The New “Lavender Scare” in America’s Schools

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12/20/2023

It has been 70 years since the Lavender Scare, when thousands of gay people in the US government were fired or forced to resign from their jobs. Now, this same discrimination is driving modern-day legislation. “We’re talking about the systematic, intentional targeting of queer people,” says Jay Jones, the first openly transgender vice president of the Howard University Student Association. In May of 2023, the Human Rights Campaign tallied over 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in state legislatures, along with 70 laws ranging from bans on gender affirming care for transgender youth to the censorship of school curriculum. A staggering two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth report that potential state or local laws banning the discussion of queer topics in education has made their mental health “a lot” worse. Acts passed by governments in red states, such as Florida’s controversial HB 1557, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, contest queer inclusion, mirroring the mass hysteria of the Lavender Scare and contributing to the stigmatization of queer youth and educators nationally.

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