On Monday, March 28, 2022, Florida governor Ron DeSantis — known to many as “Tiny Trump” — signed a contentious piece of legislation known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law. This bill has a number of provisions, but broadly, it prohibits education around sexual orientation or gender identity to public school students in kindergarten through third grade. It also requires parents be notified if their child receives any school services for their mental, physical or emotional health. Hence, the name “Don’t Say Gay”: Teachers technically can’t talk about queer or trans identity with young students, and queer students may be discouraged from identifying themselves as such to teachers.
Beyond the students — who may now be further restricted from expressing their gender or sexual identity at school — the bill also impacts teachers, who are now potentially responsible for outting students to their parents. In addition, the vague language of the bill regarding “classroom instruction” and “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” content has teachers concerned about what qualifies as a violation — hypothetically, mentioning anything “gay” among students of any age could be flagged as an issue, and parents could file a lawsuit against both the school and teacher.
While Florida teachers are undoubtedly nervous about this bill, many have taken to TikTok to highlight their defiance. Many of them are posting supportive videos of their students protesting the bill and staging walkouts at school, but some are also affirming their commitment to being open about their own identities, as well.
A handful of teachers have also flat-out refused to enforce the law (which shouldn’t be hard, given how vague it is already). “As an educator, are you going to ‘out’ gay students who confide in you, as the bill states?” one Florida teacher asked herself in a recent TikTok. “No,” she states bluntly, her deadpan beaming right into the camera.
Numerous gay teachers have also made TikToks using a Nicki Minaj verse from Lil Wayne’s “5 Star,” in which she says, “I’m out here living, though” in order to express how they’ll continue to be openly gay teachers despite the bill.
Many others have also pointed out that there’s a chance for them to twist that broad ban of gender and sexual identity against the people homophobically weaponizing the bill. Technically, talking about straight, cisgender people qualifies as a discussion of gender and sexual identity, too. “Kids shouldn’t be exposed to anything about straight people,” one theater teacher on TikTok joked.
Unfortunately, the bill will go into effect on July 1, 2022, though again, it’s unclear how the law will be enforced, or what will qualify as violations against it. With any hope, as many teachers pointed out, the bill’s vague language will ultimately impede its implementation and lead to its downfall. Until then, if they can’t talk about it in the classroom, there’s always TikTok.