On day two of my Florida's Culture War and New Gilded Age reporting tour, I interviewed three LGBTQ high school students about the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
What immediately stood out to me was how Elena, Will, and Echo were more intelligent and articulate than most of the schmuck pundits I see daily parading cable news airwaves. Will, a gay and nonbinary 11th grader who had testified in front of the Florida Legislature agains the bill—which all-but puts a gag order on any discussion of LGBTQ issues from K through third grade and likely beyond—knew the bill backwards and forward and fairly quickly told me what's really going on.
"They're trying to kill us," Will said about Republicans in Florida and across the country pushing these laws that are really meant to equate queer people with pedophiles.
"They're putting us in danger and they know what they're doing," Will added.
As the interview went on, all three students shared the crisis of depression and suicidal thoughts in the LGBTQ community BEFORE this latest anti-LGBTQ bill. This really struck a cord with me because, frankly, I've been suffering with depression most of my life and over the last few weeks have had a relapse falling into a deep depression that I'm trying to continue to work through as I try new medication.
As a straight man who experienced depression as a high schooler, I can't even imagine being in these kids' shoes having to deal with the normal mental health challenges teenagers struggle with AND THEN having extremist anti-LGBTQ legislation added into the mix.
At the end of the interview, the kids extended their criticisms beyond extremist Republicans—calling out weak and feeble Democrats who are emboldening Republicans' to successfully wage culture war crusades.
"Republicans are going farther and farther right and Democrats are saying oh we should become more center to appeal to them...no you should go father left and we need to mobilize!" Will said. Elena, a transgender high schooler, added that the Republicans are malicious but the Democratic Party is one constant "sad theme" of dying movements wrapped around a party that refuses to "fight for us" for economic justice for the working class.
"The Democrats and Republicans aren't even that different when it comes to the political spectrum as a whole," Will said. This clip ended up doing well on Twitter, garnering nearly 18,000 views as of this writing.
Wait till you learn more about their donors' list and the way things really work here in the United Corporations of America (I thought to myself).
Overall, for all the focus the progressive movement and very-online left put on the corruption of the Democratic Party—which includes my reporting and commentary—this trip has also opened my eyes more to the importance of not ignoring or minimizing the Republican bigotry and extremism putting a target on these kids' backs.
Of course, it's not breaking news that Republicans are attempting to distract the masses with anti-LGBTQ bills as well as racist dog whistling in the form of their critical race theory nonsense. But that doesn't mean it doesn't affect and threaten real people and groups.
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