Editor’s Note: Content warning: This article includes extended discussion of sexual violence and LGBTQ hate. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, which can be reached at 800-656-4673 or online via hotline.rainn.org. Trans lifeline, a hotline staffed by and created for transgender and nonbinary people, can be reached at 1-877-565-8860 or translifeline.org. The Trevor Project’s crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth can be reached at 866-488-7386 or through thetrevorproject.org/get-help/.
By Beatrice Mount & Alyssa Tirrell | WASHINGTON – Last year, no one — not even Elmo — dodged the right’s bigoted groomer smear campaign. Accusations that individual people, organizations, and companies were engaged in widespread attempts to groom children (either sexually or into a so-called LGBTQ lifestyle) reached staggering levels in 2022, spreading from social media platforms and conservative cable all the way to representatives in Washington.
Grooming is a set of manipulative behaviors abusers use for the explicit purpose of forming a sexual relationship with minors. Right-wing media outlets and figures misappropriated the term, drawing on old and bigoted stereotypes that LGBTQ people are a sexual threat to minors in order to perpetuate hate — turning a once useful term into a de facto anti-LGBTQ slur.
This rhetoric supported dangerous bans on life-saving trans healthcare, a directive investigating parents who support their trans children, legislation revoking the parental rights of LGBTQ allies, and vague laws restricting any mention of LGBTQ people in the classroom. The smear has also contributed to a wave of anti-LGBTQ violence — including armed terrorists storming drag queen story hours and family-friendly pride events, death threats against gay politicians, and bomb threats against Children’s Hospitals.
Mainstream press perpetuated the smear by platforming its architects in puff-piece profiles and articles framing LGBTQ rights as a political debate. By the time the Associated Press had officially released guidance against uncritically repeating the slur, groomer was already the right’s catchall for the LGBTQ community.
- Transgender People: The use of the word groomer to refer to transgender people echoes a tactic utilized in the early 2000s against gay people. Grooming was already misappropriated when applied to LGBTQ acceptance or same-sex marriage and now the right has expanded the definition even further in an effort to frame the existence of trans people as an encouragement of sexual acts. Hate spread by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA), right-wing influencer Will Witt, conspiracy theorist James Lindsay, and Gays Against Groomers founder Jaimee Michell, was buoyed by anti-trans coverage on Fox News that fearmongered around trans representation, healthcare, and the notion of transness.
- Drag Queens: Referring to drag performers as groomers has created the false impression that drag performance is inherently sexual or that it encourages gender dysphoria. Right-wing media figures, such as conservative podcasters Owen Shroyer and Steve Bannon, Fox News hosts Jesse Watters and Sean Hannity, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson claimed that drag performers were intentionally sexualizing children. Other figures, including OAN host Dan Ball and right-wing commentator Dominique Samuels, claimed that this alleged sexualization is an effort to indoctrinate children into leftism. In even more extreme cases, the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh encouraged or excused direct violence against drag performers. These smears have fueled a violent political atmosphere and targeted attacks. Mainstream media has noted the uptick in the presence of Proud Boys and other violent protesters outside of drag events across the country, individual drag queens have expressed concern for their own safety, and some performers have been the victims of online harassment campaigns.
- Pride Parades: During Pride Month, right-wing media utilized the groomer slur to fearmonger around pride events, going so far as to doctor footage of drag performances in an effort to mobilize extremist reactions. Right-wing influencers such as Chaya Raichik, creator of Libs of TikTok, and avowed Christian fascist Kelly Neidert, targeted specific gatherings. Meanwhile, OAN’s In Focus, Real America and Tipping Point segments waged a more generalized campaign of hate against pride events. Extremism researchers and LGBTQ activists drew a direct connection between this bigoted smear campaign and the far-right extremists who protested pride parades, including the highly publicized arrest of white nationalist group Patriot Front, in which police charged dozens of members with conspiracy to riot.
- The Entire LGBTQ Community: In addition to targeting specific LGBTQ people or groups, right-wing media accounts such as Libs of TikTok, OAN personalities Landon Starbuck and Alison Steinberg, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, right-wing podcasters Tim Pool, Allie Beth Stuckey, Matt Walsh, and Freddy Silva, and conservative commentators Christopher Rufo and Dave Rubin made generalized claims against the entire LGBTQ community. Following a severe uptick in the use of the word groomer on right-wing social media accounts, evidence that the slur contributed to real-world violence against LGBTQ people, and calls for guidance from organizations, including Media Matters, some social media outlets incorporated the slur into their hate speech policies. The Associated Press eventually cautioned against uncritical use of the slur, but on social media, regulation and enforcement remain varied.
- Club Q: After the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, right-wing figures blamed the LGBTQ community for motivating violence against themselves. They weaponized the groomer slur in a confusing response that oscillated between excusing anti-LGBTQ violence and denying any culpability right-wing media bore in stoking anti-LGBTQ sentiment. Far-right trolls subsequently harassed Club Q survivors both on and offline — dubbing the man who disarmed the shooter a groomer. The House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the rise in anti-LGBTQ extremism following the shooting, during which Republican representatives claimed that their Democratic colleagues were using the tragedy as a means of smearing the right. The hearing was followed by GAG founder Jaimee Michell slandering one witness who had appeared before the representatives as a groomer.
