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Reflections on the ‘unthinkable,’ the U.S. Capitol insurrection a year later

“I’m not sure anyone could have predicted how terrible that day would turn out to be”

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United States Capitol Building, January 6, 2022 (Photo by Rev. Brandan Robertson, MTS)

WASHINGTON – Early Thursday morning, the presidential motorcade quietly slipped out the East entrance security area of the White House, opposite the Eclipse, and headed towards the U.S. Capitol two and one half miles down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Ahead shining in the bright sunlight the dome of the Capitol gleamed as if almost a welcome greeting to the in-bound Chief Executive, as the procession of black vehicles with lights flashing and sirens blaring sped down the empty avenue previously cleared of all other traffic by the Metropolitan Police and the U.S. Secret Service.

With crisp winter temperatures and lying under a blanket of freshly fallen snow in the bright morning sunlight, Washington’s streets and the grounds of the Capitol building seemed decades apart from the cold, dreary grey cloud filled skies of just twelve months ago.

This date to the year marked the anniversary of one of the most unthinkable events in American history, a day where an American president would foment by his words and actions an attempted coup to subvert not only a time-honored political process of the U.S. government, but the rule of law itself.

In their book ‘Peril,’ detailing what has now entered the lexicon of American society describing the Capitol insurrection, journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa quoted then presidential candidate Joe Biden describing the now former President Donald Trump:

“Trump represents fundamentally different and wrong about politics,” Biden said to Ron Klain, his future White House chief of staff, in March of 2019. “This guy just isn’t really an American president.”

Sitting in his presidential vehicle making its way to ‘The Hill,’ nearly three years later after making that comment, Biden was set to give remarks that would condemn Trump for that January day when the very heart of American democracy was under siege, and by its own citizens.

Trump supporters gather on January 6, 2021
(Photo by Michael Key)

Walking into National Statuary Hall, Biden, accompanied by Vice-President Kamala Harris, faced the cameras to address a country that is still divided since the January 6th deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol that cost the lives of five Americans and has left virtually hundreds traumatized.

Speaking first, the Vice-President noted in her opening remarks: “Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them — where they were and what they were doing when our democracy came under assault.  Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory.  December 7th, 1941.  September 11th, 2001.  And January 6th, 2021,” Harris said.

Reflecting on the scenes being literally broadcast live to the nation in real-time she continued; “What the extremists who roamed these halls targeted was not only the lives of elected leaders.  What they sought to degrade and destroy was not only a building, hallowed as it is.  What they were assaulting were the institutions, the values, the ideals that generations of Americans have marched, picketed, and shed blood to establish and defend.

“On January 6th, we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful.  The lawlessness, the violence, the chaos. What was at stake then, and now, is the right to have our future decided the way the Constitution prescribes it: by we, the people — all the people,” the Vice-President said.

“Jan. 6 was one the darkest days in American history. It was an assault on democracy that a defeated (now former) president with a bruised ego encouraged. It was an assault against the city in which I live. It was an assault against decency. Anyone who played any role in the events of Jan. 6 must be held accountable to ensure that it never happens again.” 

Washington blade international editor michael k. lavers

The president then stepped to the podium and immediately called out the bravery of the law enforcement agencies tasked with protecting the building and Congress who were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of insurgents.

“Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy held.  We the people endured.  And we the people prevailed,” Biden said. Then for the first time publicly, firmly and resolutely, he blamed Trump for the events that took place.
 
“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed.  They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again,” Biden told the American people watching.

Biden then laid out the chronicling of January 6, 2021:

“Well, here is the God’s truth [about January 6th, 2021] Close your eyes.  Go back to that day.  What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.
 
Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened.  But it happened here in 2021.
 
What else do you see?  A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol.  American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears.  Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers.  A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.
 
Over 140 police officers were injured. We’ve all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened.  One officer called it, quote, a med- — “medieval” battle, and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq.
 
They’ve repeatedly asked since that day: How dare anyone — anyone — diminish, belittle, or deny the hell they were put through? We saw it with our own eyes.  Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.
 
But what did we not see? We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack — sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation’s capital under siege.
 
This wasn’t a group of tourists.  This was an armed insurrection,” the president said.

Visibly angered, Biden attacked the very premise that had led to the Capitol insurrection, to what most journalists have labeled, ‘The Big Lie.”

“And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.  He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.

He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.”

Biden then turned his focus onto the insurrectionists themselves: “You can’t love your country only when you win. You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.

Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America — at American democracy. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle.  They came here in rage — not in service of America, but rather in service of one man,” the president said.

He finished by saying; “I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it; to lift us up, not tear us apart; to be about us — about us, not about “me.”
 
Deep in the heart of America burns a flame lit almost 250 years ago — of liberty, freedom, and equality. This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats.  We’re a nation of laws; of order, not chaos; of peace, not violence. Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails. So, let us remember: Together, we’re one nation, under God, indivisible; that today, tomorrow, and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America.”

The impact on the American political landscape has ben significant, but more so has been the impact on those people who were in Washington that day, in particular those who were on ‘The Hill’ and experienced first hand what has become a seminal moment in American history.

Out Representative David Cicilline (D-R.I.), told the media outlet the Hill;  [Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)] “came into my office because he had been evacuated from his office building, and asked whether he could stay in our office, and we of course said yes. And as we were watching the events unfold [on TV] … and as the day went on and there were reports of injuries and a death, it was very clear to me that there was no way that we could just sort of say, ‘Well, OK, [Trump] is about to leave, just let it go.’ And I think Congressman Lieu felt the same way, and we began to work with my staff and start writing what the article of impeachment would actually look like. And that’s when we developed the idea of incitement of insurrection. … 

“We’ve seen this back-sliding of democracy and attempted coups in places all over the world, but never imagined it could ever happen in the United States of America. And we were watching it unfold before our very eyes. So it was really clear to me from that very first moment that we had to do something to hold the president at the time accountable for his incitement of this violence,” said Cicilline.

In addition to lawmakers and their staffs, congressional committee staffs and the staff that supports the Congress including the building complex, grounds and offices, journalists whose beat is Capitol Hill were caught up in the melee- some of whom found themselves at risk and very much under threat by the Trump supporters who comprised the mob of insurgents committed to violence.

Supporters of President Trump stand in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade, the city’s premiere LGBTQ+ media news outlet had two staffers who found themselves caught up in the events of the insurrection. Blade photojournalist and Digital Editor Michael Key along with Blade International Editor Michael K. Lavers lend their narrative to the chronology of that day.

Key witnessed the prelude:

“I was assigned to cover the Trump-led rally and protest on January 6 as a photojournalist for the Washington Blade and the National LGBTQ Media Association (NGMA). The rally started off much as others I had covered in the past. A few weeks before, there had been a “Stop the Steal” rally filled with Proud Boys and other right wing activists marching to the U.S. Capitol. At first, this rally appeared to be no different. 

Proud Boys marching towards U.S. Capitol (Photo by Michael Key)

Thousands gathered near the White House and Washington Monument waving U.S., Trump and Gadsden flags and chanting slogans. Participants became ever more energetic as the march made its way to the Capitol. I received a call on my cell phone from my mother who warned me that there had been a bomb threat. I left the area to make my way to the Blade office before full-scale violence ensued,” he said.

Trump supporters gather on January 6, 2021 (Photo by Michael Key)

Lavers fills in with his recollection;

“I left my apartment in Dupont Circle shortly after 1 p.m. on Jan. 6 after then-President Trump encouraged his supporters who listened to him at the Ellipse to march to the Capitol. My husband and I watched his speech live on TV. I believe Michael Key was on the Ellipse for the rally- Kaela Roeder, a former intern, was at the rally and made their way to the Capitol.

I rented a DC Bike Share near my apartment and rode it down to Pennsylvania Avenue where I saw Trump supporters walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. I began to do a Facebook Live video as I followed them. The crowd was animated, but peaceful. The atmosphere was far more ominous by the time I reached the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Third Street, N.W. I saw folks had climbed the scaffolding that had been set up on the West Front of the Capitol.

Emergency vehicles and police officers began to descend upon the area.
Cell phone signals were poor, so I couldn’t access social media to figure out what was actually going on. My mother in New Hampshire and my aunt in Florida were texting me with information they had seen on television, but I still did not fully understand what was happening. Kaela by that point was on the East Side of the Capitol. She called me and asked if she could leave because she was not feeling safe.

