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Faces of Hate: Violence against Pride Month/LGBTQ+ people escalating

Factors driving renewed anti-LGBTQ+ extremism includes ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws, anti-trans sports bills & criminalizing trans youth healthcare

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Marchers from UN Globe at the 2019 World Pride march in NYC (Photo credit: UN Globe)

LOS ANGELES – Pride 2022 has become a litany of violent threats against the LGBTQ+ community. A Drag Queen Story Hour is disrupted by alt-right nationalist white males menacing the event with homophobic and transphobic epithets in Alameda, County on the sixth anniversary of the massacre that took 49 lives in a mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando during a LGBTQ Latin Night event.

The next day a state senator is threatened via email, that is deemed credible enough, to dispatch police with dogs trained to seek out explosive devices to his home and legislative offices.

A Pride event in Idaho nearly ended in a riot or worse tragedy save for an alert citizen phoning in to law enforcement the fact that masked alt-right agitators armed with riot shields and tear gas were crammed into the back of a U-Haul box van headed to the event. Royal Canadian Mounted Police working in concert with the FBI and Florida law enforcement agencies arrest a 17-year-old Ontario teen who threatened to commit a mass shooting at a Palm Beach County, Florida Pride event.

Whispers on popular alt-right channels, websites, and social media apps talk about disrupting other Pride events while the organizers of the two largest Pride gatherings in the U.S., New York City and San Francisco prepare security measures to deflect potential violence.

NBC News reported Dan Dimant, media director for Heritage of Pride, the group behind NYC Pride, said that based on the group’s safety guidelines it does not plan to make changes to the march.

“We are always in close coordination with local and federal authorities,” he said in a statement to NBC News. “This year our private security has a larger footprint than in previous years so that all of our attendees can enjoy a safe, fun, and memorable return to in-person Pride.” 

Dimant also noted that the group’s staff and executive board undergo active shooter training annually. 

But is 2022 any different than previous years in anti-LGBTQ+ activism and vitriolic hate speech in public by those arrayed in opposition to LGBTQ+ equality and rights ? According to several sources ranging from law enforcement to non-profit organizations and advocacy groups the answer appears to be a definite yes.

Factors driving renewed anti-LGBTQ+ acts include codification of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws, anti-trans youth sports bills coupled with a push to criminalize healthcare or investigate their parents for ‘child abuse’ for trans youth under the age of 18 and other laws considered or passed in the last 2 years by over 35 states.

Stepped up rhetoric from Fox News, OAN, and online media personalities such as Ben Shapiro, Joe Rogan, Charlie Kirk, and Matt Walsh alongside religious leaders such as extremist Dillon Awes, pastor of the anti-LGBTQ+ Stedfast Baptist Church in Watauga, Texas. Dillon recently sparked outrage after declaring that gay people “are dangerous to society” and should be “lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head.”

In primetime mainstream media, Fox News and host Tucker Carlson in particular have been proactive in stirring up considerable aversion and hostility against LGBTQ+ Americans, especially the trans community.

“From false accusations of ‘grooming’ to fearmongering about mutilation, Fox News has been instrumental in building outrage and the fake conspiracy theory that the existence of LGBTQ people is a threat to children. The network should not be surprised to discover that its audience is listening to their dangerous lies, especially when its primetime stars are calling for violence against the trans community. LGBTQ people deserve to be who we are and to spend time with the people that we love without fearing that a far-right group is going to show up. Fox News and the right-wing media need to turn down the temperature of their hateful propaganda before somebody is hurt or killed.” Media Matters LGBTQ Program Director Ari Drennen told the Blade.

In a phone call with a senior U.S. Justice Department official, the Blade was told that in tracking the hate & extremist groups in the United States, FBI agents and other Justice investigators noted that since the Trump era there seems to be a sharp uptick in the alt-right’s anti-LGBTQ+ messaging.

Asked if public statements including social media posts on Twitter and other platforms by right-leaning public figures contributed to the surge in violent rhetoric, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw, who likened opponents to the so-called Don’t Say Gay law to pedophiles and said it could be aptly titled the “anti-grooming” bill, the official agreed with that assessment.

