Tampa Bay students protest national ‘Don't Say Gay’ bill
Tampa, FL – On November 15, 20 students, led by Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society, gathered in front of the University of South Florida Library in a show of protest against HR 9197, the national Stop the Sexualization of Children Act, more commonly known as the “Don't Say Gay” bill.
This bill aims to ban public funding for and impose penalties on schools and entities that promote events and literature about gender identity, LGBTQ+ issues, sexuality, gender dysphoria, trans people, and the history of the gay or trans movements for children below the age of ten. Following the example of the Don't Say Gay bill that passed in Florida, it also opens the door for parents to sue schools and educators who they feel expose their children to material friendly to LGBTQ+ people.
This attack on the few such educational programs that exist has outraged many student activists, leading to a national week of action against the bill by over a dozen SDS chapters around the country.
“The 'Don't Say Gay' bill is a major setback for LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance,” Jaden Patel of Tampa Bay SDS said. “It only further stigmatizes already marginalized groups and will harm LGBTQ+ children. One of the clauses allows parents to refuse LGBTQ+ related help or services offered to their child, and such services could be potentially lifesaving. I think it was very important for SDS to speak out against this bill as it is just the beginning. The bill only pertains to students under ten, but it's not hard to believe that it could be extended to all of K-12. Other LGTBQ+ rights are being stripped as well, such as trans healthcare being banned for minors. We must oppose all of these setbacks, and hold our ground!”
The student protesters carried signs that read, “Stop homophobic and transphobic attacks!” and “Protect gay youth!” They chanted, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, GOP, go away!” over and over again across the library green. In vibrant rainbow colors, on more than one sign, students proudly painted the words: “We say gay!”
“This bill is also calling for erasure of the LGBTQ+ community by the omission of LGBTQ+ history and suppression of LGBTQ+ people’s existence,” said Vaidehi Persad, a member of SDS. “But these are our streets and our schools! These are publicly funded spaces meant to serve us and our best interests. We all deserve to feel safe, respected and affirmed here at school.”