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Real victims in “Libs of TikTok” are the teachers & LGBTQ people harassed

Right-wing media melt down after Washington Post report on Chaya Raichik, person behind the influential anti-LGBTQ Libs of Tik Tok account

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Brennan Suen & Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – The Washington Post confirmed that Chaya Raichik is behind formerly anonymous ‘Libs of TikTok.’ The influential anti-LGBTQ account has has been trademarked as a “news reporter service” by a Republican operative, although the Washington Post notes that “Raichik has claimed to run the account alone.”

The account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

While the right has misleadingly decried the reporting on Raichik by Washington Post columnist Taylor Lorenz, who heavily cited Media Matters, as “doxxing” and harassment, her Libs of TikTok account has revealed the names and locations of teachers, LGBTQ people, and others on the left, and promoted a dangerous lie about “grooming” that has resulted in harassment, threats, and lost livelihoods for private individuals.

“Libs of TikTok is basically acting as a wire service for the broader right-wing media ecosystem,” said Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, the progressive media watchdog group. “It’s been shaping public policy in a real way, and affecting teachers’ ability to feel safe in their classrooms.”

The account has been promoted by podcast host Joe Rogan, it’s been featured in the New York Post, the Federalist, the Post Millennial and a slew of other right-wing news sites. Meghan McCain has retweeted it. The online influencer Glenn Greenwald has amplified it to his 1.8 million Twitter followers while calling himself the account’s “Godfather.” Last Thursday, the woman behind the account appeared anonymously on Tucker Carlson’s show to complain about being temporarily suspended for violating Twitter’s community guidelines. Fox News often creates news packages around the content that Libs of TikTok has surfaced.

Raichik is not alone in pushing this targeted smear campaign against teachers, LGBTQ people, and those who support them, including companies like Disney. These harmful narratives have been lifted up by others like Chris Rufo, the right-wing operative behind the notorious campaign against supposed “critical race theory” in public schools, Christina Pushaw, the press secretary to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who repeatedly interacted with the account while pushing the “grooming” narrative to justify Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, and Fox News, which has used increasingly violent rhetoric to leverage parents’ fears for their children into a political strategy that puts LGBTQ people at risk.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson has twice called on viewers to beat up teachers for what he called “pushing sex values on your third grader” and committing “sexual abuse against my kindergartener.” The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens said that “pedophilia is around the corner” with the “intentional and overt confusion and sexualization of our children in the classroom.” Appearing on Infowars’ The Alex Jones Show, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) suggested that vigilante violence was an appropriate response to the existence of trans camp counselors. All of this has created a dangerous national environment for LGBTQ people at the same time Raichik’s account has recklessly targeted individuals on social media.

“Libs of TikTok” has explicitly targeted teachers and LGBTQ people for harassment

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.s. 

On April 10, Raichik posted a Twitter thread that shared a trans TikTok creator’s video and tagged the school they work in. Libs of TikTok celebrated after that school was forced to block the account and some of its followers, restrict comments, and more, with Raichik writing, “They aren’t coping well with all the attention.” 

On April 11, she praised an Oklahoma middle school for firing a teacher “after complaints of grooming and this tiktok + others containing questionable content were brought to the principal’s attention.” A follow-up post included the teacher’s name and post on a local Facebook group “supporting our LGBTQA+ kids.” 

And on April 12, Raichik tagged another school district for featuring a “drag teacher” performance, calling it “sickening.” In a follow-up tweet, the account noted that the school had restricted comments after Libs of TikTok told its large following to “imagine if they focused on teaching math, science, and history instead of drag.”

An April 14 Media Matters review found that Libs of TikTok has misgendered at least 14 individuals in 15 of its tweets so far this year, receiving more than 113,000 total engagements for content in seeming violation of Twitter’s terms of service. Media Matters’ Sophie Lawton explained that the account has regularly targeted individuals:

The account also posts targeted attacks on transgender and gender-nonconforming social media users. This harassment includes claims that adults who teach children about LGBTQ identities are “abusive” and claims that being gender-nonconforming or an ally is a “mental illness,” at least one of which has been removed from Twitter for breaking terms of service. Libs of TikTok has also advocated for all openly LGBTQ teachers to be fired and called on its followers to contact schools that are allowing “boys in the girls bathrooms” and “boys and girls sharing bedrooms on field trips” to express their hostility towards pro-LGBTQ rules.

Raichik’s account was also part of a broader right-wing harassment campaign last July against two trans parents of a newborn, instructing its followers to call child protective services on them and directing them to one parent’s Instagram page. The couple faced widespread harassment online, and one of the parents had to make their social media profile private due to threats of violence.

