Florida Teen Defies ‘don’t Say Gay’ Law and Teaches Class About Stonewall Uprising

In March 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education law, which bans public schools from teaching about gender or sexual orientation from kindergarten through the third grade. The law also prohibits discussing these topics in a way that is not “age” or “developmentally” appropriate for students of any grade. Critics say the law erases LGBTQ+ people from history and censors educators.

However, one high school student decided to challenge the law and educate his classmates about a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement. 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. Larkins said he wanted to share the story of Stonewall because it was not included in the curriculum of his US history class.

Stonewall: A Turning Point for LGBTQ+ Rights

The Stonewall riots were sparked by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, on June 28, 1969. The raid was one of many that targeted LGBTQ+ establishments at the time, as homosexuality was illegal and stigmatized in most states. However, unlike previous raids, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn resisted arrest and fought back against the police, who were outnumbered and trapped inside the bar. The confrontation attracted a crowd of supporters, who threw bottles, bricks, and other objects at the police. The riot lasted for several hours and continued for the next few nights, as thousands of LGBTQ+ people and allies gathered to protest against police brutality and discrimination.

The Stonewall riots are widely considered to be the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, as they inspired many activists and organizations to emerge and demand equal rights and recognition. Some of the notable events that followed Stonewall include the first gay pride marches in 1970, the formation of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, and the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973.

Larkins: A Voice for LGBTQ+ Youth

Will Larkins is no stranger to activism and advocacy. He is the co-founder of his school’s Queer Student Union and has written an op-ed for the New York Times against the Parental Rights in Education law. He also helped organize a massive school walkout to protest the law, which he said was “an attack on our identities and our right to exist”.

Larkins said he asked his history teacher for permission to cover Stonewall after attending lessons about events from the late 1960s and early 1970s in America that did not mention the uprisings. His teacher, who did not know about Stonewall themselves, agreed to let Larkins share his presentation with the class. Larkins posted the video of his lesson on Twitter, with the hashtag #SayGayAnyway, and received more than 400,000 views and 25,000 shares. He also received messages of support and gratitude from other LGBTQ+ students and educators, as well as some celebrities and politicians.

However, Larkins also faced backlash and harassment from some online trolls, who called him names and accused him of grooming and indoctrinating his classmates. Larkins responded by saying, “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 rn. Stop sexualizing and harassing minors like me”.


Will Larkins is an example of a brave and inspiring young person who defied an oppressive law and educated his peers about a significant event in LGBTQ+ history. His lesson on Stonewall not only raised awareness and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community, but also challenged the censorship and erasure that the Parental Rights in Education law imposes. Larkins said he hopes his actions will encourage other LGBTQ+ students and allies to speak up and share their stories, as well as pressure the Florida government to repeal the law and adopt a more inclusive and accurate curriculum.

Leave a Comment