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Catholic Diocese suggests raped altar boy enjoyed sex with priest

Catholic church seeks to avoid legal responsibility by suggesting victim of horrific sexual abuse by priest is gay

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By James Finn | BIELSKO-ZYWIEC, Poland – My headline is neither satire nor hyperbole, its literal truthfulness sheds much light on the harm of traditionalist-Christian sexual teachings. When Roman Catholic Bishop Roman Pindel first met with Janusz Szymik, the bishop expressed compassion for the man repeatedly raped as an altar boy by a priest in the Polish diocese of Bielsko-Żywiec, which Pindel heads.

What the bishop did next shocked and angered Janusz, in the process illustrating how the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s condemnation of LGBTQ people can blind them to the difference between healthy consensual sex and rape.

First, the story of a boy raped by a priest

Janusz, who is now 48 year old, was an altar boy of 12 in 1980s Poland when his priest and confessor (who has been named only as Jan W. due to Polish privacy law) began sexually abusing him. The “relationship” continued for years, with the priest often meeting the boy off Church property, taking him on outings, buying him gifts, and molesting him.

Janusz first reported the abuse in 2015, later giving testimony against the priest in a Church tribunal that ended with his rapist being barred from public ministry for five years, though not removed from the priesthood. He is living “in isolation” for the same five-year period, which is set to end sometime this year.

The priest did not face criminal punishment, reportedly due to Polish statute of limitation restrictions.

Janusz recently filed a civil suit against the Bielsko-Żywiec diocese. He says he was motivated by the Church trial’s lenient sentence, the probability that restrictions on his rapist’s public ministry would soon be lifted, his strong suspicion that he was not the only victim, and his fears Jan W might victimize more children in the future.

Bishop Pindel’s response was to suggest Janusz was gay and had enjoyed being molested

NotesFromPoland and the Polish Onet news portal have published details of a response the Bishop Pindel’s diocese sent to the civil court overseeing the case:

  1. The diocese wants the court to hear “evidence from an expert sexologist on the determination of the claimant’s sexual preferences, in particular determination of the claimant’s sexual orientation.”
  2. The diocese wants the victim questioned about his “relationship” with the priest, including him “showing pleasure in maintaining an intimate relationship with Jan W.” and even “deriving benefits,” including “material benefits.”
  3. The diocese told the court it “denies that the relationship was based on enslavement or incapacitation; on the contrary: it was voluntary and based on mutual benefits.”
  4. Any sexual contact (if any) that took place off Church property is not the legal responsibility of the diocese.
  5. The diocese proposes to the court that the priest’s testimony during clerical proceedings should be taken as credible over the victim’s, that the court should presume sexual contact began when Janusz was 16 rather than 12 as he claims.

Compassion morphs into accusations of lying and prostitution

The compassion Bishop Pindel initially offered Janusz morphed into something far darker. The bishop filed documents in open court dismissing Janusz as a liar and (implicitly) a prostitute who in his late teens took material advantage of a priest. In a nation where being gay is highly stigmatized and socially damaging, the bishop asked the court to order a psychological evaluation to determine if Janusz is gay.

After Onet and other media raised the alarm, the diocese apologized in a public statement, according to ABC News: “We apologize to Janusz and to all who have been scandalized,” reads the statement, specifying that the diocese response to the lawsuit should not have included questions about the victim’s sexuality or have suggested that he drew pleasure from contact with the priest.

The statement did not include an apology for implications that Janusz lied about being 12 years old when the priest began sexually abusing him. The statement did not retract the diocese position that the priest’s actions off Church property were not the Church’s legal responsibility.

Janusz Szymik – pictured above as a child

None of this is unusual. Traditionalist Catholics are often blinded by dogma.

To their credit, some Polish bishops have spoken out strongly against Bishop Pindel, pressuring him to apologize, but this case begs close examination. First, the wording of the Pindel’s apology, for those not familiar with Roman Catholic language, is highly suspect. He apologized for “scandalizing” people, not for his actions alone. This may seem like a trivial distinction, but it’s critical.

