“The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas,” goes the famous song dedicated to the state. However, that big heart in Texas doesn’t exist for anyone who is LGBTQ+.
The Sunshine State is Florida’s nickname, but the sun doesn’t shine on LGBTQ+ expression that is being forced into the dark closets of classrooms.
The fiendish governors of these states, Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, are out to make anyone who is trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or nonbinary targets of hate, and anyone who interacts with them either a liar or a vigilante.
These two loathsome leaders are gleefully signing laws that almost make it illegal to be queer. The devilish grin on DeSantis as he signed the “don’t say gay” bill was repugnant.
Just exactly what was he signing? Part of my job is to immerse myself in current events and news, and I’m still not sure what the point is of the “don’t say gay” bill? The actual law is called the Parental Rights in Education bill. But what exactly are these rights that parents are gaining?
I suppose it’s the “right” of parents to tattle-tale on any K-third-grade teacher who they think is queer or who talks about anything related to LGBTQ+ issues in the classroom. Is that the new right? So how will that be done? Will children be interrogated by parents when they come home from school? Will there be closed circuit camera systems installed in classrooms to spy on teachers?
And what if queer teachers are asked about their personal lives by inquisitive kids? How are they supposed to respond? I was always asking questions as a young boy, so much so that I had my mouth taped. Kids are naturally going to want to know about their teachers, their wives, husbands, partners. What did the teachers do over the weekend? What are queer teachers supposed to say? Do they have to lie to keep their jobs?
Kids are also very curious about other kids. I had a friend whose father, a construction worker, died by falling off a bridge when my friend was five. We always asked him about his dad because his family was “different.” Some kids in Florida elementary schools have one mom, some have one dad, and some have two moms or two dads. When they ask a teacher — because they will since teachers know all — why little Jimmy has two dads and little Mary has two moms, what’s the teacher supposed to say? Do they have to lie to keep their jobs?
This ludicrous bill also prohibits instruction on LGBTQ+ issues in the early grades or, later, unless it meets the vague standard of being "age-appropriate." Um, that instruction was never there to begin with, so is all of this just masquerading as hypocritical bigotry? If another mass shooting in a gay bar happens in Florida — God forbid — and children come to class on Monday asking about what happened, and what a gay bar is — and they would — will teachers be accused of teaching gay issues in class? Do they have to lie to keep their jobs?
This is all so blatantly heartbreaking, discriminatory, illegal, and criminal. We should have known that DeSantis would dangerously invoke children in passing legislation using the bigoted ways straight out of the Trump playbook.
When he ran for governor, DeSantis ran an ad of one of his toddlers playing with toy building blocks as he encouraged the child to “build the wall!” an allusion to Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
DeSantis' wife then mentions he reads stories to the kids, and he is seen reading them Trump’s book The Art of the Deal. The part they didn't show in the ad was the children vomiting all over the wall and the book.
It doesn’t get any better in Texas. Gov. Abbott is planning to criminalize parents for helping their transgender child get access to medical help. He thinks gender-affirming care should be treated as child abuse. So, if I’m reading this right, parents who care enough to help their children, who are compassionate in making sure they have care, are considered abusers?
I think Abbott’s priorities are way, way off. Would it surprise you to learn that of all 50 states, Texas ranks first in the number of unique victims of child abuse, with over 65,000 reported in 2020, according to the latest statistics. Wouldn’t it behoove Abbott to try to address this critical problem rather than trying to wrongly add to this astronomical number by including parents of trans kids?
The governor also claims medical professionals, educators, and members of the public are required to report “so-called ‘sex change’ procedures” to state authorities. Those authorities could potentially prosecute parents or even remove children from their parents' care.
Again, Abbott’s priorities are wildly off. Would it surprise you to learn that of all 50 states, Texas has the highest proportion of children without health insurance, with 1 million, or 13 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 6 percent? Wouldn’t it behoove the governor to try to address this glaringly critical problem rather than wrongly denying even more kids to health care?
Because of these North Korean-like laws, what are loving parents supposed to do? Do they ignore their child’s plea for help? Do they subject them to conversion therapy to avoid losing their children? Do they try to administer hormones and other drugs, buying them off the black market, putting their child’s health at risk?
This is so personal for so many parents and their children. It’s deeply personal. Beyond deeply. And yet Abbott professes to be an expert about trans kids and their care? When did Abbott become a medical doctor? Or how does his experience as a parent of a trans kid apply? Oh, that’s right he’s neither a doctor nor a trans child’s parent. He and his wife adopted their daughter when she was 17. What gives him the absolute gall to weigh in on this subject?
These two ignoramuses will be less ignorant than the parents and individuals — let’s just call them deplorables — who will act as vigilantes spying and entrapping teachers who try to teach and parents trying to parent.
If you thought the viral behavior of Karens was offensive, wait until you see how these so-called guardian angels of children act out. These hypocritical nutcases, ultra-right-wing Christians, and dumb-as-a-stump people will mortify you. That is, however, if these idiotic measures stand up in court, and I highly doubt they will.
DeSantis and Abbott have taken the lead and are setting a trend for other diabolical governors who are planning and trying to enact the exact same things. More than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed in state legislatures, a large number targeting the trans community.
In the meantime, DeSantis will continue to keep the sun off queer kids, teachers, and parents, while Abbott rips out the hearts of trans youth and their parents.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.