At that very moment emergency vehicles with blaring sirens sped past me on Constitution Avenue. I told her “to get the hell out of there.” I rode my bike towards the East Side of the Capitol. I arrived and I saw hundreds of people on the steps of the Capitol. I also saw people inside the building through the windows.

I still did not fully comprehend the severity of the situation. I heard someone in the crowd say that someone had been shot inside the building. I actually didn’t take the comment seriously because I thought it may have been based on a rumor. A few minutes later I received a text message from D.C. officials that said a curfew was going into effect at 6 p.m. That’s when I decided to leave the Capitol and return home. 

I arrived back at my apartment slowly after 4 p.m., and it was only when I turned on MSNBC did I realize how serious the situation was. Jan. 6 was a Wednesday, which was the Washington Blade’s deadline day. The insurrection story became our cover story, and I sent pictures of the Capitol that I took with my iPhone — one of them became that week’s issue’s cover photo. I filed an initial story by 5 p.m.

I have reported from countries that have suffered through coups, political unrest, dictatorships that do not value human rights, etc. One of the most surreal parts of that day was contacts in some of these countries reaching out to me to make sure that I was safe.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other D.C. officials in the days leading up to Jan. 6 advised folks to avoid downtown Washington. There was a sense here in D.C. that something could have happened on Jan. 6, but I’m not sure anyone could have predicted how terrible that day would turn out to be.”

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Research/Study

Attacks on LGBTQ+ rights associated with democratic backsliding

The first study to analyze the relationship between LGBT of LGBTI people and their rights across 175 countries

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UC Berkeley students protest in the Spring of 2020. (Photo by Geoff Livingston)

LOS ANGELES – A new report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that countries that are highly accepting of LGBTI people tend to have high levels of liberal democracy, such as free and fair elections and the protection of civil liberties. More accepting countries also tend to have higher GDP per capita and a greater share of their population in urban environments.
 
Using data from the LGBTI Global Acceptance Index and the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, researchers examined the relationship between democratic backsliding and acceptance of LGBTI people. The report highlights four countries—Indonesia, Brazil, Poland, and Ghana—to describe the complex dynamics between anti-LGBTI rhetoric and policies and the rise of authoritarianism.
 
Results show that attacks on LGBTI people and their rights are strongly associated with democratic backslide. A decline in LGBTI acceptance may, under some conditions, be a bellwether of democratic decline.
 
“Anti-LGBTI rhetoric and policies can signal a more fundamental erosion in democratic norms and institutions,” said study author Ari Shaw, Senior Fellow and Director of International Programs at the Williams Institute. “Efforts to marginalize LGBTI people are, on their face, evidence that democracy and respect for minority rights are under threat.”
 
Restrictions on freedoms of association and expression, in particular, may negatively affect LGBTI acceptance given that they are fundamental to the ability of activists to organize and advocate for greater inclusion and to oppose further rollback of rights.
 
“The links between democracy indicators and LGBTI acceptance are clear but complex,” said study author Andrew R. Flores, Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute. “Future research should examine how state-sanctioned attacks on LGBTI people influence democratic backsliding and how democratic backsliding diminishes acceptance of LGBTI people and their rights.”

Editor’s note:

Democratic backsliding is “a process of regime change towards autocracy that makes the exercise of political power more arbitrary and repressive and that restricts the space for public contestation and political participation in the process of government selection”.

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Research/Study

Instagram lets Gays against Groomers spread harmful rhetoric

Many of the group’s posts violate Instagram’s policies against hate speech, harassment, and misinformation, but has gone largely unchecked

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Camden Carter | WASHINGTON – Meta has allowed anti-LGBTQ group Gays Against Groomers — which falsely frames itself as a grassroots coalition that wants to protect children, but is actually composed of experienced right-wing grifters — to push false narratives about LGBTQ people on its platforms, particularly Instagram. 

Facebook, Instagram, and Threads are some of the few mainstream platforms that have not banned Gays Against Groomers, even though the group seems to have repeatedly violated the platforms’ policies, including by repeatedly promoting the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur, claiming trans people have mental and moral deficiencies, and spreading misinformation that’s been debunked by third-party fact-checkers. 

Instagram, in particular, has a history of failing to moderate harmful accounts despite Meta’s anti-hate speech and harassment policies. Attacks have often targeted LGBTQ people, whom Meta has repeatedly claimed it is committed to supporting.

Gays Against Groomers maintains Facebook, Instagram, and Threads accounts, but it has been banned or suspended from other platforms:

  • The anti-LGBTQ group falsely frames itself as a “grassroots” coalition that wants to protect children. On June 6, the group claimed on Instagram, “1 year ago today, @thegaywhostrayed had the idea to create this organization to fight back against the sick agenda being pushed on kids from inside the community. … Our team is comprised solely of volunteers, dedicating huge amounts of their time to furthering our mission. No one has pocketed a dime, and we have had zero big donors. Everything we do is purely a grassroots effort.” [Instagram, 6/10/23] 
  • Gays Against Groomers is actually composed of experienced right-wing grifters. The group’s founder Jaimee Michell and former chair and co-founder David Leatherwood both have employment histories with right-wing firms and connections to right-wing figures, as do several of its various staff and members. [Media Matters, 7/6/232/7/23]
  • The organization has already been banned from Venmo and PayPal. PayPal, which is also Venmo’s parent company, stated that the group violated its prohibition of “activities that promote hate, violence, or discriminatory intolerance.” [Media Matters, 9/26/22]
  • Meta’s platforms are seemingly some of the only major social media platforms that hasn’t banned or suspended Gays Against Groomers. The group’s Google account has been banned, and Gays Against Groomers was suspended from Twitter multiple times, at least one of which was reportedly for using the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur that was prohibited on Twitter before Elon Musk took over the company. [Instagram, 5/20/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers’ official Instagram account was created on June 6, 2022, and has since gained over 357,000 followers. Since its creation in June 2022, the group’s main Instagram account has promoted a backup account in its bio. According to the backup account’s bio, it is “just here because we know who big tech protects, so our time on Instagram is probably limited.” Gay’s Against Groomers’ Instagram account has remained on the platform for over a year, during which period it has posted over 1,000 times. [Instagram via Media Matters, 6/6/22]
  • On Facebook, Gays Against Groomers had garnered approximately 39,000 followers between its page’s June 6, 2022, creation and publication of this piece. The organization has used this Meta-owned platform to promote its merchandise and accounts on other platforms. According to the Daily Dot, the Facebook account was suspended last week, but has since been reinstated with Meta confirming “the suspension was the result of a platform error.” [Facebook, 8/24/23; Daily Dot, 9/25/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers has also joined Threads, Meta’s version of Twitter that is anchored to a user’s Instagram account. Threads is currently dictated by the same Community Guidelines as Instagram, however several potentially violative accounts quickly migrated to the new platform, including Gays Against Groomers, which has accumulated over 24,000 followers. On Threads, Gays Against Groomers has continued to post hateful and false content about LGBTQ people. [Threads, accessed 8/31/23]

Meta’s policies prohibit users from targeting LGBTQ people with hate speech (including “groomer”) and harassment, and it promises to label misinformation:

  • Instagram’s community guidelines state that the platform wants “to foster a positive, diverse community” and that it will “remove content that contains credible threats or hate speech.” The policy further specifies that “it’s never OK to encourage violence or attack anyone based on their … sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation” and that “overstepping these boundaries may result in deleted content, disabled accounts, or other restrictions.” [Instagram, accessed 8/31/23]
  • Instagram users must also follow policies around hate speech that govern Facebook. Instagram’s community guidelines also link to Facebook’s hate speech policy, which prohibits “content targeting a person or group of people … on the basis of … protected characteristic(s)” with “dehumanizing speech or imagery in the form of comparisons, generalizations, or unqualified behavioral statements.” The policy specifies that it includes targeting protected groups with comparisons to criminals, statements denying existence, harmful stereotypes, and generalizations about physical, mental, and moral deficiencies. [Facebook, accessed 8/31/23]
  • Instagram users are subject to Facebook’s policies against bullying and harassment. Instagram’s community guidelines also link to Facebook’s bullying and harassment policy, which protects “private minors, private adults (who must self-report), and minor involuntary public figures” from claims about sexual orientation or gender identity and “expressions of contempt, disgust, or content rejecting the existence of an individual.” [Facebook, accessed 8/31/23]
  • Meta told the Daily Dot that “baselessly calling LGBTQ people or the community ‘groomers’ or accusing them of ‘grooming’ is governed under their policies prohibiting hate speech.” [Daily Dot, 7/20/22
  • Meta claimed that posts on Instagram that contain information that has been deemed false, misleading, or altered by a third party fact-checker will be labeled as such and deprioritized in feeds. According to Meta, the company is “committed to fighting the spread of misinformation on Facebook and Instagram” and it works “with independent third-party fact-checking organizations who are certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to identify, review and take action on this content.” Until recently, Meta claimed that “each time a fact-checker rates a piece of content as false, we significantly reduce the content’s distribution so that fewer people see it,” and that it applies “a warning label that links to the fact-checker’s article, disproving the claim with original reporting.” Meta also said its “reduced distribution” approach could be applied to content deemed “altered” or “missing context.” [Facebook, accessed 8/31/238/31/23]