LGBTQ people and teachers now face vicious, targeted harassment as “groomer” slander takes off

The real-world consequences of the lie that LGBTQ people are “grooming” children for sexual activity – a dangerous slander that has been championed by Libs of TikTok and its right-wing media allies – have already been extraordinarily troubling.

On April 1, NBC News reported on LGBTQ teachers – frequent targets of Libs of TikTok – in Florida who have quit the profession due to harassment and larger fears around state-enforced censorship and erasure of LGBTQ identities in schools. It cited one teacher who was targeted by parents for simply acknowledging his marriage:

Last month, a group of parents in Orlando, Florida, demanded “consequences” against sixth grade science teacher Robert Thollander. His crime? Thollander acknowledged his marriage at school.

“He married a man. This alone is not an issue. Sharing the details … with all his 6th grade students is the issue,” the parents wrote in a letter sent to their children’s school board, which was shared with NBC News. “It was not appropriate. Many of these students felt very uncomfortable with the conversations and shared this with their families.

And on April 19, NBC News reported on a spike in online harassment against LGBTQ people, particularly pedophile and “grooming” accusations:

The most prominent slurs center on accusations that LGBTQ people and their allies are pedophiles, using the word “grooming,” which the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children defines as when “someone builds a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.”

The term has been weaponized online, and it now appears almost constantly on many social media platforms. Data from the social media platform Reddit analyzed by Jeremy Blackburn, an assistant professor of computer science at Binghamton University in New York who studies online extremism, found about a 100 percent increase since the beginning of the year in discussion of “grooming” in conjunction with various LGBTQ slurs starting in early March and accelerating in mid-to-late March.

Media Matters has reported a similar trend on Facebook, where hundreds of posts from right-leaning pages use “grooming”-related language:

On March 4, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw described the new “Don’t Say Gay” legislation as “an Anti-Grooming Bill” — pushing an old but persistent myth that LGBTQ people put children in danger. 

Right-leaning pages on Facebook, particularly those for right-wing media outlets and personalities, quickly took to Pushaw’s messaging. In fact, there are over 250 posts from right-leaning pages since March 1 that include “groomer” language or call the legislation the “Anti-Groomer Bill,” earning over 360,000 interactions.

This online campaign to smear LGBTQ people already appears to be inspiring harassment in the real world. On April 15, The Washington Post reported the viral story about how two dads, one of whom is “a substitute teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District,” were harassed on an Amtrak train in California and called “pedophiles” as their children cried:

“All of a sudden, there was a man standing right next to me talking to my son,” [Robbie] Pierce said. “The very first thing he said is, ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman.’ ”

Pierce was stunned, he said, as the unidentified man proceeded to shout homophobic attacks, accusing the couple of stealing their children and calling them “pedophiles” and “rapists.” As his kids began to cry, Pierce said he grabbed them and moved them to another car while his husband, Neal Broverman, shouted the harasser away.

Trans people are at particularly high risk of harassment from these narratives. On April 11, NBC4 Washington reported on a trans woman who was harassed on the Metro in Washington, D.C., and accused of “grooming children for sexual abuse”:

Saoirse Gowan captured how a ride to meet friends turned into a nightmare in a video now seen more than a half-million times on Twitter. It has also made her a target of threats. 

Gowan, who is transgender, said the man accused her of grooming children for sexual abuse in an obscenity-filled tirade, which he appeared to be livestreaming. 

She noted that the same phrasing is currently used in bitter national debate over how U.S. public schools address gender identity.   

“I couldn’t get off the train even though I felt terrified for my life because this guy was yelling at me that I’m a child groomer, that I’m only on the train dressed as who I am because I want to hurt children,” Gowan said.

In Minneapolis, The Independent recently reported that a trans woman was shoved into the road and called a “groomer”:

“I’ve been transitioning for about eight or nine years now, and I have been assaulted and harassed by people on the street before. I have never been accused of sexually predatory behaviour,” says Aurora, a 34-year-old transgender woman studying to be a nurse in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She asked for her surname not to be used because she fears for her safety.

“That’s pretty devastating, because you worry when that’s happening that strangers are going to join in,” she says. “It feels like I am put into a position where I need to defend myself from allegations of such grossness, such evil behaviour, while also trying to defend a part of my identity that is innate and unchangeable.”

Aurora is one of three LGBT+ people who told The Independent that they had been harassed or attacked in public over the past two weeks by strangers who accused them, with no provocation or evidence, of “grooming” children or being a “groomer.”

