the LGBTQ Historical past Month proposal would have occurred in twelfth grade and was restricted to dialogue of Supreme Court docket selections resembling Obergefell v. Hodges. (In what world is it not age-appropriate to show youngsters that homosexual folks didn’t have the best to marry till 2015?)
I spoke on the assembly as a result of I’m the daddy of a transgender boy. I wished to remind the board of a tragic fixed in human historical past that I noticed at play once more that day — the dynamic by which empathy, tolerance and love turn out to be weaker political motivations than disgust, worry and hatred.
I defined how the present moral panic about LGBTQ folks is rooted in misguided convictions and unfounded considerations.
The convictions are that there’s one thing “abnormal” or “degenerate” about LGBTQ folks, and that celebrating the diverse ways of being human — to compensate for hundreds of years of silencing and discrimination — is pointless and even sinful. Some speakers at the meeting mentioned LGBTQ Historical past Month was an offense to their non secular beliefs. One man talked about “Satanism.”
The considerations are that being homosexual or transgender is contagious (it isn’t), and that giving LGBTQ points visibility is a part of a “conspiracy” to undermine “conventional” values. One girl asserted that LGBTQ Historical past Month was a part of a “left-wing social experiment.”
All that’s nonsense. There’s nothing unnatural or immoral about my son. He has all the time been who he’s: a standard, loving, stunning little one of nature’s god. He and different college students need to study at college that others like him struggled — and proceed to battle — to see their existence and dignity acknowledged.
Earlier than public dialogue started, Marta Perez — who after 24 years on the board just lately misplaced her seat to a right-wing candidate supported by DeSantis — mentioned she had acquired a deluge of messages from members of the Christian Household Coalition. “I want all of the those who have written us can be as keen on our proficiency scores, our studying, our writing, our teachers,” Perez said. As a substitute, “horrible scare-mongering has occurred.”
The dearth of civil discourse was astonishing. Individuals who in all probability pleasure themselves on being observant Christians cheered for his or her allies — that is prohibited — and heckled these they perceived as foes, such because the board’s pupil adviser, 17-year-old Andrea Pita Mendez.
Regardless of the impolite interruptions, Pita Mendez was in a position to share: “Our college students need this to move.” Demonstrating extra knowledge, grace and braveness than many within the room, she mentioned, “I heard a lot of you communicate of the truth that in your generations this wasn’t seen, this wasn’t heard — you grew up in a really completely different time.”
Her phrases, sadly, didn’t make a distinction. Gallon and different board members, who previously supported LGBTQ college students, surrendered preemptively, capitulating to an more and more authoritarian governor who’s remodeling Florida into a laboratory for a national strategy. As a substitute of combating again, they selected acquiescence.
Which solely proves: “Don’t say homosexual” is working as supposed.