Aug 21, 2023 - Education

Florida parent group forms to support LGBTQ+ families

Illustration of a set of lockers with the colors of the rainbow flag

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As many Florida children went back to school last week, a group of parents came together to announce a new support group for LGBTQ+ families.

Driving the news: Equality Florida formed Parenting With Pride to teach guardians about new laws affecting queer students via free webinars, track how those rules are implemented in schools, and provide them with resources and support.

Why it matters: LGBTQ+ youth have been the target of laws and regulations championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies over the last few years. The approach not only hurts a population of children at higher risk of depression and suicide because of how they're treated in society, advocates say, but also creates a confusing landscape for parents to navigate.

What they're saying: "There is a need for answers in Florida right now," Equality Florida press secretary Brandon Wolf said at a news conference announcing the group, "answers to what rights families have and can continue exercising in schools, answers to how the raft of legislation that's targeting those families will be implemented in classrooms, answers to how the system will impact their kids."

By the numbers: More than 1,000 families from Pensacola to Key West had joined the program as of last week, Wolf said.

  • An estimated 114,000 LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-17 live in Florida, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank that conducts research on policies and laws pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Context: Parenting With Pride is the latest group formed to counteract messaging from conservative parent groups such as Moms for Liberty, which has faced criticism since its formation in Florida two years ago that its "parental rights" messaging applies only to some parents. It was recently named an anti-government extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights watchdog.

  • In Miami, a parent concerned about book censorship formed Moms for Libros to urge progressive-minded parents to sign up for committees tasked with reviewing textbooks, Axios Miami's Deirdra Funcheon reported.

Zoom in: Among the new regulations that parents are navigating this year is a Florida Board of Education rule that requires parents to green light their child being called by a name other than what appears on their birth certificate.

  • While state officials said the rule provides transparency for parents, critics said it creates another barrier for transgender and non-binary students who use different names and pronouns to be affirmed and respected at school.
  • Some school districts — including Polk County — have interpreted the rule to apply to nicknames, too, such as "Rob" for a student whose full name is Robert.

What they're saying: "It's so much extra work that parents and teachers don't need," Jen Cousins, a mom from Orlando involved in Parenting With Pride, told Axios. "It's just inviting stuff to fall through the cracks."

  • Her nonbinary child is "definitely overwhelmed by how much of an attack all of this is on their community," Cousins said. "They're 13 and they're hearing the state say, 'You can't be you.' That's a lot of stress to put on a 13-year-old."
  • That's why Parenting With Pride is so important, Cousins said. "We'll be a resource that people will come to with questions and for support."

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