Meta’s policies prohibit users from targeting LGBTQ people with hate speech (including “groomer”) and harassment, and it promises to label misinformation:

  • Instagram’s community guidelines state that the platform wants “to foster a positive, diverse community” and that it will “remove content that contains credible threats or hate speech.” The policy further specifies that “it’s never OK to encourage violence or attack anyone based on their … sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation” and that “overstepping these boundaries may result in deleted content, disabled accounts, or other restrictions.” [Instagram, accessed 8/31/23]
  • Instagram users must also follow policies around hate speech that govern Facebook. Instagram’s community guidelines also link to Facebook’s hate speech policy, which prohibits “content targeting a person or group of people … on the basis of … protected characteristic(s)” with “dehumanizing speech or imagery in the form of comparisons, generalizations, or unqualified behavioral statements.” The policy specifies that it includes targeting protected groups with comparisons to criminals, statements denying existence, harmful stereotypes, and generalizations about physical, mental, and moral deficiencies. [Facebook, accessed 8/31/23]
  • Instagram users are subject to Facebook’s policies against bullying and harassment. Instagram’s community guidelines also link to Facebook’s bullying and harassment policy, which protects “private minors, private adults (who must self-report), and minor involuntary public figures” from claims about sexual orientation or gender identity and “expressions of contempt, disgust, or content rejecting the existence of an individual.” [Facebook, accessed 8/31/23]
  • Meta told the Daily Dot that “baselessly calling LGBTQ people or the community ‘groomers’ or accusing them of ‘grooming’ is governed under their policies prohibiting hate speech.” [Daily Dot, 7/20/22
  • Meta claimed that posts on Instagram that contain information that has been deemed false, misleading, or altered by a third party fact-checker will be labeled as such and deprioritized in feeds. According to Meta, the company is “committed to fighting the spread of misinformation on Facebook and Instagram” and it works “with independent third-party fact-checking organizations who are certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to identify, review and take action on this content.” Until recently, Meta claimed that “each time a fact-checker rates a piece of content as false, we significantly reduce the content’s distribution so that fewer people see it,” and that it applies “a warning label that links to the fact-checker’s article, disproving the claim with original reporting.” Meta also said its “reduced distribution” approach could be applied to content deemed “altered” or “missing context.” [Facebook, accessed 8/31/238/31/23]

On Instagram, Gays Against Groomers has repeatedly referred to LGBTQ people as “groomers”:

  • In a post, Gays Against Groomers claimed that LGBTQ people “are actively grooming kids into the Rainbow Cult.” The post cited a report that found “1 in 4 high school students identifies as LGBTQ” and implied that it is a result of the LGBTQ community “grooming” kids. [Instagram, 4/28/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers shared a TikTok that showed a video of children dancing and waving Pride flags, calling it an “indoctrination ceremony.” The caption of the post reads, “Indoctrinated kids are groomed kids.” [Instagram via Media Matters, 6/6/23, Instagram, 6/6/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers shared a clip from Sesame Street celebrating Pride, saying that it is about “grooming children for sexual orientation and sexual preference.” The caption referred to the video as “teaching toddlers about sex” and “grooming, point blank.” [Instagram via Media Matters, 6/5/23, Instagram, 6/5/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers shared a TikTok claiming that being trans is a “social contagion” that is being pushed by “woke teachers.” The post (seemingly made by the organization’s associate director of communications, Carol Hatch) also claims that parents who support their trans children are guilty of “grooming,” and accuses them of “sexualizing children” and making them “low-hanging fruit for predators.” The claim that gender dysphoria is a “social contagion” has been debunked by numerous medical organizations. [Instagram, 5/30/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers attacked Target for “pushing LGBTQ+ clothing and products on children.” In a post noting that the group had called for a boycott of Target, Gays Against Groomers included an image where the Target sign was replaced with the word “groomers.” The caption that the group will “no longer allow these companies to pervert our youth and groom them into the Gender Cult!” [Instagram, 5/25/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers posted a clip of Megyn Kelly discussing the organization and attacking Target, saying that if “you’re marketing this stuff to little kids, you are a groomer.” The caption of the post called for viewers to boycott Target and “not support companies that support sexualizing and indoctrinating children.” [Instagram, 5/18/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers posted a video about a clip from a children’s TV show featuring a Pride celebration and trans characters, captioned “There is a massive agenda currently being pushed to manipulate and groom your children.” [Instagram, 5/16/23]
  • The organization posted a video claiming that if you are against the organization, that’s because you want to “push your agenda because you want to make it alright to be a sexual queer kid in the 21st century. You want full-on access to adult porn for kids, kids have sex with adults.” The caption referred to the people who do not support GAG as “people that want to groom and sexually abuse children.” [Instagram, 4/25/23]
  • In a video posted by Gays Against Groomers, the speaker claims that “the entire point of the Pride events” is to “sexually groom” children. The caption stated: “If you don’t want to be called a groomer, stop acting like one.” [Instagram, 4/24/23]
  • Gays Against Groomers shared a post promoting a recently published article on its blog titled “The Transgender Bill of Rights: Gay Erasure and the End of Childhood Innocence.” The caption of the post claimed that the “The Trans Bill of Rights” is “SPONSORED BY PEDOPHILES,” that “they want to erase us” and “REMOVE gay people from the conversation,” and that progressives are really “groomers.” [Instagram, 4/9/23
  • The caption of a post shared by the group read, “There’s no such thing as ‘trans kids.’ There are only groomed kids.” The video in the post featured the leader of the Illinois chapter of Gays Against Groomers discussing the inclusion of a flag with the words “protect trans kids” in the background of an animated movie and asking: “Why are we highlighting the sexualization of children? Why are we pushing ideologies onto these kids?” [Instagram, 4/6/23]
  • The organization shared a video in which the speaker said every institution that supports age-appropriate gender-affirming care has been “captured by groomers” and that the people involved in them should “never see sunlight again.” [Instagram, 4/4/23]

On Instagram, Gays Against Groomers has repeatedly targeted trans people with claims of mental deficiencies:

  • Gays Against Groomers posted a video featuring the group’s New York chapter leader claiming that “therapists are manipulating parents and the children” and said trans people have a “mental disorder.” The caption quoted the person in the video as saying, “Chopping off body parts will not make you the opposite sex, and will probably not solve your mental disorder.” [Instagram, 5/4/23
  • Gays Against Groomers posted a video claiming that being trans is a “mental illness.” The caption, referencing an image of a trans person in an ad, said that “mental illness should not be celebrated as if it is something to aspire to be like. And that is exactly what this poster is.” [Instagram, 4/21/23
  • Gays Against Groomers posted a screenshot of a tweet it posted saying that “trans is the new emo. Except instead of growing out of that phase with just a bad haircut, these kids will be left sterilized and missing body parts.” The post also promotes a T-shirt and other merchandise for sale. [Instagram, 4/11/23
  • Gays Against Groomers posted screenshots of an article from its blog in response to the Nashville, Tennessee, school shooting. The caption used the tragic event to make the blanket claim that trans people are a “monstrosity of a movement” and that the shooter was one of its “savage footsoldiers” who “openly encourage” “bloodshed.” [Instagram, 3/28/23
  • Gays Against Groomers posted about the Nashville school shooter, speculating that they were on testosterone and suggesting that hormone therapy may have been responsible for their violent actions. The caption also claimed that “we need to have the discussion about the effects these drugs are having on the minds of young, mentally ill people.” [Instagram, 3/27/23
  • The group shared a post claiming the rise in percentage of Gen Zers who identify as LGBTQ is “not organic. It’s a social contagion.” The post also claimed that “being trans is a trend.” [Instagram, 4/27/23
  • Gays Against Groomers shared a video in which the speaker says the “Cartoon Network is literally guilty of trying to indoctrinate children into the gender cult” seemingly because the TV network posted about sharing and respecting people’s pronouns. The speaker also claimed that the “people that push this” are “actively recruiting children” to be trans. [Instagram, 3/31/23]

