“Don’t Say Gay” laws & groomer propaganda are just the latest in a long line of stereotypes

Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the Don't Say Gay bill
Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the Don't Say Gay bill Photo: Screenshot/Facebook

Since January 2021, Education Week has found that 42 states have either introduced bills in their legislatures or have taken other actions that would ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory or restrict how educators discuss racism, sexism, and LGBTQ issues in the classroom. Sixteen states have already imposed these restrictions.

Florida has positioned itself at the tip of the spear to cut and bleed to death school curricular materials on topics of race, gender, and sexual identity.

Related: Conservatives can’t stop calling people “groomer” & it’s hurting abuse victims

For example, the Florida House has imposed new restrictions on how race is discussed in schools, colleges and workplaces. The bill went to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) desk for approval.

Voted 24-15 along party lines to approve a measure labeled “Individual Freedom,” it connects with DeSantis’ demand for a “Stop WOKE” Act, which fight what he calls liberal ideology that impacts the teaching of history in schools and circulating throughout corporate diversity training.

Currently, states are proposing legislation to restrict transgender rights in athletics or in accessing some health services and others to limit overall LGBTQ protections especially in schools.

Let us take Florida again as an example. Primarily passed by Republicans in the state legislature and signed in law, the new so-called “Parental Rights in Education” act, more appropriately referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, reads in part:

Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

At least twelve other state legislatures are now appropriating Florida model in considering similar “Don’t Say Gay” laws. These states currently include Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Ohio.

Before signing the bill, DeSantis stated at a press conference that teaching kindergarten-aged kids that “they can be whatever they want to be” was “inappropriate” for children.

“It’s not something that’s appropriate for any place,” he said, “but especially not in Florida.”

He continued: “We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.”

Groomers and Pedophiles

As the propagandists’ grow their lexicon, right-wing politicians and pundits are referring to educators as “groomers” for discussing topics related to sexual and gender identities. They say those who “groom” their students want to make them either become LGBTQ or  sexually exploited by predatory pedophiles.

This conspiracy theory of predatory pedophiles is longstanding in the history of stereotyping and scapegoating, but it has gained heightened magnitude during the Trump era.

When asked by a reporter during a White House briefing about the QAnon movement in August 2020, Donald Trump appeared to court its support by replying that “I heard that these are people that love our country.” He asserted that he had not heard much about them, “other than I understand they like me very much” and “it is gaining in popularity.”

QAnon is an umbrella moniker for a movement that spreads conspiracy theories that top U.S. military officials recruited Donald Trump to run for the presidency to expose and vanquish the “deep state” tied to a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who operate a child sex trafficking ring, which ultimately kills and eats the children they abuse to extract life-extending chemicals found in youthful blood.

This is eerily reminiscent of the so-called “Blood Libel” beginning in 1144 in England when Christian leaders accused Jews of slaying William of Norwich, a Christian male child, to use his blood in the making of the sacred Jewish matzos. Many Christians believed that Jews used the blood of Christian youth because it was virginal and innocent and, therefore, was the most potent medication to heal hemorrhoids, to relieve pain during circumcision, to increase fertility, and to cure the so-called “stink of the Jews.”

Also, in line with the assertion of Christian leaders that Jewish men menstruate because they practice circumcision, they, along with Jewish women need the blood from Christian youth to replenish their bodies of the blood lost during menstruation.

In 1475, Simon of Trent in Northern Italy, the son of a tanner and barely three-years-old, was allegedly killed by the Jews for his blood. Christians also accused Jews of slaughtering Christian male youth because they wanted to symbolically re-execute Jesus.

Local leaders falsely indicted several Jews in Trent for Simon’s death and had Jews in the area killed. The charge of ritual murder continued into the 20th century C.E. Christian clergy have also accused Jews of inflicting circumcision on Christian infants as a means of inflicting involuntary conversion to Judaism (“recruitment”).

Today, QAnon alleges that a cabal includes high visibility powerful people such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres, and George Soros, plus Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama among others who control the media and important politicians.

The movement continues to grow even as other conspiracies that QAnon pushes have proven untrue.

Trump’s July 4, 2020 rally, when many believed the late John F. Kennedy Jr. would emerge from hiding to claim his rightful role as Trump’s running mate, came and went.

As a far-right conspiracy theory movement, QAnon has garnered the national spotlight as Marjorie Taylor Greene, with ties to these baseless conspiracies, won a Republican primary election in Georgia’s 14th Congressional district, a solidly Republican district.

Following her election, Trump praised her with his burning Twitter fingers as a “future Republican star….Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up – a real WINNER!”

Though the FBI brands QAnon as a domestic terrorism threat, Donald Trump obviously cares not about the danger posed by this movement, but, instead considers it as a group of supporters he can mine in his possible run for the presidency in 2024.