The right’s phony concern over harassment exposes their hypocrisy

Right-wing media’s faux outrage over Lorenz revealing the person behind Libs of TikTok has spread rapidly, with many conservative figures dubiously accusing her of harassment for reporting on Raichik’s influential anti-LGBTQ account. But these defenses ignore that the entire point of the Libs of TikTok account is to target individual people on social media, creating an environment of hatred against LGBTQ people that puts them in danger – of violence, harassment, job loss, and loss of safety at work – and demands that they hide who they are in society if they want to live in peace.

As one Twitter user noted, when Lorenz’s “critics make this conversation about doxxing, they’re failing to apply the same standard to Raichik” for “creating targets in a violent culture war against LGBTQ people.”

By the right’s expansive interpretation of “doxxing” being used to criticize Lorenz’s report about an influential social media account, Raichik herself has essentially doxxed numerous social media users, teachers, and school, leading to an avalanche of harassment against them.

Oklahoma English teacher Tyler Wrynn told Lorenz that he saw himself “as the type of teacher to stand up for marginalized voices” when he posted a video telling LGBTQ youth rejected by their parents that he was “proud of them.” Last week, Libs of TikTok posted the video, where it was viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

Facing a barrage of public hate that included a GOP Senate candidate calling him a predator, Wrynn was let go from his position – a development which Raichik publicly celebrated.

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Ari Drennen is the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, where she has worked since January 2022. She has a bachelors degree in political science and economics from Middlebury College. Previously she worked at the Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters

Brennan Suen is the LGBTQ program director at Media Matters, where he has worked since July 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, and he formerly interned at the Human Rights Campaign and SKDKnickerbocker.

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

News Analysis

Inside the battle over GOP Senate votes for same-sex marriage act

Liberty Counsel President Matt Staver argued that the Respect for Marriage Act would lead to “pedophilic marriages”

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Senate side of the U.S. Capitol as seen from the National Mall (Photo Credit: U.S. Senate/Architect of the Capitol)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday 61-36, clearing the threshold required to secure a filibuster-proof majority by just one vote, thereby sending the bill on its way to becoming law.

The landmark legislation’s path out of the evenly divided upper chamber was, until that 60th “yea” vote, far from clear. Tuesday’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act marked the third time this month in which a few Republican senators held the keys to its fate.

Before and just after Thanksgiving break, the Senate managed to avoid having to debate amendments to the bill proposed by some conservative members of the Republican caucus who felt the bipartisan addition of supplemental protections for religious liberties was insufficient.

Success on the first procedural move was won with a margin of just two Republican Senators who voted with their Democratic colleagues. The second, with only one.

Had the Senate chosen instead to consider these amendments, the Respect for Marriage Act could easily have been defeated, with time running out to pass legislation before the new Congress is seated in January, at which point control of the House will flip from blue to red.

Particularly in the days leading up to this week’s votes, lobbyists with a wide spectrum of views on the Respect for Marriage Act were laser focused on winning over members of the small camp of GOP senators who were on the fence or, perhaps, relatively tepid in their support for (or opposition to) the bill.

Tim Schultz (Photo courtesy of the 1st Amendment Partnership)

Among the parties representing special interests engaged in ongoing discussions with Senate Republicans was Tim Schultz, president of the 1st Amendment Partnership (1AP), a nonprofit group focused on education and public engagement to promote and protect religious freedom. Schultz’s work on behalf of the organization includes some lobbying activity.

Speaking with the Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday before the final vote was held, Schultz said the key to winning support from these Republican senators was to show them how the Respect for Marriage Act does not threaten – and in some respects, may in fact strengthen – protections for religious liberty.

Other GOP senators opposed to the bill cited different reasons, arguing for example that it is unnecessary or improper for the legislature to preempt the fallout of a potential future U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

Schultz noted that unlike the conservative lawmakers whose primary focus was on religious freedoms, these other objections raised by Senate Republicans were mostly brought forth by members who were never going to vote in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act in the first place. In some cases, they believed the landmark cases establishing marriage equality as a fundamental right in the United States were wrongly decided, which is a non-starter.

“The lawmakers who have been the margin of victory [in key votes] have cared a lot about religious protections,” Schultz said. They are sincere in their efforts to understand precisely whether and how religious liberties might be affected by passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, he said. “They are serious in their efforts to try to get their arms around those questions.”

The primary arguments happening in the Senate “have been held by [Republican Senators] who all have a broad conception of religious freedom,” Schultz said. “So, the question has been, ‘is this sufficient? Or should we demand quite a bit more?'”

Engaging these GOP lawmakers, he said, often involved “trying to get the senators accurate information, including responses from faith groups and scholars.” This sometimes required addressing and dispelling arguments against the legislation “point by point,” Schultz added.

Schultz said it was an amusing twist to lock horns over the Respect for Marriage Act with other groups that promote and fight for religious liberties, organizations with which he has deep and longstanding relationships.

