Republicans in Tennessee have introduced a new bill that would prohibit any mentioning of LGBTQ history or teaching of any LGBTQ issues in school during the 1st legislative session.
Introduced by Tennessee Rep. Bruce Griffey (R), Tennessee H.B. 800 is the latest bill targeting the LGBTQ community brought forth by Republicans in early 2022.
This bill sponsored by Griffey would ban textbooks and other instructional materials in public schools that “promote, normalize, support or address LGBT issues or lifestyle.”
The reason behind this? It is because it would offend those with “Christian values.”
This is what Griffey wrote in the bill, spelling out the raison d’être behind his bill in plain English:
WHEREAS, the promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles in public schools offends a significant portion of students, parents, and Tennessee residents with Christian values;
Griffey’s bill would forcibly restrict the discussion of LGBTQ issues by subjecting them to the same restrictions and limitations placed on the teaching of religion in public schools.
This idea was not lost on critics, who see this bill as an attempt at bullying LGBTQ people.
Jace Wilder knows how difficult it can be growing up as a member of the LGBTQ community in a conservative state. He says he grew up hearing some of the same ideas spelled out in H.B. 800.
But Wilder says religion is already taught in public schools through subjects like history, literature, and art.
“We still teach the world’s religions. We just don’t enforce any particular ideology or any particular group over another,” said Wilder.
Wilder says H.B. 800 is an attempt to use the state to silence and erase groups already marginalized.
“Even if you disagree with the existence of a certain group, it’s good to learn that they are there so that you can still respect them as human beings,” said Wilder.
This is not the first time H.B. 800 has been brought up. Griffey brought this exact same bill during a legislative session in 2021.
However, at that time, it didn’t pass. The bill was later removed from the Tennessee State Legislature’s Education Committee’s calendar.
Griffey has revived this bill, in the hopes of having his bill join other Tennessee bills restricting both education and LGBTQ rights in the Volunteer State.
In 2021, Tennessee passed a bill that would require a school district to notify parents before “providing a sexual orientation curriculum or gender identity curriculum” in any kind of instruction, including but not limited to education on sexuality. Tennessee’s legislature also voted to ban trans children from playing sports on teams that match their gender identity (Lambda Legal & the ACLU among others have brought a lawsuit against this bill).
Tennessee in 2021 also passed a bill that would force any businesses in Tennessee to place a gender neutral sign in order to allow trans individuals to use the bathroom (though an injunction has been granted against this bill), and subsequently the Volunteer State banned doctors from providing life-saving gender affirming care to trans youth.
These bills in Tennessee not only discriminate against LGBTQ people; they also are negatively harmful to LGBTQ people’s mental health.
According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.
Restrictive, regressive, and repressive bills like H.B. 800 in Tennessee inflict great harm to the mental health of LGBTQ youth – none more than trans youth, however.
For example, when it comes to banning trans youth from playing sports, the transgender sports ban was most likely to evoke anger and sadness across key demographics. Trans and non-binary youth are also 23% more likely to feel stressed compared to cisgender LGBTQ youth, and 24% more likely to feel angry. The same study found that trans youth felt 16% more helpless, 13% more hopeless, and 29% more scared than cisgender LGBTQ youth.
Tennessee Republicans last year tried to make the Bible its official state book, and this year they have their hearts out to inflict abominable hatred on the citizens of Tennessee. It is imperative that stay engaged and to fight back bills like in Tennessee, as the consequences are long-lasting, especially for our LGBTQ+ youth.