Teen tennis star Coco Gauff has voiced her opposition to a bill in her home state of Florida that would prohibit classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity for many young students.
« I’m against it, » Gauff told reporters Wednesday ahead of her first match at the Indian Wells tennis tournament in California on Friday, where she is seeded 16th. « I think these conversations are important, and for me, who has friends in the LGBTQ+ community, I couldn’t imagine not being able to talk about your identity. I feel that’s something that is normal. »
The Florida measure, referred to by its opponents as the « Don’t say gay » bill, has stirred national controversy amid an increasingly partisan debate over what schools should teach children about race and gender.
« Every [LGBTQ+] person I’ve known has known that they were part of that community since they were young, » Gauff said. « I think it’s important that they have those conversations in school, because that is supposed to be a safe space to talk about everything. «
The Republican-backed legislation, formally called the « Parental Rights in Education » bill, bars classroom instruction in public schools on sexual orientation or gender identity for children in kindergarten through third grade, or from about ages 5-9.
Democrats say such policies will harm the LGBTQ+ community.
Gauff, who turns 18 on Sunday, rose to prominence when she defeated Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2019, taking the tennis world by storm before falling in the fourth round to eventual champion Simona Halep.
She said she sees parallels between the Florida bill and the struggle for racial justice, another issue she is passionate about.
« I think it was in 2019 or 2020 when I talked about the Black Lives Matter movement — I said it was important to have those conversations, » Gauff said. « Same stance on this. I think it’s important to have those tough conversations, and from the people that I spoke to who are part of the community, it definitely makes a difference when you don’t have to hide who you are. »