Published August 02, 2022 by Rebecca Goldfine

Students Publish Op-ed Arguing Florida's LGBTQ Bill is 'Hermeneutically Unjust'

Jaida Hodge-Adams ’23 and Claire Nguyen ’25 recently published an opinion piece in Bangor Daily New that they first wrote for a spring semester philosophy class.

The class, Philosophical Issues of Gender and Race, taught by Aliosha Barranco Lopez, an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy, explores contemporary issues of gender and race, implicit bias, racial profiling, pornography, the gender wage gap, affirmative action, race and incarceration, transgender issues, and reparations for past harms.

In their op-ed, "How ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills harm our youth," Hodge-Adams and Nguyen argue that Florida's new bill that prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity stigmatizes LGBTQ youth. They warn that the Maine GOP might propose a similar bill, and encourage Maine voters to stop them if they do.

"As philosophy students, we believe these laws are unjust: they purposefully cut LGBTQ children off from the language they need to understand themselves and their experiences. In other words, these laws are hermeneutically unjust," they write.

Hermeneutics refers to the study of the interpretation of language and experiences. "Shared interpretations are crucial to how we collectively form identity," they note.

"For example, the role of sexism is part of a hermeneutical framework regarding the status of women as a group. When a woman is discredited in the workplace, or objectified by strangers, she can use this framework to understand she’s experiencing sexism, rather than suffering from personal failings. By naming her suffering, she finds kinship with other women. Without the tools to understand her experiences as part of a greater whole, she’d feel alienated from her community and society at large."

"The same can be said for LGBTQ kids. Florida’s 'Don’t Say Gay' bill creates hermeneutical injustice by banning all mention of sexual orientation and gender identity before fourth grade, and limiting it throughout elementary school..."

"Thanks to these new laws, many LGBTQ children will consider themselves anomalies, and their sexuality or gender as a flaw," they write.

Hodge-Adams is majoring in government and legal studies, and computer science. Nguyen will declare a major next year.