A new bill in Florida, dubbed the "don't say gay" bill, has been brought to national prominence, in part after backlash from Chasten Buttigieg. The legislation, which recently was passed in one Florida House committee and is likely to soon be up for a vote by the full House, could outlaw most discussions of sexuality and gender identity from schools.
"As a kid who grew up for 18 years being told 'you don't belong, something about you is wrong,' sometimes you take that trauma to heart," Buttigieg, who is an author, educator, and husband to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, told John Berman in a CNN New Day interview Tuesday morning. "Unfortunately there's a lot of kids in this country who do the worst because we tell them something about them is twisted and you don't belong here."
Chasten Buttigieg had previously spoken out about the legislation, officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill, tweeting about it on Thursday. In his tweet, he drew attention to a Trevor Project study that found that 42 percent of polled LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the year prior to being polled. Proponents of the bill argue that it protects parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit.
In the CNN interview, Buttigieg pointed out how impractical the new Florida legislation could be for students who are children of same-sex parents, as they would not be able to speak about their own home life in some instances. It could also force students themselves to be closeted.
"I grew up in northern Michigan, and in many ways it was similar to Florida in that you were just a good Christian country boy and that's all you could be," he explained. "There was no differentiating from the norm. I grew up learning about Matthew Shepard and thought for sure that could happen to me if someone found out that I was different. I really did fear for my safety and my life. I saw parents, I saw educators telling me that gay people are wrong, sometimes saying even worse things."
Shepard was notably the victim of a heinous 1998 hate crime that made national news.
"As I mentioned with that Trevor Project survey, kids take that to heart," he continued. "And they learn from a very young age whether they're accepted or not. They're constantly listening so for 18 years all I learned was something about you is twisted. We have to be approaching these things with urgency, making sure that kids feel safe enough to come to school. Sometimes teachers, especially for me, are a safe place. Teachers want to be that place where kids feel comfortable learning, and we should be making sure that school is a place where kids feel safe."
Another aspect of the bill would force schools to essentially out students to their parents.
"I just don't think this is what the governor should be focusing on," Buttigieg said of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. "I think this hurts kids. This will hurt families and this isn't about education or parents' rights, I think it's about using the LGBT community as a scapegoat, which we've been used as a scapegoat multiple times throughout history. And I just don't agree with it."