“It’s weird, because I am a professional religious freedom advocate and I share their conception of religious liberty. But I think their analysis of this bill is incorrect. So, it’s been a bit strange to be having an argument among folks who, otherwise, I agree with.”

Strange bedfellows?

The bill’s passage through the Senate could perhaps be read as a signal of the efficacy of a model of government relations by which LGBTQ groups in some circumstances can reach mutually beneficial compromises with organizations that are concerned with religious liberty, Schultz said.

Compromise was also the goal for the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House and Senate who sponsored, co-sponsored, or otherwise championed the Respect for Marriage Act.

Writing the legislation within bounds of universally accepted constitutional precepts, part of their aim was to lessen the likelihood that it might face a successful legal challenge. The other primary reason for backing a narrowly construed bill: greater chances of securing the support necessary from Congressional Republicans to get it passed.

But the Respect for Marriage Act was conservative in focus, if not in effect, from the jump. It was meant to address the very specific consequences and fallout for same-sex couples that would result if the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority opts to overturn or substantially weaken the two landmark rulings that established marriage equality as a constitutional right in America.

Practically speaking, however, compromise did not come at a cost. “This will be the biggest federal legislative victory for gay rights since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Schultz said. (Incidentally, that hard-won victory also happened during a lame duck session, following the 2010 midterm elections.)

Though some groups acknowledged its limitations, the Respect for Marriage Act was publicly backed by a diverse swath of LGBTQ civil rights and legal advocacy organizations, including: the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, GLSEN, PFLAG National, GLAAD, Equality California, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Lambda Legal, the Interfaith Alliance, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, LGBTQ Victory Fund, and the National LGBTQ Task Force.

The Respect for Marriage Act faced a tumultuous road to passage through Congress

In July, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act with a decisive margin, picking up 47 Republican “yeas” for a total of 267 votes in favor of the bill (with 157 members, all Republican, voting no).

At the time, there was little to no concern expressed publicly by GOP lawmakers in either chamber over the Respect for Marriage Act’s threat to religious liberties, Schultz said. He added that this may be explained, at least to some extent, by members’ focus on the then-upcoming Nov. 8 midterm elections.   

After Congress reconvened with Republicans poised to take control of the House next year, the Biden administration and Congressional Democratic leadership had made clear that the Respect for Marriage Act would be a top priority for the brief legislative session before the next Congress is seated in January.

“By the Monday after election week, people started focusing again,” Schultz said. “It was gametime.”

Logistically, it was a heavy lift for Congress. Lawmakers had just a few weeks to pass legislation and cobble together end-of-year must-pass spending packages.

Democratic Congressional leadership were under pressure from President Biden to allocate more funding for COVID-19 and aid to Ukraine, proposals that both faced resistance from their Republican colleagues. The Senate was way behind on the National Defense Authorization Act, another must-pass bill to fund the military that happens to also require a lengthy review process. And finally, momentum was building behind the bipartisan legislative proposal to revise the Electoral Count Act.

For the key GOP Senators, all other considerations were secondary to religious liberty

As the Senate vote neared, campaigns by special interest groups were dialed up, including by opponents of the bill – which ranged from extreme anti-LGBTQ organizations deemed hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center to conservative think tanks with close ties to Capitol Hill.

Liberty Counsel President Matt Staver made the outrageous argument that the protections for same-sex couples provided in the Respect for Marriage Act would lead to “pedophilic marriages,” perpetuating the dangerous lie that queer people are linked to child sexual abuse.

Fortunately, “the crazy stuff you see online doesn’t penetrate into how senators talk about and think about this stuff,” Schultz said. “They are concerned with substantive objections” to the Respect for Marriage Act.

And while there was some discussion of the deadly Nov. 19 shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, the tragedy did not play a major part in GOP Senators’ deliberations over passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, Schultz said – perhaps partly because much of the substantive talks had already happened with the Senate vote just days away.

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Research/Study

LGBTQ youth in juvenile correctional settings higher risk for suicide

Girls and youth of color were overrepresented among incarcerated LGBTQ youth: 64% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth were girls

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Campus Kilpatrick juvenile facility Malibu (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that LGBTQ youth are disproportionally represented in juvenile correctional facilities. The majority of LGBTQ youth held in custody are girls (64%) and youth of color (72%), and they face a significantly greater risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and self-harm.

Using data from the Minnesota Student Survey, a statewide population survey of youth, researchers from UCLA, Vanderbilt, Brown, and Yale Universities examined the mental health experiences of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ youth in juvenile correctional facilities and public schools. Results show that compared to straight, cisgender youth in public schools, incarcerated LGBTQ youth were twice as likely to think about suicide, six times more likely to attempt suicide, and nearly four times more likely to engage in self-harm. 