Gays Against Groomers has repeatedly spread misinformation about gender-affirming care on Instagram, including falsely claiming that it is a form of mutilation or pedophilia:

  • Gays Against Groomers has spread false narratives about gender-affirming care, even though these tropes have been repeatedly debunked by Meta’s third-party fact-checkers:
    • Gays Against Groomers posted an image of a tweet that equated gender-affirming care with mutilation and referred to trans people as part of a “cult.” [Instagram, 6/9/23] 
    • Gays Against Groomers shared a post referring to gender-affirming surgery as “sterilization and mutilation.” [Instagram, 5/18/23
    • Gays Against Groomers again shared a post referring to gender-affirming surgery as “sterilization and mutilation.” [Instagram, 5/26/23
    • The organization posted that “gender ideology” is being “pushed on children, leading them to be chemically castrated and mutilated.” [Instagram, 5/17/23
    • Gays Against Groomers shared a post claiming that “transing youth is the new conversion therapy, only 1000x worse.” It claimed that those supporting people’s gender identity are “erasing us” (meaning gay people). [Instagram, 5/13/23
    • Gays Against Groomers also shared a post that compared gender-affirming care for youth to pedophilia. The post also claimed that providing gender-affirming care constitutes “erasing” lesbians. [Instagram, 5/9/23
    • The group shared a TikTok with a caption claiming that “effeminate boys and masculine girls are being herded like cattle into transition by parents, activists & doctors” and called it “gay erasure.” [Instagram, 4/3/23
    • Gays Against Groomers shared a TikTok with a caption saying that “children are being drowned in trans ideology” and that there is an “indoctrination issue.” The video said it’s “not a gun control issue, and it’s not a mental health issue.” [Instagram, 4/1/23

On Instagram, Gays Against Groomers has repeatedly accused LGBTQ people of having moral deficiencies, including by pushing the right-wing myth that LGBTQ people are embracing pedophilia:

  • Recycled claims that that LGBTQ people are embracing pedophilia have also been thoroughly debunked, yet Gays Against Groomers has repeatedly pushed this narrative on Instagram:
    • The group posted a screenshot of a tweet claiming that a “trans lifestyle” is “being pushed on children” by people “because they are evil.” The second image in the post promotes merchandise being sold by Gays Against Groomers. [Instagram, 5/12/23]
    • The organization posted a video in which the speaker claims that students care about trans rights only because they have been “indoctrinated.” The caption stated: “A child is not capable of being queer. To say a child can be queer is to say a child is a sexual being.” [Instagram, 3/29/23
    • Gays Against Groomers posted a video in which the speaker shared an article from Fox News falsely claiming that the United Nations backed recommendations to “lower the age of consent and decriminalize sex between an adult and a child.” The caption of the post claimed that this shows “they are moving forward with their agenda.” This post was flagged as false by Instagram, but as of publication it remained up with nearly 20,000 likes. [Instagram, 4/18/23
    • Gays Against Groomers shared a post implying that allowing gender-affirming care for children would lead to the removal of protections around sexual consent. The caption stated, “If a child can consent to something as extreme as permanently altering their bodies … what CAN’T they consent to?” and insisted that “that’s where this agenda leads next.” [Instagram, 4/14/23
    • The group posted a video in which the speaker claimed that “the inevitable logical end to this entire conversation” is asking, “If a child at 12 years old can consent to permanently changing their sex, how can they not consent, at that point, to actually engage in sex?” The implication was that the end goal of providing gender-affirming care to minors is to remove the legal protections around the age of sexual consent. [Instagram, 4/16/23
    • The organization posted a video in which the speaker claimed that the representation of fictional characters as gay is not about representation but about “sexual messaging.” [Instagram, 4/5/23
    • In a video shared by Gays Against Groomers, the creator implied that “LGBT rights” are being used as a cover for “people trying to convince you that they should twerk in front of your kids.” [Instagram, 3/30/23
    • In another video posted by the organization, the speaker echoed the false right-wing narrative that the LGBTQ community has progressed from wanting to get married to wanting “gay porn in school libraries.” The caption also claimed that “our children have become the target of a deep, dark agenda.” [Instagram, 3/23/23
    • That same day, the group posted a screenshot of a tweet in which it claimed that “gender ideology is a trojan horse for pedophilia.” It added that “if children can consent to something as extreme and permanently altering their bodies” they will be allowed to consent to anything. [Instagram, 3/23/23
    • Gays Against Groomers also posted a screenshot of a tweet stating that “pornographic or sexually explicit children’s books in schools” are “always LGBTQ+ material.” The caption of the post claimed that “they hide behind the rainbow to avoid criticism.” [Instagram, 3/21/23]
    • Gays Against Groomers posted a video accusing both Q Chat and The Trevor Project of being “a gateway for pedophiles to gain access to children.” Q chat and The Trevor Project are organizations aimed at helping queer youth. [Instagram, 3/4/23

Gays Against Groomers has also targeted LGBTQ people on Meta’s other platforms, Facebook and Threads:

  • Gays Against Groomers posted to Threads that “schools have become nothing more than dysphoria factories that pump out confused children leading them straight to the butcher’s table.” The post also stated that we should “abolish the education system.” [Threads, 7/8/23
  • The group also claimed that “predators and perverts hide being the rainbow.” The post included a meme implying that sex offenders are excused if they are LGBTQ. [Threads, 7/5/23
  • Gays Against Groomers used Threads to promote a giveaway with an image that said “Groomers GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL.” The giveaway included stickers that say “big pharma loves trans kids” (with a dollar sign-emblazoned heart) and a magnet depicting a Monopoly-style policeman dragging a drag queen to prison by the legs. [Threads, 7/5/23
  • On Threads, Gays Against Groomers expressed surprise that its accounts and Moms for Liberty’s accounts have “both made it this long on social media.” This comment came in response to a Moms for Liberty comment saying, “Maybe we’ll finally be cool enough to get banned.” [Threads, 7/5/23
  • On Facebook, the group referred to doctors who provide gender-affirming care as “child butchers.” The caption of the post claimed that doctors and hospitals are “pushing kids to medically transition.” [Facebook, 7/18/23
  • In another Facebook post, Gays Against Groomers called the mothers of trans children “psychotic” and claimed that they are using their children as a “status symbol.” It added that parents who support their trans children have “Transhausen by proxy” and promoted merchandise bearing the phrase. [Facebook, 7/23/23
  • In another post, the organization declared that it does “not say family friendly drag queen” but “groomer clown” and equated LGBTQ books to “pornographic filth” and gender-affirming care to “child sterilization and mutilation.” The post urged followers to do the same. [Facebook, 7/30/23
  • In one post shared to Facebook, Gays Against Groomers claimed that trans rights activists believe that “children should have their body parts removed to define their gender.” The caption of the post also claimed that gender ideology is “rooted in irrationality.” [Facebook, 8/2/23]
  • On Facebook, Gays Against Groomers promoted its new media hub. The caption said the group is “going nuclear on these groomers and child predators.” [Facebook, 8/5/23
  • Gays Against Groomers has also attacked drag queens on Facebook, implying that they are “attracted to” children. [Facebook, 8/6/23
  • Gays Against Groomers used a Facebook post to falsely suggest that surgery is the only form of gender-affirming care and that it is regularly offered as treatment for minors. The caption of the post said the group would “post the pictures here ourselves but it would get us banned.” [Facebook, 7/7/23]

Related:

Grifter Gays: How conspiracy theorists and right-wing operatives created Gays Against Groomers

Instagram is letting accounts promoting hate speech go unchecked

Right-wing LGBTQ influencers switch teams as homophobic video shared by DeSantis campaign draws widespread condemnation

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The preceding article & research study was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

EdTech threats to LGBTQ student privacy & equity in the age of AI 

Schools are filtering & blocking LGBTQ+ & race-related content, with licensed special education teachers more likely to report such practices

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LGBTQ + censored graphic by Nicole Bixler

By Elizabeth LairdMaddy Dwyer & Hugh Grant-Chapman | WASHINGTON – In schools across the country, the use of educational data and technology (edtech) remains nearly ubiquitous. In addition to supporting instruction, schools have used edtech to respond to the painfully present safety threats that they face on a daily basis — from gun violence to the youth mental health crisis.

