Many have been left outraged and terrified by the onset of Florida's Republican sponsored so-called "Don't Say Gay" legislation and the other homophobic and transphobic GOP bills springing up around the country.
But as the right-wing continues to obfuscate the true intent of the bills, even going so far as to falsely claim they're aimed at protecting children from abuse and pedophilia, others argue the controversy is overblown.
Amid all this debate, one woman's deeply personal Twitter thread has gone viral for the way it powerfully underlines the potential impacts of the bills.
In the lengthy thread, Twitter user Rhian Beutler, who goes by @rhiankatie on the app, posted a personal story involving an LGBTQ+ classmate from her high school days that illustrates the very real reasons we "can't stop saying gay" as the right continues its assault on LGBTQ+ people.
You can see her posts here:
In her thread, Beutler told the story of a a new boy who joined her class in high school whom she decided to befriend.
As they became close, she asked him if he was gay, but the answer she received was anything but what she expected.
She soon found out the reason the boy had joined her class was because his parents had found out he was gay and forced him to change schools and that was the least of their retributions.
As Beutler put it:
"He said he was scared to go home every day."
The boy told Beutler of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his homophobic parents for being gay.
But eventually, Beutler's family was able to take the boy in, which became a turning point in his life.
The boy Beutler now calls "my brother and my best friend" went on to attend an Ivy League school and become an immunologist who is working to cure cancer—a life path he almost assuredly would not have found in his homophobic home.
But this is more than just a happy ending.
As Beutler went on to say, there are scores of LGBTQ+ children, especially trans children, who are being terrorized by legislation like Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill and the others being pushed by Republicans across the United States.
The Florida bill effectively bans any mention of gender or sexuality in public schools by banning "discussion" and "instruction" of those topics that are not "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate."
But the bill does not define what constitutes "discussion" or "instruction," nor does it define what is appropriate.
And since the law empowers parents to sue for anything they perceive as a violation of the law, critics have argued that it even opens schoolchildren up to lawsuits should they mention their same-sex parents, for example.
In essence, the only way to be sure to avoid being sued is to "don't say gay," hence the bill's nickname.
The law also requires that school faculty out LGBTQ students to their parents--a situation that could be traumatizing or even deadly, as Beutler's story illustrates.
Several laws mimicking Florida's have already sprung up and been passed in states all over the country, including an Alabama law that criminalizes transgender healthcare and punishes doctors with jail time for providing it.
In short, the bills are an all-out assault on LGBTQ students, faculty and allies--and right-wingers have routinely smeared anyone criticizing the legislation as "pedophiles" or "groomers."
Underlining these dangers, Beutler closed her thread with praise for her parents and a call to action.
"Be a safe adult."
"Be rock steady for the LGBTQIA+ folks in your life."
People on Twitter were deeply moved by Beutler's thread.
More than a dozen states have proposed or passed bills similar to the "Don't Say Gay" legislation since Republican Florida Ron DeSantis signed it into law two weeks ago.