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Smear campaign launched against Trevor Project as culture wars escalate

Weaponized use of the term “groomer” is rapidly increasing & will very likely manifest in a sharp up-tick in LGBTQ+ youth harming themselves

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Screenshot/LA Times

LOS ANGELES – The latest round of right-wing attacks on the LGBTQ+ community has included portraying LGBTQ+ people as groomers and actions taken in defense of LGBTQ+ youth by non-profits, political and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups as outright acts designed to commit paedophilia.

The latest and highly visible target in this latest round of vitriolic rhetoric aimed at denigrating the LGBTQ+ community is The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

The conservative anti-LGBTQ+ Florida-based ‘Mom’s for Liberty,’ a group that claims to approximately 85,000 members with chapters in over 35 states, retweeted a 36-year-old blogger, Colin Wright, who proudly describes himself as a person dedicated to efforts on combatting gender ideology and pseudoscience about sex.

Research shows that Wright is best described based on his views as an anti-trans extremist. He currently is a writer for right-wing site Quillette and founder of Reality’s Last Stand.

On Wednesday, April 26, Wright took aim at The Trevor Project using a social media cartoon published during the height of the coronavirus pandemic by the organisation to educate LGBTQ+ youth on a safety feature of the Trevor website in the case of potential problematic interaction with parents who may not be aware or approve of LGBTQ+ feelings, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Moms For Liberty within hours quote-tweeted Wright and complained that that the organization is “encouraging children to keep secrets from their parents.” 

A spokesperson for a LGBTQ+ advocacy organization speaking on background pointed out that LGBTQ+ youth have good reason to keep secrets of this nature from their parents due to justified fears of being abused, shunned, become homeless, or even killed if they come out to their parents.  Then too there is the high probability and risk of suicide, the very mission and purpose for Trevor’s existence.

Once the two tweets made their presence known in the netherworld of right-wing Twitter the proverbial pile-on got worse. Lauren Chen, a 27-year-old Canadian far-right political commentator on YouTube and Evie Magazine contributor contributed with a phrase that has since picked up as the primary conservative talking point in reference to the LGBTQ+ community, use of the term ‘groomer.’

A spokesperson for the Trevor Project declined to comment instead telling the Blade on background; “We’ve chosen not to respond directly to these social media attacks and have no comment at this time.”

The Trevor Project also pointed to its own research on family rejection + support for LGBTQ youth:

  • Many LGBTQ youth lack access to affirming spaces, with only 1 in 3 saying that their home to be LGBTQ-affirming. The Trevor Project’s research consistently finds that LGBTQ young people report lower rates of attempting suicide when they have access to LGBTQ-affirming homes.
  • LGBTQ youth who report high levels of social support from family and friends are significantly less likely to attempt suicide compared to those with lower levels of social support.

As Thursday wore on the attacks on Trevor, many labeling the organization as nothing more than grooming young people continued. Anchorage, Alaska-based Suzanne Downing, who writes and edits the conservative right wing leaning blog Must Read Alaska, attacked the Trevor Project Thursday.

Writing in reference to the 2020 ordinance makes it illegal for licensed professionals in Anchorage to try to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which was passed in consultation with Trevor, Downing writes:

The Trevor Project, as it grooms children online, gives kids with an exit feature on its live-chat function that erases the chat history, so parents cannot monitor who is interacting with their children.

Children who stumble upon the Trevor Project are interacting with strangers who are taking an interesting the youngster’s sexuality.”

Downing wrote further about an incident regarding a parent posing as a teenager asking about gender issues:

The mother, referred to here as Gloria though that’s not her real name, presented herself as confused about many things, but sure of being “not cishet,” and interested in knowing more about detransitioning. What emerged in the online chat with a representative from the Trevor Project was advocacy for transitioning, no information about detransitioning, and apparent certainty in the face of an uncertain teen who didn’t know where to go for help.

The Trevor Project guided Gloria to resources on hormones, including how to get them without parental awareness, chest binding, and an introduction into a community of teen transitioners.”

California State Senator Scott Wiener, a member of the California Assembly’s LGBTQ+ Caucus responded to the attacks on Trevor:

“.@TrevorProject literally saves LGBTQ teens’ lives – teens at risk of suicide who have nowhere else to turn for support. This despicable tweet is designed to prevent — & will have the effect of preventing — teens from reaching this life-saving service. Kids will die as a result.”

Media Matters researcher Kayla Gogarty noted in a April 16 article that after Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw used an anti-LGBTQ slander including use of the word groomer to defend Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill on March 4, right-wing media and figures used similar absurd attacks to defend the legislation, accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” children to be LGBTQ or to engage in sexual activity.

Throughout March, right-wing figures and media responded to criticism of the extreme bill with ramped up attacks accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” children — the same messaging initially tweeted by Pushaw on March 4. Simultaneously, right-wing media and figures also used anti-LGBTQ content from Libs of TikTok as ammunition for their arguments. 

Libs of TikTok is an anonymous anti-LGBTQ Twitter account that started on TikTok but moved to Twitter in November 2020, where it singles out individual TikTok users, including teachers, for ridicule and harassment in tweets that often go viral. On April 13, Twitter briefly suspended the account for violating its policy against hateful conduct. The account has since been restored — even though Libs of TikTok has repeatedly misgendered public figures and content creators.

Since Pushaw used “grooming” language in her tweets on March 4, she has tweeted similar language another 22 times, earning over ​​23,000 total interactions, or an average of 1,000 interactions per post. This average is roughly triple that of her other tweets. Meanwhile, Libs of TikTok has continued to post anti-LGBTQ content, even replying to a Pushaw tweet and praising the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation as “literally genius” for exposing “creeps” and those that “identify themselves as pro-grooming.”