However, long-standing technologies such as content filtering and blocking and student activity monitoring pose well-documented privacy and equity risks to students. Nonetheless, schools continue to deploy these technologies on a mass scale. And with generative artificial intelligence (AI) becoming rapidly integrated into the education space, many new risks are being introduced to students.

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) conducted surveys of high school students and middle and high school parents and teachers from July to August 2023 to understand how edtech used by schools is tangibly affecting those it claims to serve. The research focuses on student privacy concerns and schools’ capacity to address them; emerging uses of AI-driven technology such as predictive analytics; and deep dives into content filtering and blocking, student activity monitoring, and generative AI, encompassing both well-established and emerging technology. These surveys build on CDT’s previous research, which revealed that student activity monitoring is adversely affecting all students, especially historically marginalized and under-resourced students.

Whether old or new, technologies deployed across schools have negative impacts on students, and schools are out of step in addressing rising concerns:

  • Schools are not adequately engaging and supporting students, parents, and teachers in addressing concerns about school data and technology practices: Students, parents, and teachers report a lack of guidance, information, and training on privacy, student activity monitoring, content filtering and blocking, and generative AI. They want more support from their schools and to be involved in decisions about whether and how these technologies are used.
  • Content blocking and filtering is stifling student learning and growth: Students and teachers agree that this technology is a barrier to learning, often making it hard to complete school assignments and access useful information.
  • Student activity monitoring continues to harm many of the students it claims to help: Disciplinary actions, outing of students, and initiating of law enforcement contact are still regular outcomes of the use of this technology, even though it is procured by schools to help keep students safe.
  • Schools have provided little guidance about generative AI, leaving students, parents, and teachers in the dark: Students, parents, and teachers report a collective state of confusion about policies and procedures related to responsible generative AI use in the classroom. Meanwhile, students are getting in trouble for the use of this technology.

Even more disheartening is that in all of these areas, at-risk communities of students are still experiencing disproportionate negative impacts of these old and new technologies:

  • Schools are filtering and blocking LGBTQ+ and race-related content, with Title I and licensed special education teachers more likely to report such practices: Although filtering and blocking technology was originally intended to primarily target explicit adult content, more school administrators are using it to restrict access to other content they think is inappropriate, including LGBTQ+ and race-related content. Title I and licensed special education teachers are more likely to report this occurrence. In key respects, this finding parallels the broader trend in education of removing books and curricular content on these subjects.
  • Student activity monitoring is disproportionately harming students with disabilities and LGBTQ+ students: Students with individualized education programs (IEPs) and/or 504 plans as well as licensed special education teachers report higher rates of discipline arising from student activity monitoring. LGBTQ+ students are also still being disciplined more than their peers and outed without their consent.
  • Title I and licensed special education teachers report higher rates of students receiving disciplinary actions for using or being accused of using generative AI: Despite having little guidance from schools on generative AI use, Title I teachers, licensed special education teachers, and parents of students with IEPs and/or 504 plans report higher rates of their student(s) getting in trouble as compared to peers.

Previous CDT research and this year’s findings continue to document the risks and harms of edtech on all students but especially on vulnerable communities. As uses of edtech, particularly AI-driven technology, continue to expand, education leaders across the country should focus not only on privacy concerns but also on identifying and preventing discrimination. Luckily, they already have the tools to do so with well-established civil rights laws that apply to discriminatory uses of technology.

Read the full report (Here)

Explore the research slide deck (Here)

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The preceding article was previously published by The Center for Democracy & Technology and is republished with permission.

CDT is the leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization fighting to advance civil rights and civil liberties in the digital age.

CDT shapes technology policy, governance, and design with a focus on equity and democratic values. Established in 1994, CDT has been a trusted advocate for digital rights since the earliest days of the internet.

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News Analysis

“Biological clothing” dress code espoused by UK & U.S. far-right

In a Sex Matters event in the Manchester, England, “Gender Critical” activists espoused gendered dress codes. The same being pushed in U.S.

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EIM/Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – “Sex based uniforms are also lawful,” a slide proclaimed at a Sex Matters event in Manchester, England. “Children’s actual sex must be known by everyone in the school environment.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, Harrison County School District made headlines when it announced that students would be forced to dress in clothing “consistent with their biological sex.” In Texas, the department of agriculture released a letter to employees, requiring all state employees in the department to “comply with this dress code in a manner consistent with their biological sex.” Those who oppose the existence and visibility of transgender people in public life now seemingly have turned their efforts of gender conformity to everyone.

In a Manchester museum, the Sex Matters event unfurled, steered by ardent campaigners against transgender rights, Helen Joyce and Maya Forstater. Among the aims of the events were items such as “the fight to make sure the law protects women’s rights.” Interestingly, the gathering presented a distinct dress code for its attendees: “Be the billboard for sex-based rights (Adult Human Female; This Witch Doesn’t Burn – or your preferred slogan); embody the spirit of the Suffragettes in tones of purple, green, and white; or wear whatever you like” (emphasis added).

While giving the presentation, Maya Forstater could be seen in a relaxed pose, donned in trousers and sandals. Behind her, a slide loomed, advocating for stringent measures on social transition for trans people in schools. The restrictions espoused included “Sex-based rules” relating to restroom usage, pronouns, and attire, even barring students from donning “the uniform of the opposite sex.”

Meanwhile in the U.S., a flurry of gender-conformity laws and policies have emerged, seemingly in response to the rising visibility of transgender people. Earlier this year in Mississippi, a transgender girl was told she would be barred from her own graduation walk because she desired to wear the same dress the other girls were wearing.

On graduation day, a cisgender girl met a similar fate, this time for her decision to wear pants. In the midst of this, her grandmother voiced her anguish: “I don’t understand how a moment this important can be taken away from a child that’s worked 12 years to get here.” The district has since solidified its clothing policies, stating that all students must wear clothing “consistent with their biological sex.”

Increasingly, policies that were originally aimed at transgender people are now being aimed at all of society. Major influencers in the modern anti-trans panic such as Ben Shapiro have advocated for local laws dictating what men and women can wear in public. PragerU, recently contracted out to major school districts, advocates for gendered dress codes. Yet, this shift isn’t confined to dress codes alone.

Pronoun and name change bans are also recently coming into effect in school districts across the United States and worldwide. In the United States, 11 states have policies that will lead to the forced outing of transgender people if they change their name and pronouns. In Iowa, Senator Bennett posted a message from a school district stating that in accordance with a recent law passed there, the teacher needed parental permission to start calling a student Joe rather than Joseph. In Canada, similar policies are being enacted.

Increasingly too, the same people that have advocated for gender affirming care bans and dress codes are pushing for gender conformity more overtly. Matt Walsh calls for “traditional masculinity” while chastising “childless women.” Michael Knowles attacked the UN Council on Women for indicating that boys can cry. These appeals to a “more traditional masculinity” are often echoed directly, such as in the recent DeSantis anti-trans political ad with superimposed images of muscular chests and the Governor’s face.

The distance between these views and those who call themselves “gender critical” is increasingly growing narrower. Just this week, a widely mocked tweet from one gender critical activist proclaimed that “girls need blouses and skirts” for biological reasons:

Increasingly, many are questioning whether advocacy for gendered dress codes can genuinely be labeled as “gender critical” or even “feminist.” When the organizers of the Sex Matters event championed policies like sex-segregated classes, they faced sharp criticism from those highlighting the contradictions in their platform. This incongruity isn’t new, though. It continues to cast doubt on whether “gender critical” activists truly seek to dismantle, rather than entrench, gender stereotypes.