WATCH: Club Q shooting survivor Michael Anderson testifies before House Oversight Committee hearing on violence against LGBTQ+ community.— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 15, 2022
"Hate speech turns into hate action, and actions based on hate almost took my life…at 25 years old." pic.twitter.com/2c3QEaompc
- Teachers, Schools, School Districts, and School Boards: Right-wing media figures Libs of TikTok, Tucker Carlson, Jesse Watters, James Lindsay, Christopher Rufo, OAN’s Kara McKinney, and the Daily Wire’s Candace Owens contributed to the false claims that inclusive curriculum, the teachers who support it, and the school boards that fund it were all guilty of sexually grooming children. As a result, multiple teachers and school board members were harassed, threatened, and doxxed after becoming the right’s target of the week. Meanwhile conservative educational organizations who oppose LGBTQ representation in schools began to plan their own counter-curriculums at the state and federal level. Nevertheless, a record number of LGBTQ people ran for school board positions in 2022.
- High School GSA’s: Gay/Straight Alliance organizations and clubs have existed for over thirty years as a means of providing community to LGBTQ students. In 2022, they faced new scrutiny under the gaze of figures such as Christopher Rufo and OAN hosts Dan Ball and Addison Smith, who accused the clubs of grooming children and keeping information from parents.
- Librarians and Libraries: Far-right outlets like OAN and activists like Chistopher Rufo gave voice to a broad campaign of hate that accused libraries and librarians of grooming children by including LGBTQ materials or hosting drag queen story hours. Many local libraries and librarians faced censorship, funding complications, and counter protests. In response, some libraries have considered privatizing while others remain public and committed to a pro-LGBTQ stance.
- ElmoBlaze: TV host Chad Prather told OAN that Sesame Street character Elmo was a groomer after the beloved puppet received his COVID-19 vaccine. “I’ve always said that Elmo is a groomer anyway. They use these puppets to try to influence kids with their agenda.” Prather continued, “This actually should be illegal. You are pushing — I mean, what happens in a month? Is Elmo going to get a vasectomy? How much can we continue to push on this medical tyranny on our kids using a puppet?”
- Books: Alongside right-wing legislative efforts aimed at schools and libraries, 2022 saw a concerted effort to ban LGBTQ books under the guise of protecting children from grooming. Many of these policies were successfully implemented.
- American Girl: American Girl released “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image,” discussing practical and intersectional advice about body image and gender identity — which Jaimee Michell called the “definition of grooming.” Others called for a boycott of American Girl for promoting “transgender ideology” to kids — or as one right-wing commentator put it, “using girls’ love of dolls as a Trojan horse to teach them to destroy their bodies.” American Girl stood by the book, emphasizing:
“The content in this book was developed in partnership with medical and adolescent care professionals and consistently emphasizes the importance of having conversations and discussing any feelings with parents or trusted adults. … We are committed to delivering content that leaves our readers feeling informed, confident, and positive about themselves.”
- Hospitals and Doctors: Libs of TikTok instigated a series of online harassment campaigns against specific hospitals and doctors, falsely conflating gender-affirming care to mutilation, child abuse, and grooming. The effort was later amplified by other media figures such as Jesse Kelly, Matt Walsh, and Terry Schilling. Enraged followers left online comments and voicemails labeling health care providers groomers. This led to a series of bomb threats. As a result, some facilities limited either their care or the information on their websites, making it more difficult for trans people to access gender-affirming care.
- Parents: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, conservative “parody” site Babylon Bee’s CEO Seth Dillon, conservative commentators Steven Crowder and Tim Young, Fox News guest Jimmy Failla, and Candace Owens contributed to claims that parents who expose their children to LGBTQ themes or supported their LGBTQ children were themselves groomers. This trend continues to fuel new legislative efforts. Gov. Abbott directed Texas state agencies to investigate parents and medical caregivers of trans youth. Florida Republicans proposed legislation criminalizing adults taking children to drag shows while Republicans in Idaho, Alabama, and Michigan proposed legislation criminalizing guardians providing gender-affirming care to their children.
- Democrats: Leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans and right-wing media figures spread anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in an effort to rally their base. Fox News host Laura Ingraham, conservative podcaster Liz Wheeler and Jesse Kelly, Steve Bannon, and Matt Walsh associated grooming with the Democratic party or the left more broadly. After the election, Media Matters noted that political attacks on LGBTQ people and supporters failed to produce the victory Republicans had promised.
- President Joe Biden: In addition to the Democratic party, some right-wing media figures turned the groomer slur against individual politicians. OAN’s Chanel Rion accused President Joe Biden of being the “groomer-in-chief” during a rant against gender-affirming health care. In her segment, Rion claimed that grooming was the first step in a top-down leftist strategy to “sterilize your children, abort your babies, discourage nuclear families, and encourage non-reproducing unions.”
