By James Finn | DETROIT — I’m not writing today about Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatening an Austin school district, telling them (absurdly) that their Pride Week celebrations violate Texas law, even though Paxton inspired me to write. If you want details, see the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Blade to learn how he just declared LGBTQ people and their allies in Texas schools “propagandists and deceptive sexual predators.” Or read Paxton’s threat on Twitter —
The Texas AG is toeing a new Republican line, a Florida lawmaker and Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed hard – insisting that acknowledging LGBTQ diversity in schools is tantamount to “preparing” children for sexual abuse. “If you are against the anti-grooming bill”, tweeted DeSantis publicist Christina Pushaw March 4, “You’re probably a groomer or at least not against grooming 4-8 year olds.”
Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed against so little. — Governor of Utah spencer cox
She was referring to Florida Parental rights in education bill, nicknamed the don’t say gay bill because it prohibits teachers from discussing LGBTQ people or issues with students in kindergarten through third grade, and in older grades if teachers do so in a way that is not ” suitable for development. As with Texas anti-abortion law, ordinary citizens are empowered to enforce Don’t say gay, leaving the definition of “appropriate” to whoever has the money and inclination to sue.
Anyone who does not understand that this will stifle the academic assertiveness of young gay men of all ages is not paying attention.
Christians who believe that children should not be taught to be kind to the significant minority of children with LGBTQ parents or family members should ask themselves what Jesus would do.
Back in Texas, a spokesperson for the school district threatened by Paxton told the Washington Post that they weren’t intimidated. Their Pride week will continue as expected. “We will respond to this by stepping up our efforts to make sure our children feel safe and by celebrating pride.”
Nonetheless, the gauntlet was thrown down and Texas joined a conservative fight to ban discussion of LGBTQ people in elementary and secondary education, part of a larger battle that LGBTQ people are losing badly right now. That’s what I write.
I write about a historic wave of anti-LGBTQ laws and regulations
Texas and Florida are just the tip of an iceberg – or perhaps more aptly, the flaming branches of a roaring bonfire fueled by white Christian nationalism that is leading conservatives to ban books about true history racist of the United States, to press for conservative Christians to be exempted from generally applicable equality laws, to work hard to suppress minority voting and to cry out that they lack freedom when they are prevented from flouting the human rights of people other than themselves.
According to Washington Post, GOP lawmakers have introduced an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ state bills this year, with the nearly two hundred proposed laws primarily targeting transgender and gay youth. Texas and Florida grab headlines, but initiatives in Indiana, Tennessee, Idaho, Ohio, Utah, Missouri and nearly every other Republican-dominated state are eroding and even eliminating LGBTQ equality on the ground for real people. Families I know personally are trying to move out of the red states, find jobs and housing in areas where they and their children won’t have to live with their necks under conservative boots.
Talking about offshoring was mostly hyperbole. Now, as trans youth in Texas have been extrajudicially denied access to puberty blockers and gender therapy, families are scrambling, calling real estate agents and recruiters.
At national scale, “This flurry of bills has been staggering,” Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani told The Post. “These painful battles at the state level are proof that discrimination is still a very real threat that directly harms members of our most vulnerable communities, including and in particular transgender youth.”
About 75 of the new bills ban or severely restrict classroom discussions, programs and library books that mention LGBTQ issues. At the local level, library shelves are quickly emptied. look at this BNC News report containing audio of a school superintendent ordering librarians to remove all books that mention gender identity or sexual orientation.
Nearly 50 other bills seek to ban transgender youth from playing school sports, despite the fact that no real controversy exists at the high school level. Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed one of those laws on Tuesday, acknowledging the non-issue in a sympathetic statement out of step with most other Republicans today:
That’s what it’s about. Four kids who don’t dominate or win trophies or take scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to make friends and feel like they’re part of something. Four children trying to get by every day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed against so little. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.
Incidentally, only one of these Utah school children is a transgender girl designated male at birth. The other three are female transgender boys at birth. They are competing with other boys and no one assumes they have a competitive advantage. But despite all of this, the Utah legislature is set to override the governor’s veto, and “so much fear and anger” will continue to be directed at a tiny, vulnerable minority.
White Christian nationalists are behind this organized wave of anti-LGBTQ laws
Anita Chabria put it into play on yesterday’s show Los Angeles Times: “The far right has a plan, she writes,” calling Florida and Texas a “canary in the coal mine,” harbingers of worse oppression and repression to come. “Targeting LGBTQ+ communities is a great test for those who think the United States should be a patriarchal, Jewish-Christian nation.”
She says anti-LGBTQ laws aren’t really about sexuality or gender: “They’re about mainstreaming Christian nationalism and trying to break down the separation between church and state.
I believe she is right. Today, conservative leaders often openly express their contempt for such separation of church and state, falsely claiming that our founders intended the United States to be governed as a Christian nation.
write in Atlantic, Micah Schwartzman, Richard Schragger, and Nelson Tebbe have observed that prominent Republican senators openly call for laws and regulations that they know violate the “establishment of religion” clause of the Constitution. They say Republican support for separation of church and state, once a strong American tradition, is rapidly collapsing.
Chabria mentions Flash project, a blueprint for ready-made laws that white Christian supremacist lawmakers can pull “off the shelf.” Project Blitz is well-funded and organized, and that’s one of the reasons the wave of state-level anti-LGBTQ bills has rolled out so quickly.
Kids are taught that LGBTQ people are shameful and things get worse, not better
Do you remember the little girl from Athens, Georgia, whose “Gay is OK” rainbow art was removed from a classroom wall, with administrators calling it the equivalent of a swastika? She and her supporters lost. The school district and council supported the administrators. Every child in this school has internalized on some level that LGBTQ people are shameful, equivalent in symbolism to fascism and genocide.
Across the country, people clashed, with some sending flowers and balloons to school with the message “Gay is OK”. The school principal, in a video seen briefly on Facebook, alternately smiled and scowled as he popped a bunch of these balloons in the school hall. His heart was clearly there. He clearly enjoyed teaching children to hate.
Teaching kids to hate is what it’s all about
Affirming gay kids and teaching cis/straight kids to be nice to LGBTQ people is not sexual grooming, sexual abuse, or anything like that. It’s common human decency, it’s love in action.
The Republican governor of Utah understands. People suggest that Cox’s Christian beliefs, his sense of Mormon decency, prompted his veto. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’d like to believe it. The governor is a bishop of the Mormon Church when not busy with his political career. His veto puts him in the crosshairs of the LDS hierarchy and the Utah Republican Party.
His act of kindness — his recognition that unwarranted fear and anger directed at tiny minorities must not stand — shows the nation that sincere Christian belief does not have to equal white Christian nationalism.
We need more people in government who understand this. We need fewer people like Ken Paxton willing to profit politically from vulnerable minorities.
Unless and until that happens, we have the fight of our lives in our hands.
James Finn is a columnist for LA Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and an unpublished “agent” novelist. Send questions, comments and story ideas to [email protected]
The previous article was previously published by Prism & Pen – Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished with permission.