The Sex Matters event illuminated how opposition to transgender individuals can eventually affect everyone. The concept of “biological clothing” lacks historical grounding—centuries ago, men donned dresses and baby boys were dressed in white and pink. Imposing limitations not just on an individual’s right to transition, but also on people’s freedom to express themselves, might be more than what was bargained for; nevertheless, it is an easy extension of attacks on transgender people allowed to go on unchecked.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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News Analysis

Conservatives find new LGBTQ+ outrage: Paw Patrol

It’s hard to keep track of everything conservative’s have cancelled for LGBTQ+ representation in recent months

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Erin In The Morning/Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – Bud Light beer. Costa coffee. Target clothing. It’s hard to keep track of everything conservative’s have cancelled for LGBTQ+ representation in recent months. It seems even the mere mention of a transgender person is enough to get a company targeted these days, and a single rainbow flag could result in harassment and bomb threats.

Now, conservatives have turned their eyes to a new target to be outraged over: Paw Patrol.

Or, to be more accurate, their outrage has turned the Paw Patrol spinoff, Rubble & Crew, a construction-themed spinoff of the original animated series. In a viral video on twitter reaching over 2 million people, conservative influencer and former GOP primary candidate Robby Starbuck opened his video with the ominous statement, “They are coming for your children.” The outrageous content in question worthy of such a bold claim? A single nonbinary character wearing trans colored socks, who appears in only a single episode.

You can watch the video here:

Robby Starbuck video on Paw Patrol

The video quickly gained traction among prominent conservative influencers and elected officials. Libs of TikTok, notorious for fueling viral outrage and inciting violence against LGBTQ+ individuals and their supporters, circulated the video. They then falsely alleged that Paw Patrol was “embedding pornographic links on their candy wrappers,” a claim refuted by Twitter’s Community Notes feature. The Daily Caller, often criticized for transphobic content, also wrote an article on the matter. Prominent elected officials, like Tennessee House Majority Leader Representative William Lambeth, who penned the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth, also shared the video.

The video identifies queer author Lindz Amer as the creative mind behind the episode. Amer, a distinguished writer and recipient of the GLAAD Rising Stars Grant awarded for initiatives that “champion intersectional LGBTQ+ issues,” shared their excitement on Instagram: “I wanted to write a nonbinary character that was aspirational and incredibly cool, someone for the pups (and kids at home) to look up to. They found an awesome non-binary actor to voice River and I’m so so happy about how it turned out.”

Representation matters, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. As more individuals embrace their true identities and come out, families are increasingly inclusive of LGBTQ+ members. The Internet and Television Association has observed that over the past two decades, the shift towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals can be largely attributed to positive portrayals on TV. Speaking on the matter with the NCTA, GLAAD’s Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis emphasized the significance of LGBTQ+ representation in children’s programming, noting, “By introducing this level of representation to children’s shows, we foster conversations about embracing differences, ensuring that children begin to cultivate a robust sense of self-worth from a young age.”

In recent months, though, conservatives have sought out to stamp out representation in all aspects of public life. Sixteen states have enacted restrictions on LGBTQ+ content in educational settings, under the guise of “Don’t Say Gay Or Trans” laws. In Florida, an educator was dismissed for as little as showing a Disney film featuring a gay character. GOP attorneys general have penned letters to Target, claiming the sale of LGBTQ+ themed apparel for young people violates obscenity laws. In Georgia, a predetermined mock trial saw a teacher fired for reading the Scholastic Kids book, “My Shadow Is Purple.” Virginia witnessed a lawsuit against Barnes & Noble, calling for the removal of LGBTQ+ books from their shelves. Ironically, the same conservatives who once lambasted the notion of “cancel culture” now seem to have fully embraced it.

For those who want to see the episode, it has just been released. The episode is titled, “The Crew Builds An Observatory,” where the characters join together to help River, the nonbinary character in question, catch a picture of a shooting star. You can watch it now on Nick Jr.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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News Analysis

Court “expert” couldn’t name any medications for blocking puberty

New investigative piece delves into anti-trans experts making the rounds across the nation. One could not name a common puberty blocking drug

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Hormone associated therapy and sex hormone suppression Lupron (leuprolide) (Screenshot/YouTube Cleveland Clinic)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – A cohort of so-called experts has traveled the United States, raking in more than a million dollars to contest gender-affirming care for trans youth in court battles.

Judges have frequently dismissed them as lacking credibility, yet states continue to shell out for their services. A recent deep dive by HuffPost into court transcripts now casts serious shadows over their proclaimed “expertise.”

Astoundingly, one of these alleged specialists, Dr. James Cantor, couldn’t even identify a single drug used in puberty-blocking treatments for transgender youth.

The article uncovers the details around a group of six witnesses that states have paid over a million dollars to defend anti-trans laws. These witnesses include:

  • Paul Hruz – An endocrinologist who, according to court documents in Arkansas, has never treated a patient for gender dysphoria.
  • Michael Laidlaw – An endocrinologist often associated with the Alliance Defending Freedom who has appeared in conferences that promote “curing homosexuality through faith healing.”
  • James Cantor – A psychologist who did not see youth patients in his care typically, has never diagnosed gender dysphoria in young people, and who subscribes to the much discredited theory of “autogynephelia,” essentially calling being transgender a fetish.
  • Stephen Levine – An ex-WPATH psychiatrist who argues for removal of gender affirming care for transgender inmates.
  • Quentin Van Meter – Former president of the American College of Pediatricians, a SPLC-designated hate group that supports sexual orientation therapy.
  • Patrick Lappert – A doctor who is also a deacon for Courage International, a conversion therapy organization encouraging gay people to “live chaste lives.”

Judges have consistently ruled these witnesses as not credible. For example, in Arkansas, Judge Moody declared Dr. Lappert and Dr. Hruz unqualified—both had attempted to defend the state’s law.

Moody pointed out that their views on gender-affirming care “are rooted in ideology rather than science.” In Florida, a judge emphasized in a footnote that Dr. Hruz appeared as “a deeply biased advocate” and highlighted the underlying ideological insinuation from these so-called experts that “transgender identity is not real, that it is made up.”

These witnesses have, at times, made statements widely decried as cruel towards transgender people. Dr. Hruz has, for instance, once allegedly answered claims of transgender suicidality with the statement: “some children are born into this world to suffer and die.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Lappert, in an interview on a Catholic YouTube channel, even compares pronouns to heresy, stating “no one is served by heresy.”

Now, in this latest investigative piece by HuffPost, new court transcripts have been analyzed and unveiled, including this stunning deposition of Dr. James Cantor, when he was unable to name a single puberty blocker:

Because of moments like this, judges at the district court level have frequently ruled against anti-trans experts on the scientific grounds for bans on gender-affirming care. Specifically, in cases from FloridaArkansas, and Tennessee, judges determined that the facts robustly endorse gender-affirming care’s efficacy in curbing suicidality, anxiety, and depression in transgender youth.

Yet, some of these rulings have been overturned at the appellate level in ongoing court fights. This shift isn’t due to appellate judges being persuaded by these witnesses’ testimonies. Instead, they lean on the recent Dobbs abortion decision, which permits such bans based on the premise that gender-affirming care “is not deeply rooted in this nation’s history and traditions.”

GOP-aligned judges in the 6th and 11th Circuit courts contend that transgender individuals don’t constitute a “quasi-suspect class” under the equal protection clause. They argue that discrimination against transgender individuals doesn’t amount to unlawful gender discrimination, essentially sidestepping the rationale the Supreme Court employed in Bostock v. Clayton County, which established Title VII rights for trans individuals. With this perspective, these circuits employ the “rational basis” review as opposed to intermediate scrutiny.

This means states aren’t obligated to demonstrate that these bans are precisely targeted and evidence-backed, but merely that the law has a rational connection to a legitimate governmental objective. This stance diverges from the 8th Circuit Court, which sustained the preliminary injunction in Arkansas using intermediate scrutiny.

To the advantage of these state “experts,” they can persistently promote pseudoscientific perspectives on transgender care without genuinely substantiating the care’s purported harm. This endeavor has proven exceedingly profitable for them.

Based on public records requests, state and local governments have disbursed $1.1 million to such experts and an additional $6.6 million to affiliated teams. These numbers, as reported by HuffPost, likely are half of the true dollar figure given that many states did not release their spending.

There are many more court cases left – challenges are currently proceeding in places like MontanaNorth DakotaOklahoma, and more states have court cases currently underway. Undoubtedly, these experts will continue to travel and defend anti-trans state laws in many of these states.

