“Don’t Say Gay” Efforts in Indiana

Neve O'Brien, MVC writer

Wednesday, March 22, House Bill 1608, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, advanced from the Senate to the House. The bill will limit what schools are allowed to say concerning the LGBTQ+ community and will force schools to notify parents of anything that could possibly mean their child is transgender.
The bill first appeared in Florida in 2022 and has since been ratified in that state. A similar bill has migrated to Indiana. The bill requires parent permission to call a student by different pronouns or any name other than the one given to them at birth, prohibits teachers from mentioning anything LGBTQ+ related to children in third grade and under and states that conversations after third grade need to be “age or developmentally appropriate.”
Supporters of the bill say that this is necessary for kids to be kids since they cannot understand what relationships are yet. Floridian Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo said, “This bill has nothing to do with what our children’s sexual identity is… It’s actually allowing them to be children.” Supporters also say that this allows teachers to focus on what they actually need to be teaching.
First-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary in Florida, Paula Stephens, pointed out that talking to children about relationships and the LGBTQ+ community is not part of her curriculum, but talking about families is. “When I talk about families in my classroom, am I going to be violating this law because the children were having discussions about what their family looks like?”
Furthermore, due to the vague wording of the bill, this means that any person who wants to go by a name that is not their exact birth name has to get parental permission, regardless of context. For example, if someone named Maxwell wants to go by “Max,” [the children] would need to have parental permission.
Opposers of this law say it can put trans youth in danger from transphobic parents, potentially leading to emotional abandonment, neglect, abuse, and even disownment. Moreover, they believe it attempts to censor a topic that children will eventually be forced to understand due to the immense attention the community has been getting lately. LGBTQ+ relationships and culture are seen in the public every day, and with more major companies including such culture in their media and advertising, children are bound to ask questions regardless.
On April 7, the bill was rewritten to where kids will no longer have to have parental permission to go by a different name or pronouns. The rest of the bill remains unchanged. This means the bill will have to go through the entire ratification process once more.