Among incarcerated youth, LGBTQ youth had a greater risk of suicide and self-harm than their straight, cisgender peers.

“LGBTQ youth start with more stressful experiences as children, which lead to adverse mental health outcomes. But rather than being cared for, they end up in juvenile correctional facilities in larger numbers than non-LGBTQ youth,” said study co-author llan H. Meyer, Ph.D., Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “These youth must manage the stress of a carceral setting while also navigating sexual and gender minority identities, which can increase exposure to violence, bullying, and isolation.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in Minnesota correctional facilities: 29% of youth in correctional facilities identify as LGBTQ compared to 20% of youth in public schools.
  • Girls and youth of color were overrepresented among incarcerated LGBTQ youth: 64% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth were girls compared to 48% of straight, cisgender youth in high schools, and 28% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth were white compared to 73% of straight, cisgender youth in high schools.
  • All youth in correctional facilities as well as LGBTQ youth in public schools showed an elevated risk of suicide ideation, suicide attempt, and self-harm compared to straight, cisgender youth in public schools. However, incarcerated LGBTQ youth had substantially greater risk.
  • Compared to straight, cisgender youth and LGBTQ youth in high schools, LGBTQ youth in correctional facilities reported the highest prevalence of suicide ideation (42%), suicide attempts (38%), and self-harm (58%).
  • More than half (54%) of incarcerated LGBTQ youth reported experiencing four or more adverse childhood experiences, including various forms of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. In contrast, 6% of non-LGBTQ youth in public schools reported the same.

“Interventions are needed to reduce pathways to incarceration for LGBTQ youth and to buffer the harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences,” said lead author Kirsty A. Clark, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University. “Supportive policies that lessen exposure to minority stressors and increase coping skills in the face of victimization are warranted.”

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News Analysis

The political smear campaign to stop same-sex marriage bill

Liberty Counsel’s CEO amplified the lie that same-sex marriage would lead to “grooming” and child sexual exploitation

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Supporters of same-sex marriage gather at the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments for Obergefell v. Hodges 2015 (Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A procedural vote on the Respect for Marriage Act legislation (H.R. 8404/S. 4556) in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to succeed, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 28. Ahead of the Monday vote the major anti-LGBTQ+ hate organizations are executing a full court press to get Republicans Senators to derail the bill.

Listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘Hatewatch‘ for lies, propaganda, and smearing of LGBTQ+ people, the Family Research Council, (FRC) based in Washington D.C., Liberty Counsel based in Orlando, Florida, The Alliance Defending Freedom, (ADF) based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the National Organization for Marriage, (NOM) also based in Washington D.C., have escalated a publicity campaign smearing the intent of the law and labeling it ‘perversion and child sexual abuse.’

The president and CEO of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, sent out several email blasts to supporters urging them to contact GOP Senators to stop the bill. In a tweet Stavers said; “It doesn’t matter what courts, legislatures or voters say. They do not define marriage, God does.”

In one email Stavers wrote: “On MONDAY, senators are scheduled to vote on a sickening bill that will normalize child-bride, same-sex and pedophiliac “marriages” in every state. Several amendments will be debated, and then the Senate will need another 60 votes to proceed. We can stop HR 8404 if we let the Senate hear from us NOW!”

Stavers then amplified the lie that same-sex marriage would lead to “grooming” and child sexual exploitation: “Children have always been under demonic attack because they represent a new generation. But this evil attack is being unmasked now under the “Respect for Marriage” bill like never before. It will put a target on children in at-risk families to be groomed for abuse and makes this molestation legal—if done within the confines of “marriage.”

“This level of debauchery has always been the goal. Our nation is on the cusp of making sexual abuse against children legal,” Stavers said.

The ADF and FRC are raising alarm over the bill saying that the legislation poses a threat to religious liberty. A conservative right-wing religious journal, the official news media of the Missouri Baptist Convention, cautioned that both ADF and FRC, labeling those groups as faith-based policy experts, stated the bill “shows great disrespect for marriage, and intolerance for those who hold a traditional or biblical worldview.” The bill “is an intentional attack on the religious freedom of millions of Americans with sincerely held beliefs about marriage, based on dictates of faith in God and His revealed Truth.”

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins released the following statement after the “Respect for Marriage” Act passed the first step in a full Senate vote for passage or defeat:

“The U.S. Senate is making a mockery of marriage as it tramples on a foundational right — religious freedom of the individual. Whether by the Court or by the Congress, truth cannot be altered. Regardless of the action of Congress, there are millions of Americans who will remain steadfast in their love for their fellow human being, by remaining committed to these truths: that marriage is ordained by God and men and women are created in His image.”

