Count me among the cynical who aren’t surprised that a 17-year-old tennis player knows better than the entire Florida GOP.
Coco Gauff, a South Florida native, is an exceptional tennis player and though she might be a standout at her age on the court, she’s also standing out by speaking out off of it.
She was vocal during the Black Lives Matter movement, and she let her views on the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, frequently referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, be known when speaking to reporters at the Indian Wells tournament in California on Tuesday.
“I’m against it,” she said. “I think these conversations are important, and for me who has friends in the LGBTQ+ community, I couldn’t imagine not being able to talk about your identity. I feel that’s something that is normal.”
The bill was signed by state lawmakers Tuesday, and the overlord of Florida’s sunburnt red, drunk-on-margaritas-and-bigotry masses, Gov. Ron DeSantis, is expected to sign it into law, effectively outlawing discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 classrooms “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” beyond July 1. Parents would have the right to sue districts for alleged violations.
During that news conference, Gauff highlighted why learning about who you are as a person is so crucial in places designed for learning and growing.
“Every (LGBTQ+) person I’ve known has known that they were part of that community since they were young,” Gauff said. “I think it’s important that they have those conversation in school, because that is supposed to be a safe space to talk about everything.”
Knowing why people are the way they are is incredibly helpful to understanding people who are and aren’t like you, and having open, non-judgmental conversations about differences goes a long way to letting LGBTQ+ people know that it’s OK to be themselves. Schools aren’t adding a sexual experimentation course, they’re acknowledging facts of life. The sooner society starts recognizing this community as part of it, the sooner people will learn that they’re just trying to find happiness like the rest of us.
Also, not to be overlooked is the impact this has for Black members of the queer and trans community, who are more likely to be discriminated against than their white counterparts, according to NPR. Gauff, who is Black, didn’t mention that demographic specifically, but supporting the cause of people who look like you — even if they aren’t like you — still helps bring awareness to the complex layers of this social issue.
She said the motivation to essentally say, This bill is fucking bullshit, was much the same as her incentive to say the same about police killing Black people.
“I think it was in 2019 or 2020 when I talked about the Black Lives Matter movement — I said it was important to have those conversations. Same stance on this,” Gauff said. “I think it’s important to have those tough conversations, and from the people that I spoke to who are part of the community, it definitely makes a difference when you don’t have to hide who you are.”
Gauff has never been ashamed to hide who she is, or how she feels, and it’s refreshing that someone so young — she turns 18 on Sunday — and so noteworthy is emboldened to tell the governor of her home state that this bill is nothing more than enforceable prejudice.
Great job. Could’ve used a few F-bombs and a colorful DeSantis insult, in my opinion, but I guess you also can count me among the people Gauff knows better than.