In the Wake of Gov. DeSantis Signing Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” Bill, Joni Madison shares her story of coming out to her own teacher in a Video Message to LGBTQ+ Youth
Watch Video here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, one day after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill into law in Floriday, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Interim President Joni Madison released a video message to LGTBQ+ youth in Florida and across the country, recounting her own story of coming out to her teacher in rural North Carolina.
“I have a message to all the LGBTQ+ kids in Florida and across the country right now,” says Madison in the video. “Dangerous bullies who call themselves “leaders” in far too many state legislatures are trying to take something away from you. But they can’t. Because your voice is yours. Your truth is yours.”
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill (HB 1557) — discriminatory and dangerous legislation that seeks to silence teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, further stigmatizing and isolating LGBTQ+ kids and also undermining existing protections for LGBTQ+ students. The legislation — which has triggered major backlash from educators and students across Florida and the country — would prevent teachers from providing a safe, inclusive classroom for all students. After Gov. DeSantis signed the bill, HRC and Equality Florida pledged to fight until this dangerous attack on the LGBTQ+ community is either struck down or repealed in full.
LGBTQ+ kids have real threats and obstacles to overcome. 86% of LGBTQ+ youth report they have been targets of bullying, harassment, or assault at school. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ youth contribute to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement.
The full text of the video can be found below.
Joni Madison here. Pronouns she/hers, and I’m the President of the Human Rights Campaign.
I have a message to all the LGBTQ+ kids in Florida and across the country right now
Dangerous bullies who call themselves “leaders” in far too many state legislatures are trying to take something away from you.
But they can’t.
Because your voice is yours. Your truth is yours.
And there are people who love you for your voice, and your truth, and all of who you are.
In fact, there’s a whole cheerleading squad out here for you right now: Other LGBTQ+ kids, allies and accomplices of all ages, a big rowdy rainbow family, loving mama bears and papa bears and parents of all stripes who right now are super pissed off on your behalf.
I know this is scary, and I know this is hard.
I know -- because I have been where you are.
40 years ago, I was a young queer kid in the South.
I was raised in a small town at a time when being different wasn’t celebrated -- it was condemned.
I knew I was gay.
But I didn’t know if there was a future for me.
Coming out to my high school English teacher changed that. And it changed my life.
My teacher told me, “Joni -- There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are perfect just the way you are.”
It breaks my heart that lawmakers in Florida and elsewhere are trying to take this support away.
But they can’t change the truth -- which is that so many of your teachers, coaches, and peers support and affirm you.
And I’m here today to tell you:
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.
You are perfect just the way you are.
And you are not alone.
You are family. You are loved. And we will never stop fighting for you.
Let me tell you -- As LGBTQ+ people, we’ve stood up to a lot of bullies and won.
On the playground and in the classroom.
And throughout our history.
At the Supreme Court.
In the 2020 elections.
We’re going to do that again.
We’ve got this. And you know what? We’ve got your back.
So keep rallying, keep protesting, and above all, keep taking care of yourself.
If you’re looking for more support right now, check out our website, the Trevor Project, and Trans Lifeline.
Thank you for being you. And please know -- there is a future for you wherever you want to be.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
To make a general inquiry, please visit our contact page. Members of the media can reach our press office at: (202) 572-8968 or email email@example.com.