Don’t Say LGBTQ+, One Year Later: A Conversation with Jennifer Solomon

by HRC Staff

In the year since “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” went into effect in Florida, the law has had devastating consequences for LGBTQ+ students, educators and their allies. The law targets LGBTQ+ youth by prohibiting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and restricting instruction in grades 4-12. In practice, this bars and educators across the state by prohibiting them from having and providing a safe, inclusive classroom. The law also prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, and is part of a broader campaign against LGBTQ+ people by Gov. Ron DeSantis, alongside conservative extremists in the Florida legislature.

To mark one year since the law took effect on July 1, 2022, HRC spoke with Jennifer Solomon, founder and president of PFLAG South Miami Chapter and member of HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council, about its impact.

HRC: Can you please tell us about your background?

Jennifer: I'm the proud mom of four kids, two of my whom identify within the LGBTQ+ community. I’m a member of HRC Foundation's Parents for Transgender Equality Council. I also run a PFLAG chapter here in Miami. I'm a nurse, and my youngest is still in public school, so these attacks are personal.

HRC: What effects from “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” have you seen over the past year?

Jennifer: Like I said, I run a support group here in Miami, so it's not only just my personal experience, but the experience of families that I care about that. The main thing that is so upsetting about this is the vagueness of the law.
Some schools are taking the liberty to enforce it the way they feel safest because everybody is scared to have a parent come in and sue. We're having principals remove anything that has to do with LGBTQ+.

HRC: It sounds like chaos.

Jennifer: No one actually truly knows what's in the law, and that was on purpose. This is not about protecting children.

This is not about safety in schools. This isn't even about parental rights. This is about hate. This is about discrimination, and this is about targeting the easiest target that will speak to a specific base. And unfortunately, right now, that target is our LGBTQ+ youth.

HRC: The official name of the law is "The Parental Rights in Education Act,” but what about your rights as a parent?

Jennifer: DeSantis wants to protect the parents that think like him, but I'm a parent, and I have every right to protect my child.

I have every right to demand safety for my child in school, to have the right to access medical care for my child that aligns with all the major medical organizations that say this is life-saving care. So, it is not about parental rights, and it is not about protecting children. It's very, very obvious that it is about discrimination, that it is about trying to erase our children and our families.

HRC: What do you think about the law’s effect on teachers?

Jennifer: For some children, they're with their teachers on an average work day more than they are with their parents. So, why are we not allowing our teachers to do their job? Why are we not allowing doctors to care for patients? This is what they are trained for. Instead, we are being told we should take the word of politicians that have zero training in either of those professions.

HRC: We need to support teachers so they can support students.

Jennifer: For some children, the one affirming adult in their life is a teacher or a guidance counselor. There's no way to help children by silencing our teachers and not allowing them to be that emotional support for our kids.
Our children are seeing the state say, “You are not enough. We want to erase you.” We are seeing teachers that are saying, “Hey, don't talk to me about this. I could get fired.” We are seeing doctors that are canceling appointments and saying, “I don't want to put my license on the line, so I can no longer care for you.”

This is a really scary place right now to be a parent of these children, because it takes a whole team - doctors, therapists, teachers - to make sure that our kids are thriving and surviving.

We want our kids treated the same. The politicians are the ones that are pointing out how our children are so different than others. In my child's middle school, nobody cares if a teacher or classmate is LGBTQ+. It's the adults that have the problems with it, and that's what we're seeing on the ground in Florida."

- Jennifer

HRC: What can people do to help?

Jennifer: We need the Equality Act. It will send a message that that LGBTQ+ folks deserve the same respect and protections as every other American.
We also need support from families. People say they support my advocacy, but when I ask, “Why don't you come with me to a school board meeting? Why don’t you stand up as a parent that doesn't have a child in the LGBTQ+ community, but sees that this is wrong?" they think that’s going too far for them.
We need allies to stand up and say enough is enough. This is absolutely discrimination, and it is literally killing our children because politicians are making them feel that they don't belong.

HRC: How can we get them out of office?

Jennifer: Young voters and new voters especially need to get out and vote, and they need to encourage their friends to vote.
Educate yourself all the way from your local city councils to your school boards. Don't just go in and vote when it's the president. You need to go to vote every single time because you'd be surprised how much those smaller offices are actually going to affect you more in your own community.