You can read the full investigative report from HuffPost here.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

******************************************************************************************

The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

Candace Owens suspended for anti-LGBTQ YouTube hate again

The Daily Wire personality’s channel has recently featured false accusations that the LGBTQ “agenda” is to push pedophilia

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By  Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – A short video posted Tuesday on the Daily Wire’s YouTube channel contained a by-now familiar disclosure: the platform had suspended Candace Owens, “prohibiting her from posting or appearing on any of the Daily Wire’s YouTube channels.” Multiple Daily Wire personalities have triggered enforcement actions by the platform for their frequent vitriol against LGBTQ people.

In announcing the news, Daily Wire personality Michael Knowles did not say how long the suspension was expected to last, but Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing stated in June that Owens and Knowles had both received two strikes against their accounts for violating YouTube’s policies on hate speech. Three strikes against a YouTube account in a 90-day period can lead to its termination. Because the Daily Wire did not confirm the timing of the first strike, it is possible that it occurred prior to the current 90 window, leaving the podcaster with two strikes.

In response to a request for comment, a YouTube spokesperson stated: “We issued a strike to the Candace Owens Podcast channel for violating our hate speech policy, which prohibits content promoting hatred against protected individuals or groups, including the LGBTQ+ community.”

The video “Carlee Russell The Female Jussie Smollet?!” appears to have been removed from Owens’ channel. Media Matters previously reported on comments featured in the video, which followed Owens’ publication of an interview titled, “Is Homosexuality Ruining Western Civilization?” and included the claim that “it is gay men that are abusing children” in the Catholic Church.

Independent analysis still shows, however, that Owens’ YouTube channel, which is estimated to earn as much as $1.1 million per yearremains monetized with advertiser content. Knowles’ show, which Social Blade estimates to bring in as much as $3 million annually, is monetized as well. 

Knowles responded to his own prior suspension by removing the most extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from his show and telling his audience that they could find the content — including a members-only segment he called “Trans Tuesday” — on the Daily Wire’s website. Owens, meanwhile, plowed ahead with vicious attacks against gay people

Content from before Owens’ previous suspension featured accusations that anybody who shopped at the retail chain Target was “gay” and “a pervert,” claims that “transgenderism” is “a cancer and we should fight it,” and boasts that the podcaster could beat up a nonbinary naval service member. YouTube’s hate speech policies say content that “repeatedly targets, insults, and abuses a group based on protected group status across multiple uploads” may lead to penalties. 

YouTube’s enforcement of its policies related to the LGBTQ community has been uneven. In April, after repeatedly targeting TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, Daily Wire personality and “What is a Woman” filmmaker Matt Walsh had advertiser revenue stripped from his channel, only to have it restored 90 days later despite Walsh publicly vowing not to change his behavior.

The banner image on Owens’ YouTube channel advertises her show as streaming live on DailyWire+, Rumble, and X (formerly Twitter). YouTube, notably, is missing from that list.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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Research/Study

Political attacks on Trans youth are the tip of the iceberg 

“This is a coordinated & organized effort to erase not just trans people, but LGBTQ people from being able to publicly live our lives”

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By Rebecca Farmer | BOULDER, Colo. – The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released Banning Medical Care and Legal Recognition for Transgender People, the fifth in MAP’s report series, Under Fire: The War on LGBTQ People in America. 

The report details how the dramatic increase in political attacks on transgender youth are just the tip of the iceberg and part of a coordinated effort to eliminate transgender people of all ages from public life.

This year alone, state legislatures introduced more than 725 anti-LGBTQ bills shattering previous records. In 2023, more states enacted bans on transgender youth medical care than passed bans on marriage equality in 2004, one of the worst years in the fight for marriage equality.

“While most of the public focus has been on recent efforts to ban medical care for transgender youth, these attacks are part of a much larger, coordinated effort to try to erase transgender people from public life entirely,” said Logan Casey, Senior Policy Researcher & Advisor at MAP.  “Anti-LGBTQ extremists want to make it impossible for transgender people to be ourselves and to be legally recognized according to our gender identity.”  

This latest report in the Under Fire series from MAP identifies five core tactics opponents are using in their attempts to erase transgender people from public life: 

Tactic 1: Banning health care for transgender youth

The pace at which states are banning access to this care is remarkable. For example, prior to 2021, no states banned medical care for transgender youth.

Today, 22 states have enacted this kind of ban – 19 of them during this year alone. Currently more than 1 in 3 transgender youth live in a state that bans or severely restricts health care for them.  These kinds of laws have been enacted in all but two states in the U.S. South, leaving transgender youth in nearly an entire region without access to medically necessary care.  

Tactic 2: Banning health care or severely restricting health care for transgender adults

Bill introduced across the country are more explicitly targeting transgender adults’ access to care. Nearly one-third of youth-focused medical care ban bills introduced in 2023 would also limit health care for at least some transgender adults.

Some legislation seeks to ban healthcare for transgender adults by redefining a minor to include adults up to age 26.

At least nine states explicitly exclude transgender-related healthcare from Medicaid coverage for adults as well as youth. Some states also ban coverage transgender-related care in state health insurance plans.  Roughly one in seven bills attacking transgender health care included provisions to ban or restrict coverage in private health insurance.  

Tactic 3: Limiting transgender people’s ability to live openly and participate in daily life

Anti-LGBTQ forces are increasingly targeting the ability of transgender people to live openly and safely as themselves throughout their daily lives. This includes making it impossible or extremely difficult to obtain accurate ID, banning the use of bathrooms, restricting social transition, and more.  

ID documents: Four states ban people from updating the gender marker on their birth certificates and another 12 states impose invasive and overly burdensome medical requirements.  

Bathroom bans: Nine states now ban transgender people from using bathrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity. 

New bans, especially in Florida, are expanding their scope to apply not only to schools but also to other government-owned buildings and spaces; Florida’s ban includes major airports, sports arenas, and much more.  

Forced outing: Five states now require schools to out transgender students to their families, often regardless of whether this might put the child at risk of harm.  

Opponents are also working to overturn the existing but limited protections for transgender people, while also working to enact new ways to remove opportunities for legal recognition.

Just in 2023, four states have enacted a new kind of law that defines “sex” throughout state law to allow discrimination against transgender and nonbinary people. Two additional states’ governors issued executive orders to the same effect.  

Fewer than half of states have explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender people. Some states are working to undermine those existing protections with religious exemptions

Tactic 5: Criminalizing and harassing supporters of transgender people

Even supporters of transgender equality are being targeted. Healthcare providers for transgender people are facing loss of their licenses or even criminal penalties for providing medically necessary care that is endorsed by major medical associations.

In five states, it is now a felony to provide best-practice medical care to transgender youth.  Dozens of hospitals have reported receiving bomb threats and other serious harassment for providing medically necessary care to transgender youth.  

Many bills in recent years also target parents who support their transgender children. Florida legislation introduced in 2023 would have allowed the state to remove children from their families if the parents were even suspected of supporting them in receiving best-practice medical care. 

“Make no mistake – this swift and coordinated attack on transgender people in the U.S. is part of a larger war on LGBTQ people,” said Casey. “It’s essential that we see beyond one bill or policy to understand the broader scope of what is occurring. This is a coordinated and organized effort to try to erase not just transgender people, but LGBTQ people overall, from being able to publicly live our lives.” 

The entire “Under Fire” series is available here

About MAP: MAP’s mission is to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life. www.mapresearch.org

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News Analysis

Missouri trans clinic closure: Page out of anti-abortion playbook

The restriction on clinics serving trans youth bears a striking resemblance to liability laws targeting another medical procedure: abortion

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Washington University's Transgender Center is located at St. Louis Children's Hospital. (Photo Credit: St Louis Children's Hospital/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – In a recent Tuesday statement, the gender clinic at Washington University announced its decision to cease services for transgender youth under its care.

While youth already receiving care were ostensibly protected under a “grandfather clause” following Missouri’s ban on gender-affirming care, another facet of the law was previously underreported: a prolonged 15-year liability window for those same individuals if they allege “harm” from such treatments, even if the care was performed perfectly.

The touted “grandfather clause” exempting trans youth who already were receiving care appears to have been a mirage, one which disappeared the moment this portion of the bill kicked in. Now, Republicans have a mechanism for closing trans clinics around the country, and they’re borrowing an old tactic from anti-abortion laws to do so, with troubling implications for both.

The provision states that medical practitioners are subject to liability for 15 years following gender affirming care for transgender youth. Disturbingly, one need not even prove neglect on the part of a doctor for a lawsuit to be successful. Providing care under such a system would be impossible.