The word “grooming” has long been associated with mischaracterizing LGBTQ people, particularly gay men and transgender women, as child sex abusers.

Tony Hoang , the Executive Director of the largest statewide LGBTQ+ rights organizations in the country, Equality California told the Blade in an email;

“These violent acts targeting the LGBTQ+ community are the logical result of the rhetoric we’ve heard from anti-LGBTQ+ extremists and politicians, which has been building for years now — and especially in recent months. This is the boiling point. When anti-LGBTQ+ politicians and Fox News hosts demonize and dehumanize us, when they lie and accuse adults who support LGBTQ+ kids of child abuse and pedophilia, their hateful and dishonest words are a call to arms for their followers. These politicians may think that their attacks are political games that will earn them votes, but they’re going to get people killed.”

The noticeable surge also caught the attention of President Joe Biden who acknowledged the rise last month in his remarks on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. “We continue to witness disturbing setbacks and rising hate and violence targeting LGBTQI+ people in the United States and around the world. This is wrong,” the president said.

A source with the New York City Police Department reflected that as it prepares for Pride festivities and the parade marking the 52 anniversary of the Gay Liberation March held the year after the rioting at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village there are grave concerns.

The official noted that the first time it will be held in person since 2019, when it attracted an estimated 5 million attendees additionally pointing out that in February, a party for the Black queer community at the Brooklyn bar, Nowadays, was interrupted by a pepper-spray bomb. And in May a man walked into another LGBTQ+ establishment, Rash Bar, with a bottle of flammable liquid and set the venue on fire.

In December of last year, agents from the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested and charged a Long Island man for mailing letters threatening to assault, shoot, and bomb LGBTQ+ affiliated individuals, organizations, and businesses.

In the criminal complaint and affidavit for arrest, federal prosecutors allege that one letter threatened that there would “be radio-controlled devices placed at numerous strategic places” at the New York City Pride March with “firepower” that would “make the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk,” referencing the massacre in which 49 persons were killed and dozens wounded at Pulse.

“There are times when we should be wary of overreacting to a momentary backlash or even a mere difference of opinion. This is not such a time. The danger now is that we as a country will under react to one of the most serious threats our nation has ever faced: an increasingly open hostility to freedom and democracy by the Maga wing of the Republican Party. These extremists are mounting an aggressive takeover of our nation’s politics and, among other scapegoats, viciously targeting LGBTQ people and, particularly, transgender kids,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Blade Tuesday.

Also creating an environment of hostility towards LGBTQ+ people is the rise of the Christian Nationalism movement, which is also tied to White Nationalism online through platforms like ‘GAB’ whose founder and CEO Andrew Torba bragged recently on that platform:

We have multiple members of Congress embracing Christian Nationalism. We have the most watched News show on TV talking about the Great Replacement.

We have normalized the widespread use of the phrases “anti-White” and “anti-Christian” in normie right wing circles. We have eliminated the taboo of criticizing the Tribe.

All of these things were utterly unthinkable even three years ago, yet here we are. Little by little, inch by inch the dissident Christian right is gaining ground.”

A federal Joint Terrorism Task Force has been charged with addressing concerns over the safety of Pride events in several metropolitan areas, but noting the arrests in Idaho last week, the Justice official told the Blade that the burden really rests on observant citizens notifying authorities to potential threats.

Chicago will hold a number of Pride events from June 18 to June 26. Following the incident in Coeur d’Alene, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown “put those who might be planning something on notice” during a news conference Monday, according to NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV

“We are going to be vigilant to ensure that this event, as well as others, go off safely,” he said, according to WMAQ-TV. “And we’ll hold you accountable if you’re planning [and] if you’re doing anything to jeopardize the safety of others.”

But the Chicago Police Superintendent also echoed the words Justice official expressed to the Blade stressing that everyday folks need to be on alert and take steps to notify police before tragedy strikes.

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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