Friday, September 22, 2023

What Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law and Homophobic “Grooming” Claims Really Mean?

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Shreya Christina
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The past month has not been great for queer and trans-Americans.

In March, after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill limiting the kind of discussions and instructions public school teachers are allowed to have related to “sexual orientation or gender identity,” at least three of them surfaced. the Republicans controlled states copycat proposals. Conservative proponents of these bills then launched new campaigns against LGBTQ people, accusing teachers of “looking after” school-aged children and gay allies of enabling pedophilia in their criticism of the bills and its chilling effects on school discussions.

In the span of what seemed like a week, old-school bigotry felt mainstream. Incumbent members of Congress, cable news presenters and conservative intellectuals gathered around “okay, trimmer conversation as a new way to target LGBTQ Americans — not just the teachers these bills are targeting. Their attacks come in a country that accepts more queer Americans than… at another time in history† as regards eight out of ten Americans anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people. But suddenly, it seemed, 20th-century homophobia took on a modern, QAnon-esque edge.

“If you’re against the anti-grooming law, you’re probably a groomer, or at least you don’t condone grooming kids ages 4-8,” said Christina Pushaw, DeSantis press secretary, tweeted beginning of March. On his talk show last week, conservative activist Charlie Kirk tied to gay marriage and the acceptance of LGBTQ Americans children corrupt: “We are talking about gays more than ever. Why? Because they are not happy if they are married alone. Instead, they now want to spoil your children.”

The feedback from anti-LGBTQ legislation and ‘care’ discourse is revealing new dimensions to the conservative movement’s attempts to thwart progress in recent years: some members of the political right see opportunities to claim their advantages in the increasingly conservative courts of the country against LGBTQ people—and opportunities to regain ground they lost in the culture war as Americans’ resistance to discrimination grows.

What “Don’t Say Gay” And Its Conservative Supporters Are Hoping To Gain?

Florida’s education law is framed in the language of parental rights and uses vague language to implicitly threaten LGBTQ teachers and allies with lawsuits. While supporters had said the law prohibits inappropriate conversations about sexual activity with young students, the text reads: never explicit references discussions of sex – only explicitly prohibiting conversations about “sexual orientation or gender identity.” The ban applies from kindergarten to third grade, but allows for “age-appropriate” restrictions outside those classes, while also not defining what “age-appropriate” means.

The legislation never uses the words “gay” or “trans,” but proponents argue that queer and trans Americans would be the main target of lawsuits by parents and officials behind the restrictions. Following the Texas abortion ban, Florida law appoints parents as watchdogs and provides a path through the courts to punish schools and staff who violate the statute.

Lawmakers in Alabama, Ohio and Louisiana have since tabled similar proposals; The Texas lieutenant governor is considering introducing a bill when the next term begins, and lawmakers in six other states, mostly in the South, have supported repeated restrictions on LGBTQ identity in schools.

Some of these proposals are more explicit than Florida’s — Tennessee’s proposal aims to ban books or materials that fully support or promote LGBTQ “issues or lifestyles” — but all offer a picture of how social conservatives see opportunities to Roll back the protections for queer and transgender people : Score victories in the courts and make the cultural battle more extreme.

Their path to winning legal battles looks promising, with Republican majorities in these state buildings passing these bills to Republican governors, anticipating battles in lower courts and waiting for a conservative majority in the Supreme Court to assess the challenges, Carl Charles, a senior attorney at the civil rights organization Lambda Legal, said.

Based on the pandemic’s fury over school closures, mask-wearing and the specter of critical race theory, state Republicans see an opportunity to stir up their most conservative voters ahead of primaries, general elections and a new Supreme Court term.

But what these bills leniently communicate has been the supporters in the media and politics proverb hard on for free some time: The way to regain lost ground in the culture war over LGBTQ people is to portray them as morally corrupt villains — and use schools as the starting point for a greater cultural shift.

The far right’s “care line” reveals a tone of despair

Radical right activists and commentators have in recent weeks literal accusations from pedophilia (in a recall to a 1970s and earlier figure of speech) and grooming (which in the true sense means “accessing a potential victim, forcing them to consent to the abuse and risking getting caught). reduce”, according to the National Network for Rape, Abuse and Incest† But they’re also increasingly using “grooming” as a casual insult to make a vague connection between all LGBTQ people and child abuse cases.

What started on the fringes, with conservative activists clad in last year’s anti-critical racial theory moral panic, spilled over into the mainstream media last month during Supreme Court hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) interrogated the thinking of future justice about gender, child abuse and race. Like Georgetown Professor Don Moynihan wrote about Hawley’s line of attack, the point was “to create an association between Jackson and this wider trope” of child predators roaming rampant in public institutions. That sparked a universe of outrage in conservative media, further supporting the legislative action underway in Republican states.

Historical examples of how this kind of moral panic has fueled discriminatory action against LGBTQ people since the 1970s. During that decade, conservatives in California took action against gays and lesbians to prevent them from working in public schools and… anti-gay rights activist Anita Bryant led an effort to revoke anti-discrimination protections in Florida with its “Save Our Children” campaign.

The current “anti-grooming” line bears a resemblance to these old activist efforts, but is gaining in importance at a time when conservatives are much of the cultural and legal fights about gay rights and anti-discrimination protections, Cathryn Oakley, senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, told me. Support for same-sex marriage wide dual support† a large majority of the country believes gays and lesbians”morally acceptable† And those numbers have grown year after year.

“It’s very frustrating to see us having the same battle over and over… but I believe these people are desperate. They have lost every battle they have chosen on LGBT issues. They lost by trying to criminalize sodomy, they lost by marriage equality, they lost by bathroom bills, they lost by refusing marriage services – and we’re at 75 to 80 percent support for non-discrimination laws,” she said.

Some of the loudest supporters of this effort have admitted this: “The alternative to the culture war is culture surrender. There is no neutral option,” a is reading† “Right must go to scorched earth with ‘groomer,'” says another† “We are building a new model of conservative activism” with the nurturing messages, states Christopher Rufoa leading anti-critical racial theory activist.

The rhetoric complements the institutional work conservative think tanks are doing to push these bills through. Legislators in these states have consulted organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Principles Project in drafting proposals, Vice reported† (The Alliance Defending Freedom confirmed its involvement in a statement to cafemadrid.) The progressive advocates I spoke to told me they see this feedback loop between radical activists, lawmakers and think tanks as part of a more desperate ploy to use transgender people as a wedge issue to open the door to more mainstream attacks on trans and queer people in public life.

“We’re at this record high with people saying, ‘I don’t like anti-LGBT discrimination, I’m for non-discrimination, this is my deal.’ And [conservatives] are losing their foothold,” Oakley said. ‘Where do they go from here? They are primarily attracted to trans kids because there are a lot of well-meaning people who don’t quite understand what it means to be trans.”

This tension between well-meaning or naive Americans and their unease with newer conceptions of gender identity is reflected in polls, which show that Americans have a divided audience on acceptance of transgender people. Even a recent study of Florida law shows one in four Democrats supports policy. That gap worries lawyers like Brandon Wolf, an activist with the Equality Florida group, who told me that these bills are designed to exploit the general public’s lack of knowledge about transgender people — and create an opening for further attacks on transgender people. queer and trans rights. So far, the scorched earth strategy is working, but its staying power is being tested.

“Part of the far right’s strategy is to make so much noise that there is no room for a really in-depth conversation about who people are,” he said. “We are so busy fighting for the fundamental dignity and humanity of people that it is becoming difficult to find the bandwidth or space to share people’s stories. But that’s our challenge. That’s our job now.”


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