Bob Shepherd lives in Florida and has watched Governor DeSantis’s effort to ban and demonize anything associated with gays: books, entertainment, cultural events, everything. Bob, who has a long career in education publishing, explains what we would lose if DeSantis has his bigoted way:

I have long loved theatre. When I was a young man, up until my thirties, I did a LOT of acting, and I have been a director, drama coach, playwright, screenwriter, and teacher of theatre and film at various times throughout my life. A couple years ago, I volunteered to do some work on stage sets at a local theatre company. Then, when one of the actors dropped out of the play that was underway, I was recruited to take his part. Fine. It was fun. But this was in Flor-uh-duh, where events often take a strange turn.

First, one day I was backstage painting a scrim. Next to me was another local, who had climbed a ladder to hang a light when, out of his back pocket fell his handgun, which dropped 15 feet or so and clattered to the stage. Well. How about that. This is Flor-uh-duh, in which random people are packing. Recently, in this stage, one of the workers slipped and fell on the gravel at a house construction site, and his gun accidentally went off and shot and killed a fellow worker up on the rooftop.

Second, I was warned by fellow actors to be mum about LGBTQ+ issues around the theater’s director, who was virulently anti LGBTQ+. This woman, who called all the shots at this small theatre company and appointed herself to direct all the plays, had stopped speaking to or seeing her own sister when the sister came out as lesbian. That seemed totally bizarre to me. An anti-LGBTQ+ THEATRE PERSON sounded, to me, like a a Jewish Nazi or a field mouse with a love for feral cats.

But there are, of course, such bizarre creatures. Consider, for example, former White House Propaganda Minister and creator of policies to separate babies from their parents, Stephen “Goebbels” Miller. When I was first told of this director’s opinions, I said, “But doesn’t she understand that this is a theatre company and ALMOST EVERYONE HERE is LGBTQ+ or as fluid as a river?” Evidently not. People attached to the company were so afraid of this woman that they tried to hide these things from her so that she would continue to cast them.

And I thought of Texas, back in my textbook editing and writing days, where the local Christian version of the Taliban morality police had suggested at several textbook adoption hearings banning “queer authors” from all K-12 literature textbooks. Which would have made for some pretty thin literature textbooks. There would be in them, for example, and in no particular order, NO James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Oscar Wilde, Federico Garcia Lorca, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Carson McCullers, E. M. Forster, Gore Vidal, Horace, Walter Pater, Lord Byron, Harvey Fierstein, Paul Goodman, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Noel Coward, Willa Cather, Petronius, Thornton Wilder, Evelyn Waugh, Gertrude Stein, Christopher Isherwood, Susan Sontag, Jeanette Winterson, Nikolai Gogol, Hilda Doolittle, Edna St. Vincent Millary, Elizabeth Bishop, Sarah Orne Jewett, David Sedaris, Edith Sitwell, Maurice Sendak, Arthur Rimbault, Mary Renault, Plato, Plutarch, Audre Lorde, Paul Verlaine, Stephen Spender, A. E. Housman, Thomas Mann, Aphra Behn, James Merrill, Marguerie Yourcenar, Terrance McNally, Virgil, Lytton Strachey, Michel Foucault, Samuel Delany, Jeremy Bentham, Anais Nin, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Howard Sturgis, Catullus, Adrienne Rich, John Donne, Colette, Daphne du Maurier, George Santayana, Mary Sarton, Frank O’Hara, Joe Orton, Wilfred Owen, Fran Lebowitz, Andre Gide, Allen Ginsberg, Alice Walker, Sir Francis Bacon, Virginia Woolf, Lord Tennyson, Alan Locke, Jack Kerouac, Countee Cullen, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Yukio Mishima, F. O. Mattheissen, D. H. Lawrence, John Milton, Sara Teasdale, Patricia Highsmith, Angela Davis, Thomas Gray, Sappho, Edward Albee, Hans Christian Andersen, Jean Genet, John Ashbery, W. H. Auden, Honore de Balzac, Djuna barnes, Roland Barthes, John Cheever, Helene Cixous.

Which might be fine with the likes of DeStalinist and the many nonreaders among Repugnican standouts these days. What would be left? The collected poems of Jerry Fallwell? The essays on what a man he is of Josh Hawley? The treatises in metaphysics and epistemology of Ted Cruz and Margorie Taylor Greene?