Scandal, in Catholic teaching, is a “sin” defined as an act that “leads people to move away from Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers us.” Scandal in its most straightforward Catholic sense might consist of a respected Catholic leader claiming Church teachings are wrong. As an illustration, many Catholic bishops in the U.S. accuse President Biden of the sin of scandal because he politically supports the right of women to choose abortion.

In a more nuanced sense, however, scandal is often defined as truthful statements that lead people away from the Church. So when Bishop Pindel apologizes because people have been “scandalized,” he sidesteps. Does he believe his statements and actions were wrong on their own? That’s impossible to know.

When any sex outside heterosexual marriage is a grave sin, moral recognition of abusive sexuality can evaporate

Let’s talk about moral distinctions in a minute. First, some background. Catholic dogma holds that gay people commit acts of “grave depravity” when we have sex with our partners, no matter how loving, committed, or healthy our relationships may be. Dogma holds that we are “intrinsically disordered,” or in alternate language, “ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”

Catholic bishops in Poland aggressively promote those teachings, cooperating hand-in-glove with the right-wing Law and Justice Party as it passes laws to deny common civil liberties to LGBTQ people and encourages cities and political regions to declare themselves “LGBT Free Zones.”

Catholic bishops in Poland frequently indulge in incendiary language against transgender and gay people, even equating calls for equality with the oppression Poles experienced under Cold War Soviet domination. In 2019, riots broke out againt LGBTQ Pride parades, with observers in Poland and around the world blaming much of the violence on Church incitement. In the aftermath of the violence, the Church’s most prominent bishops doubled down on fiery language. Bishops even spoke up in support of an Ikea employee fired for posting on a company intranet that the Bible calls for LGBTQ people to be put to death.

Consent and rape lose meaning when gay people are evil by definition

Here’s the key to this whole mess: When you see gay people as being intrinsically evil, consent and love can fail to hold meaning. I’m reminded of a huge Italian scandal a few years ago that started out when teenage seminarians (candidates for the Catholic priesthood) complained that some of the adults who ran their residential school were sexually abusing them.

The boys who complained of the abuse ranged in age from 12 to 17, and their complaints were credible enough to prompt a major investigation, the results of which I read a few years ago. Without bogging down in detail, the investigation quickly expanded from an effort to identify and punish adults who abused children into a wide dragnet for gay priests. Most of the report’s pages focused on priests who had consual sex with other priests and even on boys who consensually experimented with other boys, some of whom were severely punished. Consent was rarely mentioned in the report. The inability of children to consent to adults was largely overlooked.

The underage victims of abuse were not exactly forgotten, but they got very short shrift as the Church ran in circles screaming and shouting about gay priests breaking their celibacy vows.

The Catholic priests who ran the investigation seemed almost incapable of morally distinguishing between consensual sex and coercive molestation.

Bishop Roman Pindel in Poland seems to be stuck in a similar moral paradigm

It’s fine that he apologized, but his initial positions are illuminating and disturbing. In his mind, apparently, if Janusz really was gay, and if he enjoyed some of his sexual experiences or other experiences with the priest Jan W, then the two them are on an equal moral footing, both intrinsically disordered people committing acts of grave depravity for which they are equally culpable.

The bishop doesn’t talk about consent or the inability of a child or adolescent to consent to a powerful adult. He doesn’t accept responsibility for a priest in his diocese abusing a child, because in his mind, the sin that counts most here is the sin of homosexuality.

He’s blinded at least partially to the real crime, because of Church dogma that teaches that sexual love between two people of the same sex can never be positive and healthy. Why worry about consent when it’s all grave depravity anyway?

Meanwhile, Janusz’s biggest concerns are unaddressed.