- U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Rachel Levine: On Transgender day of Visibility, Tucker Carlson claimed that “No one’s attacking transgender kids, young people,” denying evidence that shows “transgender people are four times more likely than cisgender people to be the victims of violent crime.” Carlson falsely claimed that most trans youth “have been led to where they are by adult predators,” a statement which he then used to introduce a segment on the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. Rachel Levine.
- The Proposed U.S. Budget: The groomer slur reached such prevalence that it became a go-to smear for Democratic policies and agendas. In an extreme example, The Blaze’s Daniel Horowitz claimed that Democrats were promoting “grooming throughout the federal budget and international relations budget.” Horowitz did not elaborate.
- Title IX and the U.S. Department of Agriculture: Steve Bannon claimed the Biden administration was “going to hold back the school lunch program … until they fully implement the grooming project.” Bannon’s claim reflected a right-wing media lie that the Biden administration was withholding funds for meal programs from schools that did not comply with proposed rule changes to Title IX and USDA policy, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Conservatives slammed the recommendations, with Florida Education Commissioner promising Florida’s education department “will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools” last July. The Advocate reported on the link between these smears and a wave of threats to schools last June.
- Fox News: After Fox News ran a positive segment with a trans teenager, anti-trans activists and other right-wing media members lost their minds — most notably Terry Schilling. Schilling told OAN he “felt really betrayed” by Fox News for participating in what host Chanel Rion called a “concerted effort to normalize the transgender agenda in conservative circles.” Schilling then expressed doubt about whether Fox News shared his deep concern with children’s ability to orgasm. Fox, for its part, remains deeply committed to their anti-trans ethos.
- Obergefell and the Respect for Marriage Act: Fearing that the Supreme Court would overturn Obergefell v. Hodges and end national marriage equality, Congress passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which affirmed a federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriage. As the act made its way through Congress, right-wing figures including Alex Breusewitz, Lauren Chen, James Lindsay, and Kelly Neidert turned to old, slippery-slope claims that protecting same-sex marriage would normalize grooming and pedophilia. Right-wing media continued spiraling after Biden signed the bill into law in December, with Daniel Horowitz telling OAN the act is “about reinforcing a national grooming.”
- California State Sen. Scott Wiener: State Senator Scott Wiener was doxxed and received multiple bomb and death threats for his work protecting LGBTQ civil rights, which he connected to “extreme homophobic and transphobic” rhetoric from right-wing media and lawmakers. One email called the openly gay lawmaker a “pedophile” and “groomer” and threatened to “fucking kill” him.
- The Proposed Transgender Bill of Rights: Terry Schilling dubbed a House resolution to create a Transgender Bill of Rights “a groomer manifesto because it goes into education and healthcare.” Despite support by more than 30 organizations, including the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Education association, the bill has yet to advance.
- Dylan Mulvaney and Ulta Beauty: Last October, Meta largely ignored OAN host Alison Steinberg’s harassment campaign against TikTok influencer and Broadway actor Dylan Mulvaney. After Mulvaney interviewed Biden about anti-trans legislation and hate, Steinberg suggested Mulvaney is “a government plant” and compared Mulvaney’s content celebrating her journey as a transgender woman to sexual indoctrination. That same month, the right launched the #BoycottUlta campaign after Ulta interviewed Mulvaney for their YouTube series “The Beauty of…” — which one OAN host likened to watching “the bones of our once great civilization” get “picked clean by vultures.” Mulvaney discussed the emotional toll of the hate and harassment with Today and continues using her platform of over eight million subscribers to stand up for the trans community.
- Jeffrey Marsh: The right turned TikTok influencer and nonbinary activist Jeffrey Marsh into the target of an online harassment campaign by equating their uplifting videos preaching self-acceptance with grooming. Marsh and their partner addressed the hate and death threats in a Tiktok video in May:
@thejeffreymarsh those pesky little death threats!💅💅🥰💛 #relationships #lgbt #happy #truelove #nonbinary #rainbow #mentalhealth ♬ original sound – Jeffrey Marsh
- Yoel Roth: Twitter CEO Elon Musk smeared former Twitter Head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth by implying Roth wanted to expose children to explicit material. The allegation prompted responses from a range of right-wing commentators, including Tim Pool, who tweeted: “This tweet just clarified why the term ‘groomer’ was considered ‘hate speech’ on Twitter.” The smear campaign and ensuing threats forced Roth to flee his home.
- Pizza Hut: Right-wing media and hate groups accused Pizza Hut of “exploiting America’s children to be ‘groomed’ by wokeness” and pushing “the indoctrination agenda” by adding LGBTQ inclusive books to their BOOK IT! Program. The BOOK IT! Program has incentivized reading in elementary aged kids nationwide since 1984. A book about finding acceptance as a member of the LGBTQ community proved too much for conservative media, as pundits promptly called for a Pizza Hut boycott, which did not materialize.
- State Farm Insurance: State Farm faced widespread backlash after backing out of plans to fund the GenderCool Project’s LGBTQ books program following a coordinated, right-wing media harassment campaign, which falsely equated the program with grooming and child indoctrination. The program would have provided age-appropriate LGBTQ books to schools who voluntarily sign up.
