Are You There Florida GOP? It’s Me, Margaret.

Are You There Florida GOP? It’s Me, Margaret.

Judy Blume’s tweet just broke our hearts.

This is a reference to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, the story of 6th-grader Margaret Simon navigating puberty and identity.

It was first published in 1970 by Judy Blume, and for 50 years since, has been a guiding read for young people about to get their first period.

With the movie release set for Spring 2023, it feels like we’re making progress in period positivity and openness in talking about our menstrual cycles.

But then another proposed sexual health bill for Florida came out…

Gov. Ron DeSantis is 1 signature away from agreeing to a bill that would ban the discussion of periods and menstruation (among other topics of sexuality & reproductive health) in Florida schools until Grade 6.

Forgive us if this is too candid but – WTF?!

As Judy Blume famously wrote in the voice of Margaret: “Why do they wait until sixth grade when you already know everything?”

Florida House Bill 1069 is harmful in many ways.

You can read the official bill HERE, although it’s very wordy and technical, so here is a summary:

  • Transphobia: it would make it illegal for teachers to respect pronouns; "It shall be the policy of every public K-12 educational institution that is provided or authorized by the Constitution and laws of Florida that a person's sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person's sex.")

  • Restrictions on basic education: “prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from occurring in prekindergarten through to grade 8” (!!) (ACLU referred to this as a book ban)

  • Censors Educational Materials: The bill stipulates that any parent complaint regarding educational materials results in their immediate removal from the classroom, pending further review…it would take just one complaint from a parent – not a trained curriculum builder, experienced consultant, or educational professional – to immediately remove a specified educational material.

This bill is an infringement on freedom of speech, and a HUGE step backwards in terms of education and body autonomy.

August condemns any politician or organization that causes direct harm to our LGBTQ+ community. We are concerned with the majority of contents laid out in this bill but particularly the reproductive health education.

So let’s get into it…

First periods can happen to people as young as 8 years old in some cases.

Imagine that your child is at school for their first period. They’re the first of their friends to get it. They’ve had no introduction to menstruation yet, since they’re also the first child in your family, and, as parents, you thought they were too young to be worried about that.

Wouldn’t you want your child’s school, the place designed for education, to be prepared and willing to fill in the informational gaps to make sure they feel comfortable, and at ease about this major coming-of-age moment?

Eunice Ban (she/her) from our Inner Cycle community shares her first period story:

“I was in the 4th Grade when I got my first period. I remember waking up in the morning and seeing brown spots in my underwear. I suspected it to be my period but everyone told me I would get it in middle school…

I just stuffed toilet paper in my underwear and went to school. Coincidentally, my other friend also started her period and while she was vocal about it, for some reason I was embarrassed and scared.”

Eunice goes on to tell us how she didn’t talk about it at school, nor did she tell her family until the next day (they were very happy and saw it as a right-of-passage to celebrate!). She reflected on the fact that she wished her school had taught them more about periods from a younger age, especially how it’s normal if it comes earlier than your peers.

She thinks she would have had less fear, less embarrassment and more confidence in her newfound maturity.

We’d also like to remind everyone that PERIODS MAKE HUMAN LIFE POSSIBLE.

Take that in: Menstruation is a biological function, and the foundation of ALL human life, whether you’re a menstruator or not.

Not only should young people with a uterus learn about periods, but really, anyone who identifies as human should too.

Sex and reproductive health education is imperative to self-understanding and confidence. We need to be cognisant of our changing bodies as they evolve through puberty and other physical & mental changes.

Understanding of self is important but, in order to be a fully functioning member of society, so is understanding of others.

At some point in everyone’s life, menstruator or not, you WILL interact with someone on their period – it’s virtually impossible not to. Wouldn’t you like to know how to support that person? How to navigate their emotions? What might make them feel better?

Here’s what you need to know about the bill:

  • Florida State Representative Stan McClain (R) is behind House Bill 1069

  • It centers around “reproductive function at birth” that is “binary and unchangeable” and also allows for district officials to object to any classroom or school library materials that describes or depicts any sexual conduct [ACLU].

  • It states that instructions and course materials that involve human sexuality, such as information about AIDS, STDs, and health education, can only be taught in grades 6-12.

  • The bill is on its way for a discussion and vote by the broader House while a similar bill is working its way to the Florida State Senate.

During a House Education Quality Subcommittee discussion on March 15, Rep. Ashley Gantt (D) questioned McClain to clarify, “if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in 5th grade or 4th grade, will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than sixth grade?” to which he responded: “it would.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has pointedly called HB 1069: “Government Control Over What Is Taught In Sex Ed And Expanded Book Banning.”

But how will this be enforced?

Listening to hear friends ask each other if anyone has a spare tampon? 1 person in the bathroom at a time? If someone has a stain can no one, not even their gym coach, tell them?

The funny thing is that less than 6 months ago Gov. DeSantis was insisting that young menstruating athletes had to inform their coaches about their menstrual cycles.

Luckily, this proposal was voted down in February after concerns over privacy and recognition of the emotional reaction from young athletes.

AP News reported that a petition writer, Jenn Meale Poggie, said her 16-year-old, soccer-playing daughter was moved almost to the point of tears when she heard about the proposal.

“That,” Poggie said, “is how profound these young girls are emotionally affected by this type of policy.”

To that we say, let’s keep the emotions rolling high – and speak up.

  • Continue to ask questions about your period and your body – it’s the only way to shed the stigma and work on releasing any shame you may feel.

  • Pay attention to what’s happening in your local politics to ensure sex education remains a valued topic in school and society.

Parents we’re also looking to you:

McClain rebutted the critiques to the bill explaining that they’re just trying to ensure that, “our parents continue to have the opportunity to know what materials are being used to instruct [their children] and to have the ability to challenge that.” So please, go challenge it.

We promise, your child will notice if you’re fighting for their rights to body autonomy.

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