Stavers in his email and public statements noted: “Alfred Kinsey’s [See note below] work is being used to destroy marriage, replacing that honorable estate with perversion and child sexual abuse … just as Kinsey intended. This is their end goal—to legalize this perversion and to silence the opposition.

HR 8404 is built on the foundation of Kinsey. This bill that will expand child-bride, same-sex and pedophiliac “marriages” in every state—is scheduled for debate and more votes on MONDAY!”

The amplification of the hate-filled rhetoric comes as the LGBTQ+ community is coming to terms with another horrific act of violence, this time in Colorado Springs, resulting in the death of five people at the LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q.

Incoming HRC President Kelley Robinson, in an interview with the Blade’s White House correspondent Chris Kane, cautioned:

“What we saw this past year is that our opposition gets intersectionality,” Robinson said. “They are coming for us, for all of us,” she said, citing as examples the Supreme Court’s decision revoking Americans’ constitutional right to abortion, the hateful rhetoric of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and recent spate of statewide anti-LGBTQ bills.

“They are launching an intersectional attack against us and trying to divide our power,” she said. “And we are going to fight back together, because ultimately we are stronger together.”

One organization that had long opposed same-sex marriage had an abrupt reversal of its decades long held views. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints battled any effort to legalize same-sex marriage as a threat to society, one that ultimately could destroy families.

This week, however, the Utah-based faith issued a stunning statement, supporting a proposed federal law that would codify same-sex marriage, the Tribune reported.

In its news release, the church reiterated its doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman but embraced the Respect for Marriage Act, which includes “appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”

Editor’s Note: Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American sexologist, biologist, and professor of entomology and zoology who, in 1947, founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

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News Analysis

Fox host says no link between Club Q shooting & hate speech

Carlson pushes back on those who called out the link between anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and anti-LGBTQ violence like Saturday’s attack in Club Q

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Tucker Carlson in Budapest. (Screenshot/Fox News)

WASHINGTON – Shortly after five people were murdered and dozens injured over the weekend when a gunman opened fire in a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub, Fox News host Tucker Carlson defended his and his allies escalating use of incendiary anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

During his show on Monday night, Carlson inveighed against individuals and groups that responded to the tragedy by pointing out the link between acts of violence motivated by hate and the spread of inflammatory lies about LGBTQ people, often by public figures on the right.

“These horrifying murders in Colorado over the weekend quickly became a pretext for yet more censorship of your speech,” Carlson said. “You are responsible for this, they told you, because you said the wrong thing.”

Carlson then accused the groups and individuals that he said were calling for “censorship” — in this case, the LGBTQ community and its allies — of engaging in, perpetuating, or suborning the “genital mutilation” and sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

“This is exactly the kind of false and inflammatory rhetoric that willfully misinforms the public and encourages violence,” responded GLAAD, a nonprofit that fights the spread of defamatory anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in media and entertainment.

Carlson’s statements during the segment were irresponsible, absurd, and cruel, containing lies that are pathetic, dangerous, and a threat to public safety, GLAAD said, in a statement shared with the Washington Blade. “This program, hosts and pandering guests are part of the problem and they just don’t care,” the group added. “Viewers and Fox News should.”

The expectation should be that in the aftermath of a tragedy like the shooting at Colorado Springs’ Club Q, media figures would focus on the actual victims and the local communities that were impacted rather than doubling down on dangerous misinformation and hate as Carlson did, Media Matters LGBTQ Program Director Ari Drennen told the Blade by phone on Tuesday.

Media Matters, which tracks and monitors extremism and hate spread by right-wing news outlets and on social media, has documented Carlson’s extensive history of propagating malicious lies about LGBTQ people while simultaneously casting himself, his viewers, and his supporters as the truly aggrieved; or the “real” victims.

After his show aired on Monday night, other critics were quick to point out Carlson’s history of attacking the LGBTQ community and its allies on his program, which is also chronicled in GLAAD’s Accountability Project.

Drennen said another manipulative tactic on display during Monday’s segment was Carlson’s seamless transitioning between and among different unrelated topics. The host began by denouncing the violence encountered by patrons on Saturday at the LGBTQ nightclub before switching to the medical interventions administered to trans youth and then addressing matters concerning child sexual exploitation and abuse.

The intended effect of this sleight of hand was to make these topics seem related, when of course they are not, Drennen said. Thus, Carlson has laid the groundwork to defend his and his ideological allies’ attacks on LGBTQ people, having framed them as active participants in or complicit observers of crimes against children.

