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National advocate speaks against Gov. DeSantis’ anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ+ policies

Desantis’ war against “woke” has long been seen as a strategy to advance his potential candidacy for president.

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at a "Unite & Win Rally" at Arizona Financial Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. Gage Skidmore
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Last Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis signed into law a slate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills that restrict gender-affirming care for youth, drag shows, discussion of preferred pronouns in schools and prevent transgender people from using the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. 

The legislation is the latest under DeSantis’ administration targeting LGBTQ+ people and “woke” beliefs. The Washington Post reported that the administration defines “woke” as “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.”

DeSantis is also infamous for his anti-CRT bill, which was supposed to prevent the teaching of racial topics that were divisive. The bill states that it would protect an individual if they, “should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.” 

Desantis’ war against “woke” has long been seen as a strategy to advance his potential candidacy for president and this week it is believed that he will announce his presidential bid. 

Dr. David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, told APR that DeSantis’ anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ+ policies are tactics of white supremacy. Johns believes that a potential DeSantis presidency could have unquantifiable ramifications for the country.  

“In my lifetime I have not experienced a candidate, before the previous occupant of the oval office, who was so public in not using dog whistles, but using bullhorns to offer up the signs and symbols that allow white supremacy to be omnipresent yet hyper-invisible and this man has been coming out of the gate with them.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-CRT legislation aimed at curbing “woke” policies have made national waves over the past few years, not just in Florida. Specifically for the LGBTQ+ community the legislation has had a dramatic harmful impact. 

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According to the Trevor Project’s 2023 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation. However, the survey also found that youth were less suicidal and depressed when their schools, homes, and friends were gender-affirming. 

Several studies conducted in recent years have also found that transgender and nonbinary youth had improved mental health and substantially lower risks of suicide and depression when able to access gender-affirming care.

Johns told APR that the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country is “absolutely” genocidal because of the overwhelming evidence showing that gender-affirming care saves lives. 

“The Don’t Say Gay (bill) right, like preventing people from being able to name themselves or see themselves represented in public policy or the provision of democratic resources like healthcare or public schools is important,” Johns said. “So yes, I’ve found myself saying a lot recently that legislating the regulation of lives has another name which is enslavement and denying people access to life-saving and affirming care is a condition of genocide.”

Johns added that the response by the Democratic Party to attacks on specifically trans and gender non-conforming people has been disappointing. He also stated that the media is also culpable due to their terrible framing of LGBTQ+ individuals’ lives as a “debate” and often transphobic. 

Back in February, The New York Times, one of the most prominent news outlets in the country, was condemned by over 1,000 contributors because of their coverage of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people.

The intersection of race, gender identity, sexuality, and economic status only amplifies the problems that people face, Johns stated. Johns said that the NBJC would continue to do the work necessary to fight back against the attacks on Black, colored, and LGBTQ+ people.

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“Unless all of us are free none of us are free, so we will continue to engage in electoral processes,” Johns said. “We do direct service work…and the data also shows a solution to a lot of mental stress and trauma is love.”

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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