Creep of the Week: Gov. Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. "Ron DeSantis" by Gage Skidmore is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Well, he signed it. Just like everyone expected. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. And not only did he sign it, but he signed it at Classical Preparatory School, a charter school in Florida, surrounded by little kids in school uniforms. He even gave each of them a pen to remember the occasion by.  

On a video posted to Twitter by CBS12, DeSantis signs the bill, using what looks like nine different blue Sharpies. He then holds the document up to “show it off” to a round of applause by people holding signs that read “Protect Children, Support Parents.”

He then moves behind a podium with that same dumb sign on it to take questions from reporters. The first reporter, whose voice is quiet and hard to hear, says that LGBTQ+ people and allies fear that this bill “might chill speech in the classroom about people like them and teachers who maybe are gay and when those topics come up about what your family looks like, they’re afraid. Can you talk to them and just assuage their fears?”

DeSantis insists that the bill is just about curriculum. “There are different issues that will come up in the course, kids will have questions on as they get older. I think these kids,” he says gesturing to the little kids clutching his blue hate pens, “probably aren’t at that stage yet.”

His answer starts to ramble, referencing the press conference’s earlier displays of LGBTQ+ affirming books that had been found in Florida schools and January Littlejohn, a parent upset that her child’s school discussed gender identity issues with them without inviting her to be there. 

“But as you do, and so it’s focused on the type of curriculum that we’ve shown here, which is not appropriate for these young kids, and it also says all grades it needs to be age appropriate, which I think most people agree with, and then the protections for parents so that they’re involved in what is going on with their kids, and when you listen to January tell her story about what they did with her child without her knowledge or consent, I don’t think there’s very many parents in the state of Florida that think that’s okay,” he says. “I can tell ya, I don’t think that’s OK. First Lady? You don’t even want to know what she would say.”

The audience erupts into laughter at the thought of Florida’s First Lady saying things so vile they couldn’t even be repeated at a press conference celebrating LGBTQ+ hatred.

“So that’s what it’s about, it’s about protecting parents’ ability to be involved and it’s making sure that the classroom instruction, particularly of these very young kids,” he says, and I swear it sounds like he says “idiots” rather than “young kids,” (I’ve listened to it over and over and that’s what I hear, but that can’t be right, right?) “are focused on math, science, reading. And what’s not on the page is not what’s gonna be done. We are uh, uh, textualists, so we follow the law and I know [Education Commissioner] Richard [Corcoran] will make sure that the Department of Education is gonna follow the letter of the law. And that’s how it should be.”

That is all, of course, bullshit. Parents already have the ability to be involved in their children’s education if they want to. What these parents want is to dictate what is taught to ALL kids based on what they find personally objectionable. Never mind the fact that it ignores the fact that LGBTQ+ parents exist and their kids go to these schools. 

And no one is being protected here. Explicitly teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten thorough third grade is banned. After that, it must be addressed in an “age appropriate” manner, which is a nice broad way to say “don’t talk about it at all.” What this does is teach kids that LGBTQ+ people are awful/wrong/gross/dangerous, and that kids need to be protected from them.

I find this offensive on all levels. I’m a parent and my son has two moms. We are good parents, and we are giving every bit of ourselves to raising a good human being. He’s been able to not only talk about his two moms, but also be in classrooms that affirmed his family with teachers who were accepting and libraries with books that had families that looked like his.

Representation matters. Representation saves lives. This is an anti-representation bill. So many young people are struggling right now and LGBTQ+ young people especially so. This bill seeks to force them to suffer in silence. 

It’s hurtful and it’s hateful. Exactly like it was intended.

D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.