- Oreos: Conservatives demanded Oreo “stop sexualizing children” and vowed to boycott their “gay cookies” after Oreo released a two-minute short film about coming out. The film accompanied a $500,000 donation to PFLAG — the nation’s first and largest organization supporting LGBTQ people and their families through advocacy, education, and community support.
- Target: Last May, conservative media accused Target of going “all in on gender grooming” after the retailer rolled out Pride-themed and transgender-inclusive clothing lines. They characterized Target’s products, which ranged from chest binders to to kids’ tees saying “trans rights are human rights,” as an inappropriate attempt at “indoctrinating the youth into the transgender ideology.” Target stood by the LGBTQ community despite boycott calls from hate groups like the Family Research Council.
- World Aquatics: the International Swimming Federation (formerly known as FINA)OAN host Addison Smith claimed World Aquatics’ (formerly known as FINA) ban on transfeminine athletes who transitioned after age 12 would “promote child transgenderism.” A spokesperson for World Aquatics had already dismissed this characterization as “ridiculous.” World Aquatics received more criticism for an exclusionary policy that amounted to discrimination against transgender athletes.
- The state of New Jersey: As MMFA’s Mia Gingerich noted, Fox News falsely claimed New Jersey subjected first and second graders to “predatory grooming” and “psychological torture” after the state implemented new, LGBTQ-inclusive student health and physical education standards. The network misleadingly conflated one sample lesson plan from one school district, which was not implemented, with the 2020 state standards in order to malign trans people and rekindle their attacks on comprehensive and inclusive sex education.
- Disney: After Disney came out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill (following a walkout by Disney employees), right-wing activist Rufo accused Disney of trying to sexualize children. Fox News and right-wing pundits followed and whined about “woke-ism” poisoning Disney. Months later, cartoon robot Baymax was a part of a nefarious “plan to re-engineer the discourse around kids and sexuality” and proof Disney went “full throttle with this agenda of indoctrination” — because a man wearing a shirt with trans pride colors helped the robot buy tampons. All that whining resulted in an ineffective boycott campaign and limp protests outside Disney World.
- Hollywood: Claims of Hollywood pedophile rings preying on children have been a central part of right-wing conspiracy theories for decades, including the 1980’s Satanic Panic and more recent QAnon conspiracy. Last year, conspiracy theorists and pundits — notably Candace Owens — twisted Disney’s opposition to homophobic legislation, Balenciaga’s PR scandal, and legitimate discussions of sexual abuse from former child stars into further proof Hollywood was uniquely full of groomers among our cultural and political institutions.
By hijacking the conversation around grooming with conspiracy theories, the right has turned child abuse into a demeaning moral crusade that obscures legitimate concerns about predators with flashy fiction. Child sexual abuse is a problem outside of Hollywood, and most abusers aren’t executive producers or directors — they’re the acquaintances, family friends, and family members of their victims. While pretending this isn’t the case may earn Owens views, it makes it harder for victims and survivors — especially queer victims and survivors — to share their story, seek justice, and heal.
The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.
Florida LGBTQ+ parents thought about moving re: Don’t Say Gay
Of those surveyed, 56% of LGBTQ+ parents have considered moving out of Florida, and 17% have taken steps to do so
LOS ANGELES – New research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and Clark University finds nearly 9 out of 10 (88%) of LGBTQ+ parents surveyed are concerned about the impact of the Don’t Say Gay bill on them and their children.
Parents cited concerns that the bill would restrict them from speaking freely about their families and could affect their children’s sense of self and sense of safety. As a result, 56% of LGBTQ+ parents have considered moving out of Florida, and 17% have taken steps to do so.
On March 28, 2022, the Florida Legislature passed HB 1557, the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also known as the Don’t Say Gay bill. The bill prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity before the fourth grade. Any instruction after that must be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”
Using data gathered from 113 LGBTQ+ parents in Florida, researchers examined the concerns and perspectives of LGBTQ+ parents regarding the state’s Don’t Say Gay bill. Almost one-quarter said they feared harassment by neighbors because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, and 21% had been less out in their neighborhood, workplace, or community.
“Legislation can have a negative impact on LGBTQ+ parent families by cultivating a climate of fear and insecurity,” said study author Abbie E. Goldberg, Professor of Psychology at Clark University. “For LGBTQ+ parents without the means to move or send their children to private schools, the stress that this legislation creates will be significant.”
- LGBTQ+ parents were concerned that Don’t Say Gay would restrict their children from speaking freely about their families (e.g., showing family photos in a school-based family tree project), negatively impact their sense of worth, and encourage a hostile school climate.
- 13% of the LGBTQ+ parents with LGBTQ+ children said that their children had expressed fears about living in Florida.
- LGBTQ+ parents who expressed the greatest concern typically had school-aged children in public versus private schools.
- LGBTQ+ parents reported that their children had already experienced harassment and bullying at school because they had LGBTQ+ parents and were prevented from being able to talk about their parents or their own LGBTQ+ identities.
- LGBTQ+ parents surveyed coped by becoming more engaged in activism, avoiding the news, getting support from friends and family, and planning for the future (e.g., moving).
- 11% of parents considered moving their children to a school that is not bound by the Don’t Say Gay law, such as a private school.
Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik’s far-right media tour
After revealing her identity on Fox Nation, the Libs of TikTok creator is no longer afraid to be a face of anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism
By Justin Horowitz | WASHINGTON – “Libs of TikTok” founder Chaya Raichik is on a fringe right-wing media tour demeaning and attacking the LGBTQ community. Raichik has been interviewed by QAnon adherents, Nazi-linked hosts, and a variety of conspiracy theorists.
Raichik’s tour began after she revealed her face on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Today in late December, where she made barbaric comments about the LGBTQ community. Raichik has since embraced her public-facing persona and no longer seems afraid to be a face of anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism. (Raichik’s identity was first reported by The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz in April.)
Here is a breakdown of Raichik’s recent interviews on far-right media:
On January 2, Raichik sat down with right-wing YouTuber and conspiracy theorist Tim Pool for an interview at his Maryland studio. Pool’s show is a safe haven for anti-LGBTQ bigots, white nationalists, and conspiracy theorists.
During the interview, Raichik attacked drag shows, baselessly claiming that “the point of drag is to queer kids. They admit that.”
“They admit they’re grooming,” Pool responded.
The terms “groomer” and “grooming” are slurs used to wrongly equate LGBTQ people with pedophiles.
From the January 2, 2023, edition of Timcast IRL, streamed on YouTube:
Raichik appeared on QAnon conspiracy theorist DeAnna Lorraine’s show on January 10. Lorraine’s program is part of white nationalist Stew Peters’ media network and is streamed on Rumble. During the episode, the duo attacked trans people and attempted to conflate the LGBTQ community with pedophiles.
When Lorraine asked Raichik about recent headlines she had shared online, Raichik described an LGBTQ organization providing free gender-affirming clothing products to trans youth as “scary” and “dangerous.”
From the January 10, 2023, edition of Shots Fired with DeAnna Lorraine:
Raichik said that she plans on doing more media hits with Gorka.
From the January 11, 2023, edition of Salem Radio’s America First with Sebastian Gorka:
Raichik’s foray into the far-right media landscape fits with her extremist past; she has repeatedly attacked children’s hospitals for working with trans youth and was reportedly present at the January 6 insurrection.
Before sitting down with Carlson, Raichik appeared anonymously for interviews with various right-wing media figures including violent white nationalist and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, Newsmax’s Eric Bolling, and Fox News’ Tammy Bruce.
This article will be updated with additional examples as they occur.
Justin Horowitz is a researcher at Media Matters, where he has worked since September 2020.
The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.
GOP nominee for House special election claims to “cure” LGBTQ
Benjamin, running in the February 21 special election for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District compared supposedly healing LGBTQ people to saving adulterers, thieves, & murderers
By Eric Hananoki | WASHINGTON – Right-wing pundit Leon Benjamin, the Republican-backed nominee for a U.S. House special election in Virginia next month, says that he runs a “ministry” devoted to getting people to “escape” from “homosexual and lesbian living.” Benjamin has falsely and dangerously claimed LGBTQ people can be “healed” by changing their identity and compared his ministering to helping adulterers, thieves, and murderers.
Benjamin is the host of the streaming program B-Alert News and a frequent guest on far-right shows. Media Matters previously reported that he has repeatedly used his media platform to push bizarre anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and false claims about elections being stolen.
Benjamin is running in the February 21 special election for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District. The seat was vacated because of the death of Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin. Benjamin unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 2020 and 2022.
On January 15, MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart challenged Benjamin over a Facebook post he wrote comparing LGBTQ people to being “sick” and addicted to drugs. Benjamin responded by claiming he has compassion for LGBTQ people.
But in numerous media appearances, Benjamin pushes conversion therapy, the torturous and discredited practice which attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people. GLAAD has written:
Anti-LGBTQ activists have falsely claimed for years that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a choice and changeable — but only for LGBTQ people. They often falsely claim that LGBTQ identities are not real, but rather an expression of mental illness or an emotional disorder that can be “cured” through psychological or religious intervention.
Programs that claim to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, known as “conversion therapy,” have been widely condemned. In 2013, notorious “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International closed its doors, issuing an apology for the harm done by its programs. Since then, 20 U.S. states have banned the practice (for minors only, in some instances). But it is important to note that despite condemnation and refutation from all major medical, psychiatric, and psychological organizations, these harmful and abusive practices continue.”
He has compared supposedly healing LGBTQ people to saving adulterers, thieves, and murderers, stating: “When I’m dealing with someone in that lifestyle, it’s just like adultery. When I see a person who’s adulterous, I got to see them as somebody that God wants to save. When I see a thief or murderer like Apostle Paul was a murderer, God saw him as an apostle.”
Benjamin’s sermonizing about supposedly transforming LGBTQ people was on display during an August 13, 2022, speech in New York for Clay Clark’s far-right ReAwaken America Tour. He devoted much of his time to telling LGBTQ people that they can be “healed” and “come out of homosexuality.”
“You’re going to get delivered. You’re going to get healed,” Benjamin said. “I don’t care if it’s homosexuality, fornication, adultery, lesbianism. God says he’s going to touch you today. You going get this out of your spirit. You’re going get it out of your life. And God’s going to renew your mind. And you’re going to be transformed.”
