Will Larkins, a gay and nonbinary junior, with the permission of their teacher, taught the class about the Stonewall riots.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 26, 2022. It has since been updated.
Soon after the Florida governor signed the state's "Don't Say Gay" bill, one high schooler is refusing to be silenced. Will Larkins, a gay and nonbinary junior in Winter Park, Florida, posted a video of them teaching a class about the 1969 Stonewall riots, a series of uprisings in New York City that took place following a police raid on a gay bar. It was one of the pivotal movements in the gay rights movement.
Larkins has been very vocal against the bill and even wrote an op-ed for the New York Times against it. He helped organize a massive school walkout, reported LGBTQ Nation. Larkins posted the video and wrote: “LGBTQ American history is not taught in Florida's public schools, so I took it upon myself to explain the events of the Stonewall Uprising to my 4th period US history class. #SayGayAnyway.” The video was viewed more than 400,000 times and shared 25,000 times.
LGBTQ American history is not taught in Floridas public schools, so I took it upon myself to explain the events of the Stonewall Uprising to my 4th period US history class. #SayGayAnyway pic.twitter.com/A73TKPlWXF— Will Larkins (@ProudTwinkie) April 3, 2022
Larkins asked their teacher for permission to cover Stonewall after attending history lessons about events from the late 1960s and early 1970s in America that didn't mention the uprisings. Their teacher didn't know about the Stonewall uprising themselves, so Larkins shared a presentation on the subject and requested that they could share it with the class. After they were targeted with abuse, Larkins wrote on Twitter, “I’m a 17-year-old high school junior teaching a historical event to my classmates. We have learned much more intense history in this class. How are y’all calling me a groomer and a pedo rn. Stop sexualizing and harassing minors like me.”
You should be very proud! We need more brave, smart, teens like you… the adults owe you and all our kids so much better than you are getting. As a local-area parent, I’m so sorry our schools are failing you, and so thankful you are #SayingGayAnyway and educating your peers.— rposnanski (@mrsrpos) April 4, 2022
The bill prohibits “classroom instruction ... on sexual orientation or gender identity” in “kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” The law also allows parents to sue school districts for breaking this law. The law has been labeled hateful by many critics. Larkins said they felt defeated after the bill was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis but it also inspired them to resist. “It has energized me to fight even harder for as long as it takes until things are better,” they said.
Larkins, who's the president and co-founder of his school’s Queer Student Union, testified against the bill in the Florida Senate on February 28, 2022. They also led a massive walkout of more than 500 high school students on March 7, 2022, against the bill prior to the governor signing it. After Larkins shed light on the Stonewall riots, they said, “We don’t learn queer history at all,” he said, reported The Washington Post. “It felt like something important that needed to happen, especially with the legislation in Florida.” Larkins said the bill could be incredibly harmful to younger LGBTQ+ community members. “I don’t think I would have felt safe growing up,” they said. “It is horrible, and I have struggled a lot.” Larkins said he's 'lucky' for having supportive parents. “I’m able to speak out about it. Not everyone can.”
The feeling of relief every time I see young people showing the inclusion and acceptance my generation has failed to truly embody. The kids are more than alright.— Sacha Coward (@sacha_coward) March 24, 2022
The White House and President Joe Biden hit out against the anti-LGBTQ law. "It is certainly something that is not helping, you know, young people who are members of the LGBTQI+ community who are already vulnerable, already being bullied," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in February, reported CNN. "I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protection and safety you deserve," wrote President Biden on Twitter.
If you're queer and are being subjected to abuse, or need any help, please contact LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564