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Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Will Leave More Sexual Abuse Survivors Like Me in the Dark

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Ever since the rise of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill here in Florida, I’ve seen hundreds of parents backing it under the guise of protecting their children from grooming. So many parents are conflating sex education, and learning about gender and attraction outside of the cisgender-heterosexual default as predatory. I’m seeing people say that schools shouldn’t be allowed to teach kids about this and that it isn’t age-appropriate because preteens and older are the only age groups who should be learning about sex.

There are so many issues behind all of this, but the idea of leaving sex health and education to be learned late into adolescence has been extremely hard for me as a child sexual assault survivor. Many of us don’t have parents or guardians to properly educate us; some of us come from abusive homes; some of us are surrounded by family members who view anything related to sex, genitals, puberty, or hormones are taboos to only be discussed in whispers.

I first became a child sexual assault victim at 4 years old — long before anyone would have even thought to educate me on consent, boundaries, anatomy, or sex in a way my brain could understand. For these parents, I was too young to learn about sex, but what many are forgetting is that for a lot of us, we are never afforded the shield of youth.

It took me 14 years to come to terms with my assault. I didn’t know how to talk about it or who to talk to about it. I felt ashamed. I felt dirty and disgusting and when I got my first period and my first bra and all the “firsts” teenagers have when going through puberty, I felt anxious and confused. I had no one to turn to because I had no one comfortable enough to talk to me about it. I was left to discover all of it on my own.

My experience with sex education was shame and fear-based, with the goal to scare us out of sex rather than educate us. I knew I was queer when I was in elementary school. It wasn’t sexual, and yet I couldn’t even be afforded the education and language to describe myself. If I had received a proper education, I would have known I was taken advantage of, I would have known my identities, and I would have been able to recognize all the times my boundaries had been crossed and my body hadn’t been respected.

We know that this bill is just an excuse to throw rocks and hide their hands when it comes to abusing us (the LGBTQIA+ community) and stripping us of our rights.

The bill is intentionally vague to leave room for freedom to enforce however they see fit. But the rhetoric they’re using to apparently “defend” victims like me does nothing but cause more harm and leave more of us wandering in the dark.

Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

Originally published: March 22, 2022
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