He later added: “The devil lied to you and I. He told you that you can change your sex, but he is a liar! … You got to come out of homosexuality! You got to come out of adultery! You got to come out of fornication! … I don’t care how long you’ve been a homosexual. I don’t care how long you’ve been a lesbian. The weight of the Holy Ghost is more powerful than any demon.”
Eric Hananoki is an investigative reporter for Media Matters for America covering right-wing media and extremism.
The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”
Honoring King’s legacy includes recognition of the important contributions by a close advisor, a Black gay man, Bayard Rustin
Editor’s note: The following piece marking today’s remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. contains archival reporting and material by former Los Angeles Blade reporter & News Editor Karen Ocamb.
LOS ANGELES – In his remarks delivered to congregants and dignitaries gathered to remember and honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at his pastoral church, the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, President Joe Biden emphasized the slain civil rights leader’s role as “a nonviolent warrior for justice.”
“Dr. Martin Luther King was born into a nation where segregation was a tragic fact of life. He had every reason to believe, as others of the generation did, that history had already been written, that the division would be America’s destiny. But he rejected that outcome. He heard Micah’s command to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly,” the president said.
“And so, often, when people hear about Dr. King, people think of his ministry and the movement, or most about the epic struggle for civil rights and voting rights. But we do well to remember that his mission was something even deeper. It was spiritual. It was moral,” Biden pointed out.
The gathering at the Ebenezer Baptist Church took place on what would have been King’s 94th birthday. Referring to King’s legacy of accomplishments advancing civil rights for not just only Black Americans but all Americans, especially those oft times disenfranchised Biden noted:
“The soul of America is embodied in the sacred proposition that we’re all created equal in the image of God. That was the sacred proposition for which — for which Dr. King gave his life. It was a sacred proposition rooted in Scripture and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. A sacred proposition he invoked on that day in 1963 when he told my generation about his dream — a dream in which we’re all entitled to be treated with — my father’s favorite word — dignity and respect. A dream in which we all deserve liberty and justice. And it is still the task of our time to make that dream a reality, because it’s not there yet.”
Towards the end of his remarks the president reflected saying: “Folks, I often think of the question that Dr. King asked us all those years ago. I think it’s important. You all remember; I think it’s important the nation remember it. He said, “Where do we go from here?” That’s a quote. “Where do we go from here?”
Looking back at King’s legacy Biden referred to, history often focuses on the extraordinary leadership of Dr. King in the early 1960s, but in honoring him and his commitments to advancing civil rights there is also a component of his work that was supported and advanced by a courageous Black gay man.
Biden in his remarks on Sunday referred to the seminal moment in the civil rights movement- the March on Washington in 1963, a massive showing of the need for equality for Black Americans. The organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, who worked alongside King, was Bayard Rustin—the openly gay economic justice and civil rights activist along with A. Philip Randolph, a Black labor unionist and civil rights activist.
Rustin and King had a lengthy partnership as activists chronicled in this excerpt by gay historian John D’Emilio’s essay “Reading the Silences in a Gay Life: The Case of Bayard Rustin:”
—“During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rustin travelled to Alabama to advise Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., counseling him on the strategies and tactics of non-violent resistance. In the wake of the eventual triumph in Montgomery, Rustin became one of King’s most trusted advisors and a highly influential strategist for the movement.
While Rustin helped to orchestrate King’s rise to power, his sexuality made King and the movement vulnerable to attack. Rustin never hid his sexuality; It was an “open secret.” In 1960, King and Rustin planned to stage a demonstration at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Adam Clayton Powell, the Congressman from Harlem, feared the demonstrations would undermine his own power. Powell called King and told him to cancel the demonstrations, threatening to “reveal” that King and Rustin were having an affair. There was no affair, but King capitulated and Rustin resigned, forced out of the movement he had helped create.
For three years, Rustin lived in a kind of exile. During that time, white opposition to the Civil Rights Movement intensified, and the South erupted in violence. Finally, in June of 1963, the leaders of the movement decided it was time to organize a massive march on Washington. Movement leaders knew that Rustin was best qualified to organize the march, but feared his sexuality would be used to discredit the movement. In order to distance Rustin from the march, they appointed A. Philip Randolph director. Randolph, in turn, appointed Rustin his deputy.
But civil rights opponents were not fooled. As plans for the march took shape, J. Edgar Hoover passed Rustin’s arrest record to Strom Thurmond, the segregationist Senator from South Carolina. The next day, the movement’s leaders’ fears were realized as Thurmond took to the Senate floor, Rustin’s arrest record in hand, and declared that the march was being organized by a “pervert.”
This time, because the attack was coming from a bigoted Southern politician, movement leaders stood by Rustin. Plans for the march continued, and in August of 1963, a quarter of a million Americans gathered in Washington, demanding that Congress put an end to officially-sanctioned racism. “The March” was the watershed event in the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and Rustin was largely responsible for its success. It was the high point of his career.”—
“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” – Bayard Rustin
“In this moment in time, acknowledging everyone’s identities is more important than ever,” Rev. Jason Carson Wilson, lead organizer of a Rustin event in Washington DC, said in a statement. “Bayard Rustin brought his Blackness, queerness and Quaker sensibilities to every table at which he sat and to every protest he attended.”