Washington University’s clinic echoed this sentiment in its recent statement where it announced it would end care: “Due to Missouri’s latest legislation on transgender care, a novel legal challenge has emerged for those treated as minors. This claim introduces insurmountable liability for our health professionals, making it impossible for us to continue all-encompassing transgender care for minors without placing the university and our staff under untenable legal risk.”

You can see the liability provision here:

This is not the first time that a state has used stringent liability provisions as a covert method to ban certain medical treatments. The Missouri restriction on clinics serving transgender youth bears a striking resemblance to liability laws targeting another medical procedure: abortion.

In 1997, Louisiana’s Act 825 laid out specific liability consequences for abortion providers. Perversely, under this legislation, a patient who voluntarily sought and underwent an abortion could then sue for “damages” that, bizarrely, encompassed the intended outcome of the procedure itself—the death of the “unborn child.”

Oklahoma followed a similar trajectory, introducing liability tied to mandatory parental notification for all abortions conducted within its borders. Arguably the most extreme manifestation of this trend surfaced recently in Texas, where laws now empower virtually anyone to sue an abortion provider solely for performing the procedure.

These liability provisions make providing care prohibitively difficult. Firstly, their duration is much longer the typical liability timeframe associated with other medications and procedures. To put it in perspective, Missouri’s medical malpractice lawsuits for all other medical procedures have a window of just 2 years.

What amplifies the predicament is that there’s no need to prove neglect—diverging sharply from standard malpractice suits where establishing neglect is pivotal. These specific provisions targeting gender-affirming and abortion care essentially render the practice financially untenable. Yet, the most most damaging aspect of these provisions is in the difficulty in fighting them in court.

Louisiana’s Act 825 came during a period where Roe v. Wade protections still applied. By 1997, Louisiana had lost several lawsuits declaring abortion bans unconstitutional. In 1990, the state had passed an absolute abortion ban with only an exception “to save the life of the woman or in cases of rape and incest.” This was ruled unconstitutional in 1992.

Legislatures contended with repeated findings on the constitutionality of abortion and concocted new ways to target it. Act 825 represented a major breakthrough.

To challenge a law traditionally, one must target an entity that might enforce it against them, often a state’s district attorney or attorney general. However, Louisiana’s Act 825 posed a unique conundrum. Doctors wishing to administer abortions found themselves devoid of a clear entity to litigate against in seeking to negate the law.

Instead, they were confronted with the peril of possibly being sued after performing an abortion and hoping the challenge would falter in court on constitutional grounds. This amplified risk notably heightened the financial strain of facilitating abortions within the state. Nevertheless, a handful of practitioners pressed on, banking on Roe v. Wade to shield them in individual legal battles.

For trans care, though, it is even more perilous. There is no overarching Roe v. Wade law with settled precedent. Instead, that precedent is still developing as courts seek to interpret if transgender people can be legally discriminated against, or if they are offered protections under the 14th Amendment.

Clinics like the Washington University Gender Clinic cannot even sue to overturn the liability provisions, which could be cost-prohibitive if even a single transgender person decides, 15 years later, that they are unsatisfied with their transition.

There are already signs that liability provisions are expanding. In Texas, for instance, SB1029 passed the Senate but was not ultimately enacted into law. Unlike the Missouri law, which limited the liability provisions to trans youth, the Texas bill expanded it to all transgender care. Any doctor could be sued by any patient, even if the care was provided perfectly, and they would remain strictly liable. Should any state wish to ban gender affirming care for all trans adults, bills like this could be a mechanism to do so.

Given the parallels between anti-abortion and anti-trans legislations, it’s foreseeable that similar tactics may target both types of care in upcoming months. The narrative surrounding abortion and trans care—focused on the alleged “harm” they inflict—lays the groundwork for endorsing such legislations.

Furthermore, the liability clauses act as a deterrent to legal challenges, effectively weaponizing undue risk against the providers. This could lead to the cessation of vital services without any constitutional examination of the underlying laws in the near future.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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News Analysis

X is placing major ads on a heavily followed antisemitic account

X CEO Linda Yaccarino keeps breaking her promise about brand safety as ads run on account endorsing killing politicians & LGBTQ advocates

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X (formerly Twitter) has been placing ads for major brands like MLB, Bayer, Tyson Foods, and eBay on the account of Stew Peters, a white nationalist streamer with over 400,000 followers who uses the social platform to endorse the killings of politicians and LGBTQ advocates. (Screenshot/YouTube Stew Peters Show)

By  Eric Hananoki | WASHINGTON – X (formerly Twitter) has been placing ads for major brands like MLB, Bayer, Tyson Foods, and eBay on the account of Stew Peters, a white nationalist streamer who uses the social platform to endorse the killings of politicians and LGBTQ advocates. 

Peters has over 400,000 followers on his account, which he uses to attack people for being Jewish, and recently wrote of the Elon Musk-backed “BanTheADL” campaign: “The ADL controlling free speech has gone on long enough. The final solution should be @elonmusk banning the @ADL from twitter/@x.”   

X CEO Linda Yaccarino has been claiming that her platform is a safe place for brands. She recently tweeted that X has a “commitment to brand safety” and told CNBC in a recent interview that companies are “protected from the risk of being next to” toxic content and, “By all objective metrics, X is a much healthier and safer platform than it was a year ago.” 

That’s false: Media Matters and other observers have shown that X remains a toxic environment, especially for advertisers. Since Elon Musk took over the company, X has placed ads for numerous brands directly on pro-HitlerHolocaust denialwhite nationalist, and neo-Nazi accounts. Ads have also appeared next to unhinged conspiracy theories about Jewish people and 9/11. 

Peters is a far-right conspiracy theorist, white nationalist, and Rumble host who believes that politicians, pro-vaccine advocates, and journalists must be executed.

Peters was previously banned on X when it was known as Twitter, but he was able to reopen an account under Musk. During his time on X, he has authored numerous posts that have spread false claims and conspiracy theories, including recently claiming that a laser weapon caused the Lahaina wildfires. 

He also uses his account to attack people for being Jewish and promote white nationalism. He once posted a celebratory picture of Hitler, writing: “Say what you will about Hitler, but people turned out for his rallies.” 

He wrote of the Holocaust: “The Covid bioweapon genocide is significantly WORSE than the holocaust in terms of worldwide reach and number of deaths.” 

Despite (or maybe because of) his toxic background, numerous political figures have appeared on his program. They include: U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Bob Good (R-VA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ); Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers; and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Peters recently spoke at the ReAwaken America tour in Las Vegas along with Donald Trump Jr., Lara Trump, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Michael Flynn, among others. During that speech, Peters again called for the hanging of Anthony Fauci. 

Peters openly promotes violence on his account, which is a violation of X’s purported rules. X, however, has repeatedly failed to enforce its rules under Musk and Yaccarino’s watch. 

X placed ads for major advertisers on Peters’ violent posts and account 

We looked at two recent examples of Peters promoting violence and found numerous ads for major brands directly on those posts. We also looked at Peters’ account and found numerous other brand ads. 

Pro-LGBTQ killing. Peters posted an image of a flier calling for the murder of pro-LGBTQ advocates, including the anti-bullying group GLSEN and Target, because they support transgender rights. He wrote: “Apparently some fine Americans are circulating some literature at their local Target store.”

Brand ads on that post include:

Stew Peters ads

While advertising for Bayer — a pharmaceutical company that helped produce a COVID-19 vaccine — has appeared on his account, Peters has said drug companies involved in the manufacturing of the vaccine should receive “the death penalty.” 

Pro-politician killing. Peters posted an image of gallows with the caption “government repair kit.” He wrote: “We have a lot of repairing to do.” 

Brand ads on that post include:

Stew Peters ads second example

Peters’ account is filled with other calls for violence. Those include him posting a video of politicians and reporters making pro-COVID-19 vaccine remarks and writing, “Every single one of these people deserve the rope”; and him saying of non-binary singer Sam Smith, “Any serious society would give this demon the Old Yeller treatment.” 

Peters also recently suggested violence against California state Rep. Lori Wilson (D), posting on X regarding a speech she made supporting gender affirming care: “Time for a trip to the woodshed.” (Replies to Peters included “gallows,” “hang,” and “to the big tree.”) 

We also found ads for numerous brands on Peters’ account page: 

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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