His rapist got a slap on the wrist. Other victims are still out there. Children may continue to be at risk when Jan W’s suspension ends in coming months. The Bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec has demonstrated little to no concern about any of that, apparently owing to Church culture and teachings.

The Church is wrong. We LGBTQ people are not evil, are not disordered , and do not commit acts of grave depravity.

The Church’s error leads them not only to wrong LGBTQ people but often to fail to grapple with real sexual abuse.

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James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, a frequent columnist for the LA Blade, a contributor to other LGBTQ news outlets, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

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The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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News Analysis

Daily Wire’s Walsh using a trans man’s shirtless photo without permission

The subject of the photo has asked Walsh to remove the picture, which the Daily Wire host tweeted on May 14

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Molly Butler / Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – Daily Wire host Matt Walsh, who called the white supremacist great replacement conspiracy theory “just a fact,” is using an unauthorized photo of a trans man in a trailer promoting his upcoming documentary.

The subject of the photo has asked Walsh to remove the picture, which the Daily Wire host tweeted on May 14. While the unauthorized use could violate Twitter’s policy on copyrighted material, the platform refuses to act, maintaining its recent streak of permitting anti-trans content in violation of its own stated policies.

Five days after Walsh tweeted a trailer for his forthcoming documentary “What Is A Woman,” Steph Kyriacou quote-tweeted Walsh, saying a photo of his has been used in the documentary without permission and asking for it to be removed. It appears that his photo had been taken from his Instagram profile. This photo is one of several in the trailer depicting transmasculine people following their top surgery. Troublingly, another Twitter user said the trailer for Walsh’s documentary also included an unauthorized image of their then-15-year-old son.

This is not the first time that Walsh has come under fire for making and promoting this film without permission from those appearing in it. Earlier this year it was revealed that as part of filming the documentary, he had created a puppet organization to trick trans people into appearing in the film. 

After Kyriacou and other users reported Walsh’s tweet for copyright violations, Twitter responded by saying it would not take down the tweet, even though Walsh appears to be in violation of Twitter’s policies because he’s profiting from the use of the images. The film is being released through Daily Wire’s website and is exclusive to those who pay for a membership. 

Despite Twitter users pointing out the potential violation, the post remains up.  

Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, cited Twitter’s failure to remove Walsh’s trailer as an example in a trend of Twitter failing to enforce its policies on harassment of trans people. 

Across social media, platforms are failing to address anti-trans content, and Twitter is no exception. The platform has recently failed to enforce its own content policy on hate speech in regards to misgendering and other forms of harassment. 

This documentary is the latest piece in Walsh’s strange obsession with trans people and their identities — earlier this year, he released a children’s book comparing gender identity to identifying as a walrus. It is also part of a larger right-wing tactic to manufacture outrage by posing a disingenuous question that seeks a simple answer for a complex question, the absurdity of which became even more transparent when Republicans were posed the same question.

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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

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Research/Study

TV news spent just 43 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021

Last year marked the deadliest year of anti-trans violence on record, but coverage by corporate TV news networks dropped by 20%

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Alex Paterson | WASHINGTON – A new comprehensive analysis of national cable and corporate broadcast TV news coverage from Media Matters’ LGBTQ Program found that in 2021, networks failed to devote air time to the epidemic of anti-trans violence.

When they did cover the issue –  a paltry 43 minutes across 19 segments – the segments left much to be desired, further highlighting the need for better and more robust coverage.

At least 57 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in the United States in 2021, making it the deadliest year on record for the community. The vast majority of these victims were Black or Latina trans women.

A Media Matters analysis of broadcast news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as cable news coverage on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC found that cable and corporate broadcast TV news networks failed to adequately report on anti-trans violence in 2021, discussing the topic in just 19 segments for a total of 43 minutes of coverage.

Despite a surge in brutality, broadcast and cable TV news spent just 43 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021

Corporate TV news networks have clearly demonstrated that they have the capacity to cover anti-trans violence but continuously choose to ignore the subject. Each network has a responsibility to inform their viewers with accurate coverage and finally improve this woeful dearth of reporting.

