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  • Jordan Miller

Texas, Florida, and the Future of Queer Issues

Updated: Mar 18

As more states continue to move backwards, instituting anti-trans and anti-Queer policies especially targeting LGBTQ+ youth, students band together in letting their disagreement be heard.

Hillsborough High School students protest the "Don't Say Gay" bill in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday. Octavio Jones / Reuters

The progress that the U.S. has made in recent years in furthering support and knowledge around LGBTQ+ issues has been incredible and undeniable. The long-awaited cultural shift that Queer people have been fighting for for decades seems to be just on the horizon, and yet we’re not there yet. The incompleteness of this movement has been highlighted over the past week as lawmakers in Texas and Florida have created targeted attacks against the representation and safety of Queer youths.

The case in Florida comes when the state’s House passed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which – among other things – “prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels” and “prohibits school district from adopting procedures… that prohibit school district personnel from notifying parents about specified information or that encourage students to withhold from parents such information” in order to best support parents in making “regarding upbringing & control of their children,” according to the Florida House of Representatives.

The bill, which switches between specific references to Queer issues to muchmore broad-strokes statements, has been gaining criticism for weeks because of both the blatant othering of Queer history and issues as somehow being inappropriate, but also in how it could force teachers to either reveal information they have about a non-heterosexual or cisgender student’s gender or sexual identity to their parents, or to pressure the student to do so themself.

When in just 2019, GLSEN found that “schools nationwide are not safe learning environments for LGBTQ students and are lacking in LGBTQ resources and supports,” the removal of even more protections for LGBTQ+ students in Florida seems just another step backwards.

LGBTQ+ students were already set at a statistical disadvantage even before this bill, with The Trevor Project finding in 2020 that “40% of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months” and the threat of homelessness increased in LGBT youth, and reducing protection in educational settings only opens these already at-risk students up to even more danger at home.

In the case of Texas, the state’s government — particularly its governor, Greg Abbott — have been coming under fire following Abbott’s order for state welfare officials to open child abuse investigations in cases of trans youth receiving gender-affirming care.

The order writes that “the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has now confirmed in the enclosed opinion that a number of so-called ‘sex change’ procedures constitute child abuse under existing Texas law” and calls for reporting requirements for both “licensed professionals” and “members of the general public” alike.

This order took just days to take effect, with one Texas mother who works at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services already placed on administrative leave and met with investigators demanding her daughter’s medical records after the mother informed her boss that her daughter is trans in an attempt to find out what the Governor’s order would mean for her family.

Texas government has already been under fire from LGBTQ+ activists, with organizations citing the legality of gender or sexuality-based discrimination and the 90% of transgender people in Texas who noted being mistreated at work for their gender identity in calls for the state to do more to protect its citizens.

Abbott’s move here, which some claim to be motivated by Abbott’s fear of losing his re-election bid without more far-Right support, can and will endanger both transgender youth and their families for as long as it is allowed to take effect.

Both these cases have been met with massive protests across the country, with many students at public schools in Texas and Florida in particular going online to share stories of their communities coming together to fight for their LGBTQ+ classmates’ rights.

The new generation of young adults coming into the world today are more Queer than any generation before us, and the fight to end discrimination based on gender or sexual identity will continue to be fought until rights for LGBTQ+ adults and kids can be assured their safety and acceptance everywhere. As more and more states join Texas and Florida in moving backwards, more and more students across the country will continue to let their disagreement be heard.

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