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Someone Please Explain To Republicans What ‘Gender Identity’ Actually Means

Ron DeSantis looks uncomfortable, stands in front of an American flag

Copycat versions of Florida’s immensley cruel so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law are starting to pop up in states across the country. Versions of the legislation, which so far we’re seeing in at least Ohio, Louisiana, and Georgia, ban “classroom discussion” and “instruction” of “gender identity and sexual orientation.” Similarly, an Oklahoma Republican recently introduced a bill banning books that discuss, among other things, “gender identity.”

All of this is terrifyingly regressive but it also begs the question: What exactly do these Republicans think gender identity is? Because if they truly succeeded in barring these discussions from classrooms, things would get very weird!

What they all seem to be missing is the fact that things like “male,” “female,” “boy,” and “girl” are markers of gender identity. Separating boys and girls into teams in P.E. class? That’s instruction about gender identity. Reading a fairytale where a princess falls in love with a prince? That’s sexual orientation and heteronormativity, elements featured in many books read by students where a character has parents on the scene.

Pronouns in general—which, despite what ignorant Twitter trolls may think, are just basic signifiers like he, him, her, you, them, etc.—would have to be prohibited from use in schools under these laws, as they indicate gender identity.

I am begging Republicans to learn what a thing is before they work this hard to ban it.

This reaction is truly brilliant:

“To be in accordance with this policy, I will no longer be referring to your student with gendered pronouns,” reads the imagined letter from a Florida teacher to students’ parents. “All students will be referred to as ‘they’ or ‘them.’ I will no longer use a gendered title such as ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ or make and references to my husband/wife in the classroom. From now on I will be using the non-gendered title ‘Mx.'”

“Furthermore, I will be removing all books or instruction which refer to a person being a ‘mother,’ ‘father,’ ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ as these are gender identities that also may allude to sexual orientation,” the letter continues. “Needless to say, all books which refer to a character as ‘he’ or ‘she’ will also be removed from the classroom. If you have any concerns about this policy, please feel free to contact your local congressperson.”

This may be in parody, but it’s also the only way to actually fully comply with these absurd, nonsensical laws.

Of course, most of these bills couch the bans in words like “appropriate,” which is deliberately vague as well as arbitrary. Who gets to decide what “age-appropriate” discussions of gender and orientation are? Well, probably the people who see straight as default, LGBTQIA subjects as being inherently sexual, and want to deny trans people even exist in the first place.

(image: Ron DeSantis, photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.