“More than five months into 2022, we have already seen a push from state legislatures to attack trans lives, while right-wing media outlets – like Fox News – have launched hateful attacks against the trans community. The lack of substantive reporting from national TV news about this violent epidemic further highlights the need for these networks to report accurate information and provide quality coverage instead of letting right-wing media control the narrative around trans identities.”

For the second year in a row, the United States witnessed the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender nonconforming people, with at least 57 individuals killed in 2021. The vast majority of these victims were Black or Latina trans women. Despite this uptick, Media Matters’ latest study documented a 20% drop in the total amount of coverage of anti-trans violence from our 2020 report.

The study analyzed coverage of anti-trans violence for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between January 1 and December 31, 2021 and found that:

  • Cable news networks spent approximately 35 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021, with the vast majority of coverage airing on MSNBC. MSNBC spent the most time reporting on the topic, with 29 minutes of coverage across 9 segments. This was more than four times as much coverage as CNN and Fox News combined. 
    • CNN covered anti-trans violence for 4 minutes across 3 segments, while Fox News covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. 
    • All three cable networks decreased their total amount of coverage from 2020 to 2021.
  • Morning and evening corporate broadcast TV news shows spent 9 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021. CBS produced the longest reporting, with 5 minutes across two segments. ABC spent 2 minutes covering the topic in 1 segment and NBC covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. 
    • Both ABC and CBS decreased the total amount of coverage from 2020, while NBC stayed the same. 
  • There were some troubling trends in coverage: 
    • The majority of national TV news coverage of anti-trans violence did not include a trans person as a guest, with only 7 of the 19 segments featuring a trans or gender-nonconforming guest. 
    • Only 4 of the 19 segments even mentioned the name of a slain trans person. 
    • Nearly one-third of the reporting on anti-trans violence occurred during LGBTQ Pride Month in June, with these networks covering the topic for 13 minutes in that month. This is a decrease from 2020, when these networks aired 29 minutes total.

Reports from MSNBC accounted for more than two-thirds of this coverage; every other network covered the topic for 5 minutes or less each.

