The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
We are submitting testimony in extremely strong opposition to H7539, a bill that copies policies being moved in other states that would be harmful to many young people and to building safe, inclusive school communities. This bill also perpetuates truly ridiculous claims around how race is being discussed in our schools. It is the worse version of extremist politics being advanced on the backs of young people.
This legislation is part of a “don’t say gay” push around the country where teachers are being told they cannot answer questions or have age appropriate, compassionate conversations about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This is not only just plain wrong and incredibly out of touch with our state’s values, it is also damaging to young people and to our ability to ensure a safe educational environment for all.
Many schools are struggling with bullying and the challenge of creating a place where everyone can learn and grow and thrive. Modeling values of inclusion and respect in our classrooms and making it clear through open conversations about gender and relationships that our schools are a place where everyone is respected is a pretty great way to start to push for the kind of change that means more students can succeed and grow with confidence.
This bill is also building on a whole bunch of rhetoric around “critical race theory” in our schools. What does that mean? Well this is an academic theory that is explored in universities around history, race and privilege. It is not something that is in public school curricula for young people as it a complex academic theory. The people pushing this bill know that.
What this bill would actually do is make it harder to honestly and openly talk about things like slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and ongoing challenges around race in our country. It is absurd to claim as this bill attempts to do that talking about things like white privilege is a negative concept.
It is ok to talk with young people about the fact that they may have certain benefits that they did not have to earn and invite them to be a part of making a more just world. We have the chance to make our classrooms a place where we can not only acknowledge the harm that has happened in this country in how different people have been treated, but also support students in understanding and making a commitment to advance values that make our communities better.
This bill is all about erasing people. It is about denying injustice and avoiding tough conversations. Even worse it goes on and on about politics and ideology when in fact this entire legislation is about an extremist, hateful agenda and ideology that perpetuates racism, homophobia and transphobia.
Ignoring, making invisible or denying the experiences of gay or transgender people does not change anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It does make LGBT people feel unsafe and implies that it is ok to treat them as lesser or different. It perpetuates hate plain and simple.
Denying that Black, Indigenous and people of color have not been treated equally and erasing this from history books does not change that it happened. It does make it harder for students to understand the role and opportunity they have to make things better.
We can find a way together to tell hard truths about our country’s past and present in order to prepare young people to be part of creating a better future. We talk about the children being our future and that is a beautiful vision as long as we prepare and support them to do better than we have and to have the information and tools to help them reshape stronger, healthier communities where we all feel respected and have the opportunity to succeed and thrive.
Every person whether they are under 18 or over 80 should have the information and the support to be who they are without judgment. We have the opportunity to make sure that as young people are figuring out who they are and finding their place in the world that they are received with support and provided information, instead of judged or harmed.
We urge you to vote no on this bill. We should be improving information in our schools to help students to be empowered members of healthy, safe, inclusive communities where we respect all people and are not afraid to have tough conversations about race in order to move forward towards racial justice. We should celebrate and respect LGBT people and families and you can’t do that when sexual orientation is a censored topic.
This bill is wrong. It is the wrong direction for our state. Please, vote no on H7539. Thank you.
Contact: Emma Gauthier, [email protected], 401-400-0061