In June, the Leon County School Board passed an “LGBTQ-inclusive school guide” containing a provision that will require schools to notify parents, in writing, if their student is taking a physical education class or going on an overnight trip. with another student who is “open”. on their gender identity.

As a gay alumnus of Leon High School (Class of 1995) and former high school teacher, I plead with the Leon County School Board not to adopt this policy.

In schools, parents are warned if their student can do something that involves a certain risk, such as a climbing trip. But this new policy presents the mere existence of LGBTQ kids as a risk, and that’s the last kind of message LGBTQ kids need to hear.

According to a study conducted by The Trevor Project, rates of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth are four times higher than those of their heterosexual/cisgender peers. These alarming rates are mitigated by the presence of only one supportive adult in the life of an LGBTQ child.

Since most LGBTQ children are born into families with straight parents, school can be a crucial site of support for them.

Good teachers welcome and accept all of their students for who they are, and this new policy interferes with teachers’ ability to do so. This prevents teachers from being a source of support for LGBTQ children and turns them into gender police.

If passed, this policy could force LGBTQ students out before they are ready to disclose this information, putting them at risk of harassment or even violence from homophobic peers, teachers or parents. .

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis displays the signed Parental Rights in Education Bill, aka the Don't Say Gay Bill, flanked by elementary school students during a news conference Monday, March 28, 2022 in Shady Hills Classical Preparatory School.

I guess the proponents of this policy (and of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill) imagine that if schools don’t talk about the existence of gay/trans people, then kids will just quit. just being gay and trans.

I am living proof that these people are wrong. When I attended Leon High, the school had no openly LGBTQ teachers and no discussion of the existence of LGBTQ people (let alone their value). This version of Leon High School didn’t make me straight. It made me lonely, scared and suicidal, depressed.

Gay and/or trans children exist. They always have and they always will. They are our students now, and they always have been our students. And so, the choice before us is not whether we can choose to make all children straight and cisgender. We can not. The choice is whether we will have gay and/or trans children who will be happy, healthy and safe. . . or if we will have gay and/or trans children who are miserable, lonely, self-loathing and suicidal.

In the 27 years since I last attended Leon High School, I had hoped that our country and Leon County had improved in our treatment of LGBTQ youth, but this new LCSB policy is a giant step backward.

Harry Thomas

Harry Thomas, a graduate of Leon High School, earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has published a book on American literature and masculinity (Sissy!, University of Alabama Press, 2017). He taught high school English for 10 years in Durham, North Carolina.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Send letters to the editor (up to 200 words) or columns back (approximately 500 words) to [email protected] Please include your address for verification purposes only, and if submitting a Your Turn, also include a photo and 1-2 line biography of yourself. You can also submit anonymous Zing!s at Tallahassee.com/Zing. Submissions are posted as space permits. All submissions may be edited for content, clarity, and length, and may also be published by any part of the USA TODAY NETWORK.