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Fox News hyping new smear campaign says Disney is sexualizing children

Fox News is hyping a smear campaign from Chris Ruffo, a notorious peddler of disinformation about “critical race theory”

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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – Fox News is hyping a new smear campaign from a notorious peddler of disinformation about “critical race theory” (CRT), using leaked videos from a staff meeting at Disney to claim the company is attempting to “sexualize our children” in order to push a “progressive LGBT agenda.” 

The videos were posted to Twitter by Chris Rufo, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and a key proponent of panic over CRT. Rufo similarly targeted Disney last year over its policies on anti-racism.

This time, Rufo’s fearmongering is in defense of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was signed into law on March 28. Although the legislation explicitly bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools between kindergarten and third grade, its vague language would allow the state to limit conversations on LGBTQ issues and history across all grades.

As The Trevor Project notes, this law aims at “effectively erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.” The bill has been widely condemned by civil rights organizations and the Biden administration

Disney faced backlash this month after it was revealed the company initially contributed to state politicians responsible for the new bill. At the same time, employees at Pixar accused Disney of censoring LGBTQ storylines in their films. These controversies, along with what was perceived by employees as a poor response from CEO Bob Chapek, lead to a walkout earlier this week by Disney employees, after which Disney came out strongly against the Florida legislation, vowing to help repeal it. The videos Rufo released earlier this week feature Disney executives recounting increasing acceptance of LGBTQ storylines and minority characters, committing to adopting more gender-inclusive language, and condemning the legislation in Florida. 

Fox News pundits have widely embraced the discriminatory legislation, framing it as protecting children in Florida from “grooming” – a term referring to the sexual exploitation of minors. The false conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity is a tactic long utilized by bigoted misinformers seeking to sow hatred of the LGBTQ community. In reaction to the videos Rufo released from Disney’s internal meeting, Fox News is now targeting 

  • On Fox & Friends First, Rufo’s footage aired over the chyron: “Videos show Disney execs pushing woke agenda.” Co-host Todd Piro claimed Disney was “playing a dangerous game with its core customer base,” while Fox Business contributor Cheryl Casone asserted Disney was “[going] all the way to the extreme on some social topic of the day.” Piro then attacked Disney’s commitment to gender-inclusive language, claiming, “The company’s brand is based on princesses.”
  • On Outnumbered, Fox contributor Tammy Bruce responded to Rufo’s clip of the Disney meeting by defending the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, saying, “Everything you heard there is outrageous. It is untrue. It is a reflection of what I term … malignant narcissism, which is this effort to make everything in the world about you.” Bruce went on to assert that opponents of the bill were “sexualizing children,” further claiming there were “no gay or straight children … there are simply just children. Gender is a concept that children don’t even understand or can comprehend.”
  • Discussing Disney’s “woke agenda” on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade called the law “a smart bill” and “another major win for the people of Florida,” claiming opponents of the bill were arguing that “you need your kindergartener talking about sex.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt agreed that “they’re determined to teach our little kids about this.”
  • On The Faulkner Focus, Fox anchor Harris Faulkner said Rufo’s footage “appears to show multiple Disney leadership members pushing a progressive LGBT agenda onto their employees.” Fox News contributor Sean Duffy said the company was attempting to “sexualize our children and our children’s childhoods for their own political agenda” and later emphasized his support for the bill, saying, “When you want to sexualize kindergartners, first graders and second graders, third graders, … we’re not going to talk about transgenderism or any sexual topics with really little kids. It’s inappropriate.” Duffy also took aim at the video celebrating diverse storylines, claiming Disney was “actually making films that will indoctrinate” children.
  • In another segment about Disney’s “woke agenda” on America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Joe Concha defended the new law, arguing, “Nowhere in this bill does it say the word gay,” and saying, “I have an 8-year-old girl as well in second grade, do I want her being taught that?” Concha later claimed Disney was part of a “social experiment now that we’re seeing in schools,” including “orientating our kids.”
  • In a segment on The Five accusing Disney of “caving to the woke mob,” co-host Greg Gutfeld claimed “woke-ism has this enormous superpower which it can take stuff that you loved, you really loved, and it can turn it to poison,” before defending the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, asserting “If you really want to talk to a 5-year-old or a 7-year-old or an 8-year-old about their sexuality and gender, that’s on you. You’re a pervert. You’re a weirdo. I don’t give a damn if you’re a teacher.”

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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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New study on resilience & mental health among LGBTQ youth

LGBTQ youth with high resilience had 59% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt- 69% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project observing the 53rd anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn that sparked a greater movement for LGBTQ+ rights and equality this week, released new data that examines resilience and mental health among LGBTQ youth.

“As we celebrate Pride Month and commemorate the Stonewall Riots, there is often discussion of the ‘resilience’ of the LGBTQ community and the ways in which members are able to bounce back in the face of adversity. These data highlight the fact that resilience is not just an admirable quality – but one that can be associated with improved mental health among LGBTQ youth,” said Dr. Jonah DeChants, Research Scientist at The Trevor Project.

“Higher resilience in our sample was consistently associated with better mental health outcomes including decreased risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts in the past year among LGBTQ youth. Moving forward, we should invest further research into understanding how LGBTQ youth can successfully develop high resilience. Additionally, we should work to dismantle systems of oppression and implement LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination protections  so that LGBTQ youth are not required to possess resilience to excel and thrive.” 

Key Findings:

  • LGBTQ youth with high resilience had 59% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt, and 69% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth with high resilience reported 81% lower odds  of anxiety symptoms, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth with  high resilience reported 79% lower odds of recent depression, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth who have supportive families and  are in supportive environments have higher resilience.
  • LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 24 reported significantly higher resilience than LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 17. 