GLAAD and Media Matters dispel the dangerous anti-LGBTQ lies from Carlson’s show

While Carlson did take the opportunity to go after President Joe Biden during the 15-minute segment about Saturday’s shooting, he spent significantly less time on his argument that the president had opportunistically exploited the tragedy to call for a renewal of the federal assault weapons ban.

Instead, Carlson sought to deny the link between anti-LGBTQ language and anti-LGBTQ violence before doubling down on some of his most virulent lies and attacks against the community.

On Sunday, GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis responded to the Colorado Springs shooting with a statement on the well established relationship between acts of violence and inflammatory rhetoric. On his program the following day, Carlson said that Ellis had “declared that because of Saturday’s shooting, you need to shut up while activist doctors mutilate children.” 

Also in Carlson’s crosshairs was Boston Children’s Hospital, which the host accused of “performing double mastectomies on children for no medical reason at all,” adding, “There is no scientific justification for sexually mutilating kids. They are not doing it for a scientifically defensible reason.”

As GLAAD noted in its statement Tuesday to the Blade, in reality, health interventions for trans minors as performed in U.S. hospitals follow the guidance of every mainstream American and overseas biomedical organization with relevant clinical knowledge and experience, including the Endocrine Society, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Recommendations governing care for trans youth that are provided by these groups are backed by rigorous research. For example, the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Gender Dysphoria/Gender Incongruence contain more than 260 scientific studies.

None of the healthcare practitioners engaged in this evidence based care share “the grotesque fixation on children’s body parts this [Carlson’s] program continues to obsess over,” GLAAD told the Blade.

“But it’s not just the sexual mutilation of children in hospitals,” Carlson said during the segment. “This is part of a larger trend and the trend is this: adults crossing the line, and it has always been a bright line into deep involvement with the sexuality of children. 

The lone example Carlson cited as evidence was a controversial ad from Balenciaga that ran on Instagram and was subsequently removed. Drennen told the Blade that the media personality’s aim was to perpetuate the idea that “the sexualization of children” is “part of a broader cultural force” despite the absence of any connection between LGBTQ people and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

“It can be true that the ad is in poor taste,” Drennen said, but the onus isn’t on queer people to police the luxury French fashion house’s “weird ad buy.” Nevertheless, she added, Carlson “wanted the take-away from viewers to be that something sinister is going on,” ergo his inclusion of the topic in a segment about a facially unrelated matter: the massacre of LGBTQ people in a nightclub.

GLAAD’s email to the Blade also noted that “experts in child abuse say smearing people with “groomer” rhetoric undermines the understanding of how predators abuse children.” When the lie that LGBTQ people are likelier to abuse minors is circulated online, apart from the impact of that rhetoric on the LGBTQ community, it makes helping survivors more difficult, advocates say.

“It feels like child sex abuse prevention is being hijacked by people to fit an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with preventing child sexual abuse,” Jenny Coleman, director of Stop It Now!, a nonprofit working to stop the sexual abuse of children, told USA Today.

Following the tragedy over the weekend, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) pointed out that “Nearly 1 in 5 of any type of hate crime is now motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias and reports of violence and intimidation against LGBTQ+ people have been making news across the country.”

America’s largest LGBTQ organization cited, as examples, incidents in which, “White nationalists targeted a Pride event in Idaho; Proud Boys crashed Drag Queen story hour at a local library in California to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs; and Boston Children’s Hospital’s patients and providers have found themselves the targets of multiple violent threats following a campaign of disinformation on Twitter.”

According to the FBI, there have been dozens of bomb threats against Boston Children’s, which has been targeted with “a sustained harassment campaign based on dissemination of information online” about health treatments for trans minors, Rachael Rollins, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said.

All-ages LGBTQ events like family-friendly drag shows and drag queen story hours have also increasingly suffered campaigns of violent intimidation and harassment by far-right extremists, who are driven by online misinformation and disinformation accusing those involved in such events of sexualizing and “grooming” children.

Far-right YouTuber and former video journalist for Vice and Fusion TV, Tim Pool, implied the massacre at Club Q was justified or at least that it can be explained because the nightclub had an all-ages drag show planned for the following day.

“We shouldn’t tolerate pedophiles grooming kids,” he wrote on Twitter, where he is followed by more than a million users. “Club Q had a grooming event. How do [sic] prevent the violence and stop the grooming?”

The evidence is not just anecdotal. According to the Brookings Institution, a social science research think tank, “A range of research suggests the incendiary rhetoric of political leaders can make political violence more likely, gives violence direction, complicates the law enforcement response, and increases fear in vulnerable communities.”

In the same statement addressing the Club Q attack, HRC explained the rise of hate and hate-motivated violence against LGBTQ people. “The highest known single-year total of fatal deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people was in 2021, when at least 57 trans & gender non-conforming people were violently killed,” the group wrote.