  • Top trends from a year of anti-trans violence coverage on broadcast and cable TV news
    • Cable and corporate broadcast TV news networks failed to adequately report on anti-trans violence in 2021. 
    • From 2020 to 2021, every network’s total amount of coverage of anti-trans violence either decreased or stayed the same, and the quality of this coverage varied drastically across networks. 
    • TV news coverage of anti-trans violence decreased from 54 minutes of coverage in 2020 to 43 minutes in 2021, despite the fact that incidents of violence increased. 
    • Deadly violence against trans people was discussed in only 19 segments; corporate broadcast networks covered the topic for just 9 minutes, while cable networks covered it for 35 minutes.
    • The majority of TV news coverage of anti-trans violence did not include a trans person as a guest, with only 7 of the 19 segments featuring a trans or gender-nonconforming guest. 
    • Only 4 of the 19 segments even mentioned the name of one slain trans person.
    • MSNBC produced the most reports on the topic, with 29 minutes of coverage combined across 9 segments, more coverage than all other networks combined. 
    • CNN covered the topic for 4 minutes across 3 segments, while Fox News covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. In comparison, Fox News aired 86 segments about trans people from January 20, the day President Joe Biden took office, through March 18 — primarily fearmongering about trans athletes and lying about best practice health care for trans youth.
    • On the corporate broadcast networks, ABC covered the topic for 2 minutes, CBS for 5 minutes, and NBC for 2 minutes.
    • Nearly one-third of the total coverage came during LGBTQ Pride Month in June, with cable and corporate broadcast TV news networks reporting on the topic for 13 minutes in that month.
  • At least 57 transgender or gender nonconforming people were killed in 2021 — the deadliest year on record
  • In 2021, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) identified at least 57 transgender or gender-nonconforming people who were brutally killed in the U.S., marking the deadliest year on record. The majority of victims were trans people of color; at least 36 of the victims were Black, 34 of whom were Black trans women, and 10 were Latino, including nine Latina trans women. Official records of anti-trans violence only go back to 2008 and likely represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to such crimes, as many of the crimes against trans people go unreported or are reported using the incorrect name.The 57 transgender or gender-nonconforming people who HRC reported were killed in 2021 were:
  • Tyianna Alexander, Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, Jeffery “JJ” Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond Kyree Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Jaida Peterson, Dominique Lucious, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smut, Iris Santos, Tiffany Thomas, Keri Washington, Jahaira DeAlto, Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, Sophie Vásquez, Danika “Danny” Henson, Serenity Hollis, Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, Thomas Hardin, Poe Black, EJ Boykin, Aidelen Evans, Taya Ashton, Shai Vanderpump, Tierramarie Lewis, Miss CoCo, Pooh Johnson, Disaya Monaee, Briana Hamilton, Kiér Laprí Kartier, Mel Groves, Royal Poetical Starz, Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, Jo Acker, Jessi Hart, Rikkey Outumuro, Marquiisha Lawrence, Jenny De Leon, Angel Naira, Danyale Thompson, Cris Blehar, Nikai David, Ke’Yahonna Stone, Za’niyah Williams, Nikki Turietta, Rubi Dominguez, Keeva Scatter, Martina Caldera, and Gerri Judd.
  • In addition to lethal attacks, trans people faced alarming rates of violence in the past year: they were sexually assaulted while incarcerated, stabbedbeaten at workand relentlessly attacked in public. Trans people are disproportionately vulnerable to violence due to discriminatory social factors, such as heightened barriers to accessing health carestable housing, and jobs. A 2021 Williams Institute study found that “transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization.” In 2022,  at least 12 trans people have been killed in the U.S. so far. This coincides with right-wing media outlets – including Fox News – launching hateful attacks against the trans community, including specific calls for violence. On March 31, Fox’s Tucker Carlson even falsely claimed that trans people face relatively lower rates of violence, lying that in the U.S., “you are a lot better off being trans than being not.” Right-wing outlets have also incessantly lied that trans people are “grooming” children for sexual activity, and trans people in turn have faced real-world harassment and violence, including being publicly assaulted and called a “groomer.”
  • Cable news networks spent 35 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021, with the vast majority of coverage airing on MSNBC
  • From January 1 to December 31, 2021, Media Matters reviewed news programming between 6 a.m. and midnight on cable channels CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. During that time frame, cable news networks spent a total of 35 minutes discussing anti-trans violence across 14 segments. MSNBC spent the most time reporting on the topic, with 29 minutes of coverage across 9 segments. This was more than four times as many minutes of coverage as CNN and Fox News combined. MSNBC’s Velshi produced three segments on anti-trans violence throughout 2021, the most of any cable or corporate broadcast news show. CNN covered anti-trans violence for 4 minutes across 3 segments, while Fox News covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. Fox News’ 2 segments on the topic were about L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón, who was allegedly blocked from pursuing “gang enhancement” charges against “an alleged MS-13 gang member” who was charged with assaulting a trans woman in Los Angeles.