Read the report:

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Research/Study

150 people on Tennessee’s sex offender registry for HIV-related conviction

Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black

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LOS ANGELES – At least 154 people have been placed on Tennessee’s sex offender registry (SOR) for an HIV-related conviction since 1993, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Enforcement of HIV crimes in Tennessee disproportionately affects women and Black people. Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black.

Tennessee’s two primary HIV criminalization laws—aggravated prostitution and criminal exposure—make it a felony for people living with HIV to engage in sex work or other activities, such as intimate contact, blood donation, or needle exchange, without disclosing their status. Both are considered a “violent sexual offense” and require a person convicted to register as a sex offender for life.

Examining Tennessee’s sex offender registry, researchers found that Shelby County, home to Memphis, accounts for most of the state’s HIV convictions. Shelby County makes up only 13% of Tennessee’s population and 37% of the population of people living with HIV in the state, but 64% of HIV registrants on the SOR. Moreover, while Black Tennesseans were only 17% of the state’s population and 56% of people living with HIV in the state, 75% of all HIV registrants were Black.

In Shelby County, 91% of aggravated prostitution convictions resulted from police sting operations in which no physical contact ever occurred. In addition, the case files showed that 75% of those convicted were Black women. When it came to criminal exposure case files, all of those convicted except one person were Black men.

“Tennessee’s HIV criminal laws were enacted at a time when little was known about HIV and before modern medical advances were available to treat and prevent HIV,” said lead author Nathan Cisneros, HIV Criminalization Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Tennessee’s outdated laws do not require actual transmission or the intent to transmit HIV. Moreover, the laws ignore whether the person living with HIV is in treatment and virally suppressed and therefore cannot transmit HIV.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • Incarcerating people for HIV-related offenses has cost Tennessee at least $3.8 million.
  • Of the 154 people who have been placed on Tennessee’s SOR for an HIV-related conviction, 51% were convicted of aggravated prostitution, 46% were convicted of criminal exposure, and 3% were convicted of both.
  • Women account for 26% of people living with HIV in Tennessee and 4% of people on the SOR, but 46% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black people account for 17% of people living in Tennessee, 56% of those living with HIV, 27% of people on the SOR, but 75% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black women were the majority of aggravated prostitution registrants (57%), while Black men were the majority of criminal exposure registrants (64%).
  • People with an HIV-related offense are more economically vulnerable when compared to others on the state’s SOR.
    • One in five (19%) HIV registrants were homeless compared to 9% of all SOR registrants.
    • 28% of HIV registrants reported an employer address compared to about half (49%) of all SOR registrants.
  • Shelby County has one aggravated prostitution conviction for every 115 people living with HIV in the county, and Black people were 90% of all people convicted for aggravated prostitution.
    • Over 90% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County were the result of police sting operations.
    • Only 3% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County alleged any intimate contact.
    • Nearly all (95%) people arrested in Shelby County for criminal exposure were Black men, compared to 64% of people statewide.  

The Williams Institute has conducted research on HIV criminalization in numerous U.S. states.

Read the report

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Research/Study

New Pew Research Center poll: Americans at odds over Trans issues 

Strong majorities favor non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors

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Texas trans activist Landon Richie speaking at Texas Capitol against trans youth sports bill (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – A new survey from a leading non-partisan research center reveals Americans have mixed views on transgender issues at a time when states are moving forward with measures against transgender youth, with strong majorities favoring non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors and participation in school sports.

The Pew Research Center issued the findings on Tuesday as part of the results of its ongoing study to better understand Americans’ views about gender identity and people who are transgender or non-binary. The findings are based on a survey of 10,188 U.S. adults from data collected as part of a larger survey conducted May 16-22.

A majority of respondents by wide margins favor non-discrimination protections for transgender people. A full 64 percent back laws or policies that would protect transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public spaces, while roughly 8-in-10 acknowledge transgender people face at least some discrimination in our society.

Additionally, nearly one half of Americans say it’s extremely important to use a transgender person’s new name after they undergo a transition, while an additional 22 percent say that is somewhat important. A smaller percentage, 34 percent, say using a transgender person’s pronouns is extremely important, and 21 percent say it is somewhat important.

But other findings were less supportive:

  • 60 percent say a person’s gender is determined by sex assigned at birth, reflecting an increase from 56 percent in 2021 and 54 percent in 2017, compared to 38 percent who say gender can be different from sex assigned at birth.
  • 54 percent say society has either gone too far or been about right in terms of acceptance, underscoring an ambivalence around transgender issues even among those who see at least some discrimination against transgender people.
  • About six-in-ten adults, or 58 precent, favor proposals that would require transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth as opposed to teams consistent with their gender identity, compared to 17 percent who oppose that and 24 percent neither favor nor oppose it.
  • 46 percent favor making it illegal for health care professionals to provide transition-related care, such as hormones or gender reassignment surgery, to someone younger than 18, compared to 31 percent who oppose it.
  • Americans are more evenly split when it comes to making it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools (which is favored by 41 percent, and opposed by 38 percent) and investigating parents for child abuse if they help someone younger than 18 obtain transition-related care (37 percent are in favor and 36 percent oppose it).

Young adults took the lead in terms of supporting change and acceptance. Half of adults ages 18 to 29 say someone can be a man or a woman even if that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, compared to about four-in-10 of those ages 30 to 49 and about one-third of respondents 50 and older.

Predictably, stark differences could be found along party lines. Democrats by 59 precent say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender, while 15 percent say it has gone too far and 24 percent say it’s been about right. For Republicans, 10 percent say society hasn’t gone far enough, while 66 percent say it’s gone too far and 22 percent say it’s been about right.

Read the full report here.

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