Clip from Nov. 21 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight

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News Analysis

The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “Trans people don’t exist”

“The answer is no. No one is beyond it because we’re human beings and there are two options, male and female, and nobody exists beyond that.”

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Staff, Media Matters for America | WASHINGTON – Transphobic Daily Wire Pundit Matt Walsh on his show Wednesday attacked transgender people saying: “Transgender, trans – it means beyond gender. You’re beyond it or something. You’re something past it, beyond it. Is it possible to be that? The answer is no. No one is beyond it because we’re human beings and there are two options, male and female, and nobody exists beyond that.”

Watch:

Transcript:

MATT WALSH (HOST): We all agree that there are people in the country who identify themselves as trans. So those people certainly exist. There are people who are walking around and saying, I am transgender. Yes, we all agree. That’s not a figment of our imagination, we’re not hallucinating it. We all agree that’s the case, that those people exist.

However, the question is whether the claim that they’re making about themselves is true. And then the second question is related to the first: Is it actually possible for a person to be transgender? Is that a valid, a legitimate, a coherent kind of human identity? Transgender, trans – it means beyond gender. You’re beyond it or something. You’re something past it, beyond it. Is it possible to be that? The answer is no. No one is beyond it because we’re human beings and there are two options, male and female, and nobody exists beyond that.

So, in that sense – if that’s the sense that you mean, that in that sense trans people don’t exist in the sense that there are no people who actually exist beyond the gender binary because the gender binary’s real and we all are in it, on one side or the other. And yet, the people who are confused about this, yes, they certainly do exist. If they didn’t, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

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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

Midterm results show voters’ repudiation of attacks on trans youth

Transphobia – especially directed at young people – proved not to be a winning message for Republican candidates in this election cycle

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Trans Flag painted by activists on Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood May 14, 2020 (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – The results of this year’s midterm elections showed a tendency among American voters to rebuke extremism from the right, whether it took the form of denying the results of democratic elections or denying women’s reproductive freedoms.

For the LGBTQ community and its allies, it was also a repudiation of attacks from some far-right GOP candidates on trans people, particularly trans youth.

Virginia would not have reelected Democratic Reps. Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger “if transphobic attacks that are geared towards and about kids were an effective message and an effective persuasion message,” Virginia Delegate Danica Roem told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

Transphobic campaigns led by the congresswomen’s Republican challengers cost them Virginia’s Prince William County, said Roem, who would become the second openly trans state senator in the country if she is elected in next year’s race to represent Virginia’s 30th Senate District.

Republicans in the state went as far as to weaponize a sexual assault case to attack trans students – by lying about the gender identity of the perpetrator, Roem said.

Last year, the mother of a boy who was charged with sexually assaulting a girl in a Loudoun County high school told multiple media outlets; “First of all, he is not transgender…And I think this is all doing an extreme disservice to those students who actually identify as transgender.”

It is not just in the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) region that voters rejected transphobic attacks during this election cycle, Roem said. GOP candidates tried this approach in Michigan and Wisconsin, leading to the reelection of Democratic Governors Tony Evers, (WI) and Gretchen Whitmer, (MI) who will enjoy the state’s first Democratic trifecta in 40 years, Roem said.

“Across the country anti-equality opponents tried to win close races by persuading swing voters that trans kids were a danger – group of people that needed to be bullied and attacked,” said Geoff Wetrosky, campaign director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest LGBTQ organization.

“And it failed for them as a strategy, in places from Michigan to Kansas, where close races ended up going to the pro-equality candidates not despite these attacks but because of them,” Wetrosky told the Blade via Zoom.

“Voters did not appreciate candidates singling out trans kids and speaking propaganda and stigma to rile up extreme members of their base,” he added.

Wetrosky recounted how parents in Arizona had received an anti-trans mailer that was disseminated by former Trump administration official Stephen Miller’s organization America First Legal and reacted by “showing up to the polls for their trans kid but also to show that communities of color could not be split from LGBTQ folks.”

It would be inaccurate to say that Republican gubernatorial candidates like Florida’s Ron DeSantis or South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem were reelected because of their open hostility toward trans youth, Wetrosky contends, because we saw that strategy backfire elsewhere.

In terms of attacking trans candidates running for elected office over their gender identities, “the right still tries to use these tactics but it’s harder and harder to manufacture a boogeyman,” LGBTQ Victory Fund and LGBTQ Victory Institute President & CEO Annise Parker told the Blade by phone on Tuesday.

Parker agreed with Wetrosky’s position that much of the transphobia seen from Republican officeholders is meant to appeal to the most extreme elements of the base of the party, for the purpose of raising the profiles of those with national political ambitions.

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