Rustin’s long-time partner, Walter Naegle, accepted Rustin’s posthumously-awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2013, the Washington Blade noted.
History often focuses on the extraordinary leadership of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the early 1960s as he led a nonviolent crusade for civil rights. Spider Martin’s famous photo of John Lewis, Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, Juanita Abernathy, Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, Frederick Reese and Hosea Williams marching through Montgomery, Alabama to the Capitol illustrates the passion behind the black voter registration drive after the Civil Rights Act of 1964—with the white supremacist danger ominously lurking in the background that March 25, 1965.
Openly gay organizer Rustin was also there, with A. Philip Randolph, John Lewis, Coretta Scott King, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Their often bloody efforts led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But by 1968, King shifted his attention to opposition to the war in Vietnam since the military draft called up mostly poor young men of color as privileged whites used college or medical deferments (like bone spurs) to dodge the draft. King also opposed the Vietnam War because it took resources away from President Johnson’s promised War on Poverty.
King was planning the Poor People’s Campaign for economic opportunity and equality when Rev. James Lawson, pastor of the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis (who later served as pastor of Holman United Methodist Church in South LA from 1974 until his retirement in 1999) invited King to participate in a city-wide boycott to support striking black sanitation workers. The strike started after two black workers were accidentally crushed to death by the trash truck’s compactor on a rainy Feb. 1, 1968.
In a separate incident on the same day, 22 black sewer workers were sent home without pay, though their white supervisors stayed on with pay. On Feb. 12, more than 1,100 black sanitation workers went on strike for job safety, better wages and benefits and union recognition.
The first march didn’t go well, with rowdy students smashing windows and looting. King left and only returned after feuding factions agreed to unity and nonviolence. On April 4, Lawson and Andrew Young, representing King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), worked out an agreement with a judge who had imposed an injunction on the march. Young conveyed news about the meeting that evening as King and his colleagues prepared to go to dinner.
King was assassinated at 6:01 pm by white supremacist sniper James Earl Ray as he stepped out on the balcony of Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
Every year, most of America remember King, emphasizing his “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington and “I have been to the mountaintop” speech the night before his assassination. But on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death, former President Barack Obama and the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis joined a My Brother’s Keeper Alliance roundtable with students from Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington, D.C. to discuss his legacy. Lewis also published a remembrance through the Obama Foundation:
— “Fifty years ago today, I was with Robert Kennedy in Indianapolis when we heard that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed.
The leader of our movement for civil rights was gone, assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis.
And I believe something died in all of us that day. Something died in America.
But I’ve also always held the belief that what he left us — the way of hope, the way of peace, the way of love, a philosophy and discipline rooted in nonviolence — cannot be taken away. These things are eternal.
On Monday, I had the privilege of meeting with President Obama and a group of young men in Washington, D.C. for a My Brother’s Keeper Alliance roundtable. Together, we commemorated the legacy of Dr. King, celebrated his life, and looked to the future.
I believe we can always do more to embody the teachings of Dr. King, not just on the anniversary of his death, but every day.
And young people are demonstrating that spirit to us. They are organizing and speaking up. They’re marching. They’re demanding more for themselves and their generation.
And so I had a message for the young folks I met with this week.
When I was growing up as a child in Alabama, I saw crosses that the Klan had put up. I saw signs that said “white” and “colored.” There were places we couldn’t go. The majority of African Americans could not participate in a democratic process in the South. We could not register to vote. And when I first came to Washington to go on the Freedom Rides in 1961, black people and white people couldn’t be seated together on a Greyhound bus leaving this city.
When I got involved in the Civil Rights Movement as a young man, we’d sit in at restaurants. People would spit on us, put their cigarettes out on us, pour hot coffee down our backs. I was arrested 45 times in the 1960s. I was beaten, left bloody and unconscious.
But I never gave up. And today, you cannot give up.
That’s what Dr. Martin Luther King can teach us today. His message is as important now as it was 50 years ago:
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Because of King and the actions of so many others, we brought those signs down. We earned the right to sit in those restaurants. We earned the right to vote.
Now, all across the South and all across America, there are elected officials who are people of color. In the recent elections in Virginia and around the country, more people of color and more women were elected to positions of power. They are African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American. Our country is a much better place — a much different place — in spite of all the setbacks and interruptions of progress.
Dr. King taught us to be brave, to be courageous, to be bold. I don’t know where America would be, where many of us of color would be, were it not for him.
His legacy was to speak up, stand up. When you see that something isn’t right or fair, you have to do something — you have to get in the way. Get into good trouble.”
Libs of TikTok’s Raichik on QAnon show attacks LGBTQ community
Libs of TikTok Twitter account with 1.7 million followers constantly demeans, attacks, and pushes disinformation about the LGBTQ community
By Justin Horowitz | WASHINGTON – “Libs of TikTok” founder and anti-LGBTQ bigot Chaya Raichik appeared Tuesday on QAnon conspiracy theorist DeAnna Lorraine’s show to attack LGBTQ people.