  • Morning and evening broadcast TV news shows spent 9 minutes covering anti-trans violence in 2021
  • From January 1 to December 31, 2021, morning and evening corporate broadcast TV news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC spent 9 minutes across 5 segments covering anti-trans violence. CBS produced the most reporting, with 5 minutes across two segments. ABC spent 2 minutes covering the topic in 1 segment and NBC covered it for 2 minutes across 2 segments. 
  • The quality of coverage of anti-trans violence varied across networks
  • Key moments and notable trends include
    • From 2020 to 2021, TV news coverage of anti-trans violence decreased from 54 minutes of coverage to 43 minutes. Every network except NBC decreased its total amount of coverage during this time period. NBC’s coverage stayed the same at 2 minutes.
    • The majority of TV news coverage of anti-trans violence did not include a trans person, with only 7 of the 19 segments featuring a trans or gender-nonconforming guest. CBS and NBC each aired 1 segment that included a trans guest, while ABC’s only segment on the topic did not. As for the cable networks, 4 of MSNBC’s segments included a trans guest while only 1 of CNN’s 3 segments did. Fox News did not include a trans guest while covering the topic.
    • Only 4 of the 19 segments — two from MSNBC and 1 each from CBS and CNN — actually said the name of a trans person who was killed in 2021. 
    • Additionally,  during a CBS Mornings segment on the topic, CBS reporter Jamie Yuccas deadnamed Nikki Kuhnhausen, a 17-year-old trans girl who was killed in Washington in 2019. Deadnaming is when someone calls a trans person by their former name – and it goes against journalistic best practices
    • Nearly one-third of the reporting on anti-trans violence occurred during LGBTQ Pride Month in June, with TV networks covering the topic for 13 minutes in that month. 
  • Violence facing the trans and gender nonconforming people deserves robust TV news coverage
  • It is paramount that broadcast and cable networks produce accurate coverage about the record levels of anti-trans violence — and that coverage must actually feature trans voices. That TV news networks decreased the amount of coverage they dedicated to anti-trans violence at a time when right-wing voices are spreading anti-trans hate and encouraging the passage of discriminatory legislation is just one symptom of corporate TV news’ larger failure to adequately report on issues facing trans people. Corporate TV news networks have clearly demonstrated that they have the capacity to cover anti-trans violence but continuously choose to ignore the subject. Each network has a responsibility to inform their viewers with accurate coverage and finally improve this woeful dearth of reporting.
  • Methodology
  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream database for all original programming on cable networks CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC and corporate broadcast news networks ABC, CBS, and NBCfor any of the terms or any variations of the terms “transgender,” “trans,” “transphobe,” “transphobia,” “gender identity,” “gender nonconforming,” “nonbinary,” or “gender fluid” within close proximity of any of the terms “violence,” “crime,” “hate,” “attack,” “homicide,” “shoot,” “shot,” “murder,” “death,” “die,” “dead,” “kill,” “stab,” “strangle,” “beat,” or “burn” from January 1 through December 31, 2021, 6 a.m. EST to midnight daily.
  • We also searched for the names of the transgender and gender-nonconforming people who were killed in 2021: Tyianna Alexander, Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, Jeffery “JJ” Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond Kyree Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Jaida Peterson, Dominique Lucious, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smut, Iris Santos, Tiffany Thomas, Keri Washington, Jahaira DeAlto, Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, Sophie Vásquez, Danika “Danny” Henson, Serenity Hollis, Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, Thomas Hardin, Poe Black, EJ Boykin, Aidelen Evans, Taya Ashton, Shai Vanderpump, Tierramarie Lewis, Miss CoCo, Pooh Johnson, Disaya Monaee, Briana Hamilton, Kiér Laprí Kartier, Mel Groves, Royal Poetical Starz, Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, Jo Acker, Jessi Hart, Rikkey Outumuro, Marquiisha Lawrence, Jenny De Leon, Angel Naira, Danyale Thompson, Cris Blehar, Nikai David, Ke’Yahonna Stone, Za’niyah Williams, Nikki Turietta, Rubi Dominguez, and Keeva Scatter. Martina Caldera and Geri Judd, whose names were added to the HRC tracker after the conclusion of this study, were not searched for.
  • Early police reports and local coverage often referred to victims by their deadnames. We also searched for the deadnames of the 2021 victims but have not listed those names here as deadnaming is a form of harassment.We also searched transcripts in the Nexis database for all of the above terms and names; however, this double-check was limited to news shows airing between 5 p.m. and midnight on Fox News and MSNBC. We were able to search all cable news transcripts for CNN and all broadcast news transcripts for ABC, CBS, and NBC.
  • We included segments about anti-trans violence, which we defined as instances when anti-trans violence was the stated topic of discussion or when there was significant discussion of anti-trans violence. We defined “significant discussion” as any back-and-forth exchange between two or more people about anti-trans violence; we did not include passing mentions. We also excluded teasers, which we defined as short mentions from the host of segments coming up later in the broadcast. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.

