Students in Massachusetts and across the country walked out of class Friday to protest anti-queer legislation in Florida and Texas.
The students say the government actions alienate young members of the LGBTQ community, and they fear the hate could soon spread to other states.
Senior Oliver Slayton helped organize the walkout at Brookline High School, where hundreds of students participated. The group listened to a short speaking presentation and then took part in a series of chants.
"Around the country, people just like us here in Brookline are losing their rights to be who they are," Slayton said. "If it could be them, it could just as well be us tomorrow."
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The protest comes in response to anti-LGBTQ legislation that is happening in several states. In Florida, the "Don't Say Gay" bill would ban schools from discussing sexuality and gender identity in certain classrooms. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott's recent directive tells state health agencies to investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse.
More on the fight for LGBTQ rights
"My first reaction was just absolute terror at the fact that this is happening anywhere to anybody. If something like this were to happen here, I would want to leave," Brookline student Caelum Dulla said.
Walkouts were held throughout the U.S., including in Colorado and Vermont. Charlie McCaffrey, who attended one in Montpelier, used to live in both Texas and Florida and is concerned for family members who are still there.
"It is especially terrifying to think about my baby cousin. What if he grows up to be queer? Will he even be able to disclose that part of himself to the world without fear of being hurt or silenced? He could even be considered against the law," McCaffrey said.
Arline Isaacson, who co-chairs the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said it feels like deja vu. She was instrumental in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in the Massachusetts and said she is tired of watching Republican politicians try to rally their bases using attacks on queer people.
"It's annoying, assaulting and offensive because it's the kids who are really the victims and the kids who need to be protected," Isaacson said.
She said she is extremely concerned the anti-queer legislation will spread to other states.
"This is unfortunately going to continue for some period of time. The right wing is using it at as an organizing opportunity, and it's really reprehensible," Isaacson said.
Following the walkout, many students planned to spend the weekend writing letters to lawmakers about the issues.