One LGBTQ+ activist told the Blade Thursday on background that the end result now is that weaponized use of the term “groomer” is rapidly increasing and will very likely manifest in a sharp up-tick in LGBTQ+ youth harming themselves as Trevor and other safe spaces are attacked and more of the so-called “Parental Rights” bills become law.

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LGBTQ+ Asian American candidate in Texas attacked with racist ad

“At a time when the AAPI community is the target of an unprecedented surge in attacks, it is not only hateful, but dangerous”

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Doctored campaign attack advert photo (R) (Courtesy of Ben Chou)

HOUSTON – An Out Asian American LGBTQ+ candidate the seat of Harris County Commissioner representing Precinct 4 in the Northeastern neighborhoods of Houston was the target of a series of negative ads on Facebook and Instagram earlier this week.

Democratic candidate Ben Chou, who hopes to be elected in the precinct that is home to the largest Asian American population in Harris County, accounting for 13% of the district’s population, was angered over the blatant racial stereotyping in the ads released on social media by his run-off opponent Lesley Briones.

The negative ads on Facebook and Instagram, doctored Ben Chou’s eyes, nose, and lips, and white-washed his skin.  In a phone call with the Blade Thursday, Chou noted that such depictions of Asian-Americans and Asians follows a long history of doctoring images of people of color to make them look angry or menacing, reinforcing negative stereotypes that have been peddled about Asian Americans in the United States for more than a century.

“I am saddened to see my opponent stoop to leveraging racist stereotypes that have been used to attack Asian Americans for more than 150 years. With anti-Asian hate rising, Briones should know better than to redraw my eyes and face to suit her campaign,” Chou told the Blade.

“During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Houstonians of all backgrounds should be celebrating diversity instead of changing our features to fit someone else’s narrative. The Briones Campaign owes an apology to not just the Asian community but to all Harris County voters for her vicious, hateful propaganda. I will be spending the last 6 days of this runoff election focused on the issues that matter in this race: protecting our voting rights and improving ethics in government,” he added.

His opponent who identifies as a native Texan, proud Latina, and a Democrat fired back on Twitter Thursday accusing Chou of lying. “Shame on Ben Chou. Rather than answering for his false attacks and defamatory lies, he is spreading even more lies,” Briones wrote in a tweet attaching a press release from her campaign:

“This racist attack against Ben – who would be the first out LGBTQ Asian American elected to Harris County government – is disgusting and morally reprehensible. At a time when the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is the target of an unprecedented surge in attacks, it is not only hateful, but dangerous. Anyone who peddles in racism and bigotry is clearly unfit for office,” Albert Fujii, LGBTQ Victory Fund spokesperson, told the Blade in an email.

According to the Victory Fund there are only 32 LGBTQ elected Asian American, Pacific Islander (AAPI) officials in the United States currently.

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Politics

NPR poll: Supreme Court leak firing up Democratic voters

Two-thirds of Democrats say the contents of the Supreme Court leak make them more likely to vote in November

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Blade file photo (Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Thursday showed that two-thirds of voters do not support overturning Roe v. Wade. However, the poll also revealed that in this mid-term election year cycle, the leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that indicated the court’s willingness to overturn the landmark ruling on abortion rights has fired up Democrats.

NPR reported that the poll shows that two-thirds of Democrats say the contents of the leak make them more likely to vote in November, as compared to just 40% of Republicans who said so.

“It definitely has them [Democrats] focused as no other issue in the recent months has,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll. “And to have a gap of that magnitude over the Republicans is something that, at this point, should not go unnoticed.”

The survey of 1,304 adults, including 1,213 registered voters, has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points when adults are referenced and +/- 4.1 percentage points when referring to voters. That means results could be about 4 points higher or lower. The poll was conducted from May 9 to 13 by live interview callers, who reached respondents via cell phone and landline in English and in Spanish.

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Politics

History making primary win- Out Lesbian could be Oregon’s next governor

“This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state, and this will be an election unlike anything any of us have ever seen”

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Courtesy of Tina Kotek

PORTLAND – The Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday win by Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, who had announced her run for the governor’s seat to replace incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown who is term limited last September 1st, 2021, positions her to become the first Out Lesbian governor in the nation should she win the general election in November.

Kotek’s win comes during an uptick in the elections nationwide as more candidates running for office identify as LGBTQ. More than 600 LGBTQ candidates are on ballots this year, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

According to the Victory Fund, at least 101 people ran or are running for the U.S. Senate or U.S. House – with 96 still actively running as of February 21, 2022. That marks a 16.1 percent increase in LGBTQ Congressional candidates compared to the 2020 election cycle, when 87 people ran.

Speaking to her supporters after it became clear she had won over Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read, who was polling second among Oregonian progressives, “This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state, and this will be an election unlike anything any of us have ever seen,” Kotek said.

Republican state legislator Christine Drazan along with an independent candidate, Betsy Johnson are slated to be on the November ballot.

Last Fall when she announced her candidacy, she said, “I am running for Governor because I know that, together, we can reckon with the legacies of injustice and inequality to build a great future for Oregon.” She also noted, “Oregonians are living through a devastating pandemic, the intensifying impacts of climate change, and the economic disruptions that leave too many behind. We must get past the politics of division and focus on making real, meaningful progress for families across our state.” 

“A victory for Tina would shatter a lavender ceiling and be a milestone moment in LGBTQ political history, yet she is running not to make history, but because there are few people as prepared and qualified to serve as Oregon’s governor,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Under Tina’s leadership, Oregon has led in passing legislation to improve roads and education, raise the minimum wage and ensure all residents are treated fairly and equally. As governor, Tina will make Oregon a role model for the nation.”

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