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What this trans parent said about DeSantis signing the parental rights bill at his son's school

Elliot Long holding a sign
Courtesy: Elliot Long
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Elliot Long has a son in the first grade at Classical Preparatory School, where Gov. DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, He fears the new law will harm his son and other children.

Elliot Long has a first-grade child at Classical Preparatory School. He said this bill addresses an issue that “doesn’t exist” and criticized DeSantis for signing it.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference at a Spring Hill school last week to sign a bill into law that prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early school grades.

DeSantis said parents are “being ignored increasingly” across the country, then proceeded to sign what critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The bill has been criticized for its vague language, and has faced major backlash from all over the country, and President Biden said the bill is “hateful,”

Elliot Long has a son in the first grade at Classical Preparatory School, a charter school and thereby not covered under the law. It was started by the wife of current Florida Department of Education chair Richard Corcoran.

In a letter to school administrators, Long expressed his disappointment over the governor's appearance. The administrators have yet to respond, and Long says that their silence is an endorsement of the bill.

"This feeling of alienation and betrayal by my own child's school that signed on to this bill, it directly impacts me,” Long said. “It makes me feel really awful, like I need to take my child out of the school and find somewhere that's more welcoming."

In this interview, Long said this bill addresses an issue that “doesn’t exist” and criticized DeSantis for signing it.

In Long's words

My name is Elliot Long. I’m the parent of a first grader, I identify as queer and trans.

I think the bill is very dangerous. I think it's pretty blatantly homophobic and transphobic that it's dangerous for our LGBT youth in that it makes being queer and trans, something that's not supposed to be talked about something that's shameful, something that is inappropriate in the language of the bill. I know the language of the bill is very vague, and perhaps intentionally so that it's meant to make people nervous, make educators nervous to be supportive of LGBT issues and LGBT students for fear of reprisal. It's meant to have this chilling effect where it makes people afraid to be supportive.

I mean, this bill clearly discriminates against families like ours and families all across the state.
Elliot Long

I don't think we have this epidemic of schools talking about sexual orientation and gender identity in an inappropriate way. I think this is a made up problem. By saying we can't talk about LGBT people, it doesn't make us go away. I mean, particularly when kids are coming from LGBT families, like my first grader has two dads. So are you saying like, he can't talk about having two dads in the classroom, that the teacher can't acknowledge that all the kids in her class don't have a mom and a dad does even acknowledging that families with two dads or two moms exist somehow violate the policy that people think that's age appropriate for a first grader? Like for my kid, that's his everyday life. Like that's his family. I mean, this bill clearly discriminates against families like ours and families all across the state.

For me personally, the bill was signed at my child's school, this feeling of alienation and betrayal by my own child's school that signed on to this bill.
Elliot Long

I think this bill has generated a lot of backlash. I think the bill is clearly discriminatory and is probably not going to stand up in the courts. And I think this is a part of a larger trend that we can’t ignore, that it's not just happening here in Florida. It's happening all across the country, especially across the South. And I mean, I think it's clearly a backlash against all of the gains that LGBT people have made over the last decade. For me personally, the bill was signed at my child's school, this feeling of alienation and betrayal by my own child's school that signed on to this bill. It directly impacts me, it makes me feel really awful. And like, I need to take my child out of the school and find somewhere that's more welcoming.

I will continue speaking out about how unfair and unjust the legislation is. I'm still waiting for my son's school to respond to the letter that I sent to them. I feel like until I hear otherwise, that their silence is an endorsement of what happened that they allowed this press conference to happen at our school using our children's faces in support of it.

For me, I worry about how this bill affects my family, how it makes my son feel as someone who has two dads who's in first grade. We've already had conversations where he's asked me and my partner, 'Can I not talk about having two dads at school anymore?' And it just breaks my heart. I don't want him to feel ashamed of where he comes from. I don't want him to be getting these messages that our family is not IK. And the fact that he is just makes me feel sick.

I am a WUSF Rush Family/USF Zimmerman School Digital News Intern for the spring 2022 semester; this is my second internship with the station.