An open letter to LGBTQ kids:
Kermit the Frog famously observed that it’s not easy being green. But if he thinks that’s hard, Kermit should try being you. Having avocado-colored skin has to be a breeze by comparison.
To be you, though, requires dealing with active-shooter drills and masking mandates while navigating family dynamics, lunchroom politics and the awkwardness of living in a new body growing, spurting and otherwise misbehaving in all sorts of embarrassingly creative ways. And that’s before you get to the LGBTQ thing and all the complications it brings.
Even more difficult, some of you live in Ron DeSantis’ Florida.
As you’ve likely heard, the governor has thrown his weight behind the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill now advancing through the state Legislature. It says a teacher may not “encourage” discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity “in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
As critics have noted, the vague wording makes it theoretically possible to restrict discussion of LGBTQ issues not just from young kids but from any kids. What do “age appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate” mean, after all? And who decides?
President Joe Biden has blasted what he called a “hateful” bill. “I have your back,” he said.
This note is just to say that I do, too. I can only imagine how isolating and lonely it must feel, in the awkwardness of your adolescent years, to have a governor declare your sexual identity so abnormal it can’t be discussed in school — just when you may need to talk about it the most. If there’s some teacher you trust, he or she would now be breaking the law if you confide in them.
But this tactic is not unusual. In fact, silencing is now a routine Republican stratagem. In various ways and settings, GOP members have sought to restrict talk about everything from abortion to guns to climate change to the theory of evolution. In 2012, Michigan lawmakers exiled a Democratic colleague from the statehouse for using the word “vagina.” And let’s not even get started on Black American history.
This is just another page from the same playbook. Cowards sticking fingers in their ears rather than face realities they can’t deal with.
I’m sorry the world is like this, but it is. So I need you to take care of one another. Maintain the courage to be your authentic, individual selves. Find the community that values and validates those selves, that accepts you as you are.
The good news is, you’ll find most of the rest of us there with you. As for those who aren’t, well, you need to recognize that there are some people whose approval you’re not supposed to have or want, whose rejection you should wear as a badge of honor. Ron DeSantis, for one. He hobnobs with Islamophobes, can’t bring himself to criticize Nazis, bashes undocumented immigrants and told voters not to “monkey this up” by supporting his Black rival. If this guy liked you, could you still like yourself?
Not if you are who I think you are.
And if you are, you will not let this insulting bill stand unchallenged. You’ll take to social media and, if you’re of age, to the ballot box. You’ll impose campaigns of economic withdrawal upon those who support laws like this.
In other words, you will raise your voices and make haters hear you. That’s your only option when people try to impose silence upon you: