We are in the middle of a civil rights battle, fighting for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our living room and school room. There are local and national efforts to criminalize the LGBTQIA community, starting with students and teachers, using the most appalling tactics available, such as false accusations of “grooming” to dehumanize and cast suspicion on our loved ones, our friends, our children, and ourselves.
These are age-old tactics of homophobes and transphobes against the LGBTQIA community. Unfortunately, the right-wing has weaponized these accusations against anyone who does not fall in lockstep with their efforts to censor or ban books, and remove support and protections for our LGBTQIA students and community.
LGBTQIA activists note that, "This is a classic trope of dehumanization and fear that has been used against gay people decade after decade after decade. ... Think about the calumny against gay people throughout most of our lifetimes: that gay people somehow are…predatory." For example:
Nazis used the same pink triangle badge on both gay men and sexual predators in concentration camps, as if to say they were one and the same.
The Florida “Don’t say gay” bill has its roots in Anita Bryant’s 1977 homophobic “Save the Children” crusade to permit firing of teachers because they were gay and presumed predatory by angry homophobes.
The 1978 Briggs initiative (a.k.a., Prop 6) banning gay and lesbian teachers in California schools was defeated by 58% of the vote was likely inspired by the Florida legislative efforts.
In 2016, anti-gay protestors and pundits promoted “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories targeting gays and democrats as predatory, which inspired an armed invasion.
In 2021, a small group of Loudoun County parents and right-wing media pushed a false narrative of predatory behavior by LGBTQIA students in bathrooms to try to prevent adoption and implementation of student Policy 8040.
Today, right-wing activists, leaders, and media continue to promote the predator myth.
These efforts all fail to acknowledge the fundamental human rights of all people, no matter their sexuality or identity, which requires access and protection in jobs, education, housing, medical care, and free speech. They also fail to remember that “parental rights” means that parents of LGBTQIA children have rights in the public education setting, as do LGBTQIA families. Finally, they promote harmful and disproven stereotypes.
Nevertheless, there is hope as today’s repulsive rhetoric has inspired many to stand up, just like the 1978 Briggs initiative inspired Californians and Harvey Milk to stand up against false and hateful rhetoric. As the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, Harvey Milk used his platform as supervisor to promote civil rights for all.
He spoke out against Prop 6 in his “Hope Speech” calling for all to “make the commitment to fight” against discrimination, because he recognized that such legislative efforts would affect individual human rights of ALL Americans, not just those targeted by bigoted legislation.
Like Harvey Milk, we must call on our community and elected officials to oppose the demonization of the LGBTQIA community and its supporters, but also to push back against any rules or legislation that would abridge the human rights of ANY citizens, particularly those of our students.
June is Pride Month where we celebrate all aspects of LGBTQIA pride across the country. Pride month is about self-respect, celebration, and civil rights. The Pride flag is about hope for the future. I am hopeful that we will push back on these hateful efforts that demonize our children or our loved ones for their gender, sexual identity, race, religion, ability, class, or immigration status.