How 'Don't Say Gay' laws shove meaningful discussions of 'sex and gender underground where it’s dark'

How 'Don't Say Gay' laws shove meaningful discussions of 'sex and gender underground where it’s dark'
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) makes bonkers claim about insidious 'Don't Say Gay' bill (screengrab).

We’re told Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law is “anti-grooming.” We’re told it will prevent school kids from being victimized by sex predators.

That’s false.

On its face.

To explain, I need to tell a story.

Grooming requires secrecy

After considering all the facts available to me, I figure Dad began sexually molesting the child, to whom we are related, sometime in 2014. I’m told it ended when the child was old enough to say they didn’t want to be touched that way anymore. Evidently, Dad complied.

I discovered my dad’s felony three years later. During that time, Dad had been investigated, arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced. (He pleaded guilty. His punishment was fines, parole and restricted travel.) Dad said nothing. Mom said nothing. My sister said nothing.

Meanwhile, my parents, who were already fundamentalist Christians (specifically, Plymouth Brethren), became leveled-up-mushroom-cloud Christians. (You could not turn around in their house without seeing scripture. Bible placards were even in the bathroom.) I was used to being asked if I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. During this time, though, the inquiries escalated into inquisition.

My wife and I guessed something was up. We endured it, however, because it’s not unusual for people growing older to become more religious, for one thing. For another, we wanted our daughter, a toddler at the time, to know her grandparents. I was long past the age of returning home. Yet I longed for her to have a link to the place and culture of my rearing – to provide a taste of my Huck Finn childhood.

I have not seen them since 2017. Turns out, Mom stood by her man. She blackmailed the child’s parent into secrecy. She threatened to dox them, you could say, if they revealed Dad’s pedophilia to the rest of us. My dad and my sister were complicit in Mom’s conspiracy of silence.

They could have made different choices. They could have chosen honesty and transparency. They could have said Dad did a horrible, horrible thing – he sexually molested blood kin. They could have said he’d be arrested and punished. Dad could have asked the victim for forgiveness. He could have asked the rest of us to forgive him for violating bonds of trust. He could have promised to seek help.

This would have been an exquisitely painful process. It might have been impossible for the family to overcome. But Mom and Dad robbed us of that chance. Denying the lies only quadruples the hurt. To my knowledge, my dad still blames the child-victim for tempting him.

“This is between me and God,” he said the last time we talked.

He’s lying to himself.

If he really believed his pedophilia was between him and God – if the moral obligations to God superseded the moral obligations to family – he wouldn’t have hidden the crime from us. He wouldn’t have accused a child of temptation. He would have condemned Mom’s extortion.

None of this – the crimes and the cover-up of the crimes – would have happened without secrecy. With secrecy, all this pain is made possible.

Anti-grooming requires transparency

We’re told Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law is “anti-grooming.” We’re told it will prevent school kids from being victimized by sex predators.

That’s false.

On its face.

“Don’t Say Gay” forbids certain topics. It permits parents to sue if they don’t like what teachers are teaching. The effect is driving the topics of sex and gender – and related topics – underground where it’s dark.

Real groomers thrive in the dark.

When children and teachers talk about sex and gender – and related topics – they are talking about them in the open, where everyone can see. If parents don’t like what kids learn, they can say something. That they can say something is made possible by the fact that children and teachers are having these discussions in the open for everyone to see.

As it is, “Don’t Say Gay” robs parents of the opportunity to object to what they’re kids are learning. The climate of fear inspired by the law is almost certain;y going to push teachers, fearing the ruination of lawsuits, from speaking openly about, well, pretty much anything.

I think most teachers are wonderful, but groomers – real ones like my dad – do live among us. When children and teachers talk openly and transparently, real groomers have few opportunities. Under the shadow of “Don’t Say Gay,” they have the cover they need to groom.

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