Metro Weekly

Chasten Buttigieg: Florida Republicans are “pushing kids back into the closet”

Buttigieg slammed Florida Republicans' efforts to pass a "don't say gay" bill banning LGBTQ issues in schools

Chasten Buttigieg
Chasten Buttigieg — Image via @Chasten / Twitter

Chasten Buttigieg has slammed efforts by Republicans in Florida to ban teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues.

Buttigieg, an author, educator, and husband of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, said Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill is “essentially pushing kids back into the closet” and telling them that they “don’t belong here.”

The legislation, which was recently approved by a Florida House committee, has been promoted as a “parental rights” bill, but effectively gags teachers in the state, preventing them from talking about LGBTQ topics in class — even in passing, or in reference to historical events.

Buttigieg attacked the bill and Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in a tweet last week, saying it “will kill kids.”

“You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in,” Buttigieg wrote.

After the committee approved the legislation, advancing it to a House vote, Buttigieg appeared on CNN’s New Day on Tuesday morning to further criticize the anti-LGBTQ efforts of Republican legislators.

New Day host John Berman asked Buttigieg to explain why he thought the “don’t say gay” bill will “kill kids.”

Buttigieg pointed to a Trevor Project survey of LGBTQ youth which found that 42% of youth had seriously considered taking their own life.

“We should be approaching that number with urgency, compassion, and care,” Buttigieg said. “Wondering what we’re doing, what kind of country we’re building, or in Florida what kind of state are you building, where you’re essentially pushing kids back into the closet. You’re saying we can’t talk about you, we can’t even talk about your families.”

He continued: “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. Unfortunately there’s a lot of kids in this country who do the worst because we tell them, ‘something about you is twisted and you don’t belong here.'”

Buttigieg noted the cruelty of the proposed legislation, which if passed would potentially prevent a child of same-sex parents — like Buttigieg’s own two children — from discussing their home life in school.

“Is the teacher supposed to say, ‘Hey, we don’t talk about things like that in this classroom,’?” Buttigieg said. “Not only what does that do to kids like mine, but what does that do to a kid in the classroom who might be starting to realize that they’re different?”

Buttigieg said the bill would teach LGBTQ kids and children of LGBTQ parents that something is “wrong” with them.

“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,” Buttigieg said, referencing his experience with homelessness after coming out as gay and receiving a negative reaction from his family.

“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,” he continued. “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.”

Buttigieg said that children “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,'” he continued. “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, were my 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.”

Buttigieg also slammed a provision in the bill that would essentially force teachers to out an LGBTQ student to their families, or put themselves at risk of being sued by parents.

“I just don’t think this is what [Gov. DeSantis] should be focusing on,” Buttigieg said. “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.”

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