This mass delusion that is QAnon proposed that a secret cabal ran a global child trafficking pedophilic network supported by Hillary Clinton that Donald Trump was trying to stop. This delusion, though, inspired what would be referred to as “Pizzagate,” the false claims that the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C. was the alleged center for a human trafficking and child sex ring.

Edgar Maddison Welch, a 28-year-old man from Salisbury, North Carolina entered Comet Ping Pong on December 4, 2016, and fired three shots from his AR-15 style rifle sticking the restaurant’s walls, deck, and door.

Welch said he came to the pizzeria to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory and to free the children held there. Police surrounded the building, and he surrendered without further incident. He was sentenced to serve four years in prison.

Longstanding Pedophilic Conspiracies Against LGBTQ People

Throughout history, most dominant groups have depicted or represented minoritized groups in a variety of negative ways to maintain control or mastery. Dominant groups represent minoritized groups through myths and stereotypes in proverbs, social commentary, literature, jokes, epithets, pictorial depictions, and other hegemonic forms.

A crucial point in the psychology of scapegoating is the representation of minoritized others, in historian John Boswell’s words, as “animals bent on the destruction of the children of the majority,” and dominant groups have long accused both LGBTQ people of acting as dangerous predators concentrated on ensnaring, torturing, and devouring primarily children of the dominant group.

When demagogues play on people’s fears and prejudices by invoking these images for their own political, social, and economic gains, in more instances than not, this results in loss of civil and human rights, harassment, violence, and at times, death of the “other.”

Although, in the overwhelming majority of cases, close family members, primarily men who identity as heterosexual, abuse and molest youth, the cultural perception persists that primarily gay and bisexual men — and by association, lesbians and trans people — prey on the young.

For example, Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian media ministry organization, asserted in published accounts in 2010 that gay rights advocates are forcing their viewpoints (their so-called “gay agenda”) in schools in the guise of bullying prevention.

Focus on the Family spokesperson Candi Cushman argued that gay activists are the real schoolyard bullies while conservative Christians are the victims. According to Cushman, “We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled.”

The Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative Christian organization, published an article titled “Let’s End Taxpayer Supported Homosexual Recruitment in Public Schools,” which asserted:

The state-endorsed pro-homosexual teacher/teen ‘Teach Out’ held at Tufts University in Boston in March has outraged concerned citizens. There’s growing concern among parents over the use of tax dollars to fund homosexual recruitment programs in the public schools. During the Teach Out, state HIV instructors taught teenagers how to engage in deviant sex acts and they also taught teachers how to indoctrinate children into accepting homosexuality as normal.

Former beauty queen and Florida Orange Juice Commission spokesperson, Anita Bryant, spearheaded her so-called “Save Our Children” campaign, which succeeded in overturning a gay-rights ordinance in Dade Country, Florida in 1977. The ordinance was finally reinstated in 1998. According to Bryant, “a particularly deviant-minded [gay] teacher could sexually molest children.”

These stereotypes have been validated further institutionally. The 1992 Republican Party platform openly endorsed this form of oppression, stating that “[The Republican Party] opposes any legislation or law which legally recognizes same-sex marriages and allows such couples to adopt children or provide foster care.” In fact, some states still explicitly ban LGBTQ people from adopting or serving as foster parents.

In recent years, the fear of pedophilia has been used to justify the previous ban on gay and bisexual boy scouts and scoutmasters, as argued by Rob Schwarzwalder in 2013, the vice president of the conservative Washington, D.C.-based public policy and lobbying organization, Family Research Council (FRC): “The reality is, homosexuals have entered the Scouts in the past for predatory purposes.”

Tony Perkins, FRC President, in a 2011 fundraising letter for the organization addressing the LGBTQ communities’ so-called public promotion of homosexuality to youth, wrote: “The videos are titled ‘It Gets Better.’ They are aimed at persuading kids that although they’ll face struggles and perhaps bullying for ‘coming out’ as homosexual (or transgendered or some other perversion), life will get better. …It’s disgusting. And it’s part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle.”

A stereotype is an oversimplified, preconceived, and standardized conception of a group, held in common by members of other groups. Originally referring to the process of making type from a metal mold in printing, social stereotypes can be viewed as molds of regular and invariable patterns of evaluation of others. Though every LGBTQ and Jewish person is unique in many ways and is multidimensional, when dominant groups stereotyped them, they are reducible to a single trait.

Stereotyping can and often does result of singling out individuals and groups as targets of hostility and violence, even though they may have little or nothing to do with the offenses for which they stand accused. This is referred to as scapegoating. With scapegoating, there is the tendency to view all members of the group as inferior and to assume that all members are alike in most respects. This attitude often leads to even further marginalization.

We must hold state legislators who are banning discussions of LGBTQ people in the classrooms responsible for this further marginalization and for the harassment and possible violence that may result.

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