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Alex Paterson is a researcher for the LGBTQ program at Media Matters, where he has worked since 2019. Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Montana State University and has a background in LGBTQ advocacy, including previous work at the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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

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News Analysis

Fears vindicated as “Don’t Say Gay” legislation harms Florida students

The law’s vague and ambiguous language is erasing LGBTQ students, families, & history from kindergarten through 12th grade, without limits

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (Blade file screenshot/photo)

TALLAHASSEE — As the school year ends, students across Florida are experiencing the inevitable censorship of Florida’s anti-LGBTQ Don’t Say Gay law recently signed by Governor DeSantis.

The law’s harmful impacts are not limited to LGBTQ students. Yearbooks, graduation ceremonies, school newspapers, and school libraries for all students are being held hostage under the law’s new lawsuit provision, signaling what to expect more of in the future.  

In Sarasota County, Zander Moricz, a Harvard-bound senior and the school’s first openly LGBTQ class president, has earned the right to give a commencement speech at his graduation but is being actively censored by his high school.

The school principal dictated Moricz may not reference his activism opposing the Don’t Say Gay. If Moricz does so, the school will immediately cut off his microphone on stage, end his speech, and halt the ceremony for all students, parents, and grandparents in attendance. 

“This blatant censorship is unacceptable and entirely foreseeable,” said Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida Public Policy Director. “It epitomizes how the law’s vague and ambiguous language is erasing LGBTQ students, families, and history from kindergarten through 12th grade, without limits.  The law is driving division when we should have a state where all students are protected and all families are respected.”

At Lyman High School in Seminole County, school administrators proposed to censor students’ school yearbook spread covering the Don’t Say Gay walkout at the school, attempting to black out photos of students proudly holding pride flags. School leadership told student yearbook editors that the spread violated school policies, against “defamatory, libelous, obscene, or harmful to juveniles; speech that is reasonably likely to cause substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities.”

In another attempt to erase LGBTQ students and history, Lyman High School leadership has banned a student newspaper editor from publishing her article on the Don’t Say Gay law. 

At the Seminole County School Board meeting last night, numerous community members and students provided powerful student testimony in support of the students at Lyman High School.  The School Board has opted to place a sticker noting that the Don’t Say Gay Walkout was not a school sponsored event instead of blacking out the entire spread. The School Board Vice Chair called the original decision a “mistake.”

“Stifling students from thinking critically and expressing themselves is the exact opposite of our goals as high school public educators,” said Dr. Robert John Hovel Jr., AP Psychology Educator at Lyman High School. “We are always encouraging our students to engage and stay informed on current issues. These students educated themselves about the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and came together by the thousands to demand a stop to it, with these protests happening not just at Lyman, but across many Seminole County Public Schools. The courage and resilience demonstrated by our students demands applause, not discouragement. Being a visible, open, and out educator for my students is of the utmost importance for reasons such as this, to provide them support and encouragement to stand for what is right. These students did just that on the night of May 10, 2022 at the Seminole County School Board meeting and I could not be more proud of every single one of them.”

These censorship attempts compound the effects of multiple school districts banning books that include same-sex couples or LGBTQ characters.  Don’t Say Gay bill proponents have labeled a popular baby book as “pornography” because it includes an illustration of two dads walking together and sought to ban it, along with a cartoon kids book about two male penguins raising a chick together, based on a true story.  The message is clear: LGBTQ kids and kids with same-sex parents are not welcome in Florida schools or our state. 

The Don’t Say Gay law officially goes into effect on July 1, 2022.

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