Raichik’s Libs of TikTok is a Twitter account with 1.7 million followers that constantly demeans, attacks, and pushes disinformation about the LGBTQ community.
Lorraine is a far-right pundit, QAnon conspiracy theorist, former Infowars host, and a failed Republican primary candidate for Congress from California. Her show, Shots Fired with DeAnna Lorraine, is part of white nationalist Stew Peters’ media network and is streamed on Rumble.
“We’ve got a very exclusive interview with Libs of TikTok — yes, Libs of TikTok,” Lorraine said while introducing Raichik on the January 10 edition of her show. “I feel really honored to be here and interview her.”
From the January 10, 2023, edition of Shots Fired with DeAnna Lorraine :
During the interview, Lorraine described LGBTQ people as “liars” and “corrupt, godless groomers.” The term “groomer” is a slur used to wrongly equate LGBTQ people with pedophilia.
When Lorraine asked Raichik about recent headlines she had shared, Raichik described an LGBTQ organization providing free gender-affirming clothing products to trans youth as “scary” and “dangerous.”
Later, Raichik unjustifiably conflated trans youth obtaining gender-affirming care with pedophilia and grooming. Gender-affirming care is lifesaving medical assistance that allows trans people to transition to their affirmed gender.
This was one of Raichik’s first interviews since appearing on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Today in late December. During her media hit with Carlson, Raichik revealed her face on camera for the first time while making barbaric comments about LGBTQ people.
Chaya Raichik went on Tucker Carlson and said the "LGBTQ community has become this cult… It's extremely poisonous." She later says "They're just evil people, and they're out to groom kids. They're recruiting."— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) December 27, 2022
This is one of the most bigoted interviews I've ever heard. pic.twitter.com/0tVe9WONOH
Justin Horowitz is a researcher at Media Matters, where he has worked since September 2020.
The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.
DeSantis appoints anti-LGBTQ+ activist to college board of trustees
Chris Rufo is known for his attacks on Critical Race Theory and spreading the “groomer” slur against gay and trans people
By John Knefel | WASHINGTON – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed right-wing activist Christopher Rufo, who rose to national prominence demonizing racial justice advocates and attacking LGBTQ communities, to the board of trustees of the New College of Florida.
The appointment is all the more noteworthy given that Rufo lives in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Rufo is a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and has spent years attempting to inject bigotry and incorrect information into mainstream discourses about gay and trans people, drag queens, and the academic discipline known as critical race theory. Rufo is also a frequent guest on Fox News, including on Tucker Carlson’s prime-time show.
“My ambition is to help the new board majority transform New College into a classical liberal arts institution,” Rufo tweeted in response to the news. “We are recapturing higher education.”
Rufo has long wanted to exert conservative control over educational policy, calling teachers “political predators” under a pretext of curriculum transparency. Now, with a new formal appointment, he’s positioned to threaten the safety and well-being of Black and LGBTQ students at New College of Florida, a public liberal arts school with a reportedly significant gay and trans population.
“A lot of the students there are trans and even more are queer,” Parkland shooting survivor and gun control activist X González recently wrote in The Cut. González added that “In the queer space of New College, changing your pronouns, name, or presentation is a nonevent.”
Rufo has repeatedly voiced his opposition to respecting trans and nonbinary people’s pronouns, further evidence that his presence could very well endanger the school’s supportive environment. If that’s DeSantis’ goal, it would be fully in line with the governor’s other anti-LGBTQ policies, and his broader strategy of harming vulnerable populations to create a spectacle to further his own political ambitions.
Rufo has repeatedly voiced his opposition to respecting trans and nonbinary people’s pronouns, further evidence that his presence could very well endanger the school’s supportive environment.”
Rufo largely owes his standing in conservative media to his successful attacks on critical race theory, or CRT. As nationwide protests erupted in the summer of 2020 following the police murder of George Floyd in a Minneapolis suburb, Rufo began writing about Black Lives Matter with the goal of discrediting the movement. That September, he appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to press then-President Donald Trump to prohibit any federal training programs geared toward racial sensitivity awareness, and he took credit when Trump followed his advice. Days later, Carlson launched his own attacks against CRT, praising Rufo in the process. Fox News completely embraced the anti-CRT panic, and by the end of 2021, had hosted Rufo at least 52 times and mentioned CRT nearly 4,000 times that year.
Rufo has admitted that he doesn’t know anything about what CRT actually is and isn’t interested in learning about it. His openly stated goal is to brand the term as “toxic,” thereby rendering attempts to redress racial oppression through education as difficult as possible. Already, professors in Florida are avoiding including CRT ideas in their curricula for fear of violating a law DeSantis signed in April 2022 that essentially prohibits teaching students about structural racism.
Early last year, Rufo redirected his focus onto LGBTQ communities, joining in the chorus of right-wing activists who adopted the slur “groomer” to refer to gay and trans people. In March, he claimed that Disney was sexualizing children, part of his campaign to support DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. Those attacks were further amplified by the anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok, which led to harassment of teachers and parents who supported gay and trans students. These bigoted attacks exploded on Facebook and other online platforms.
Then, in the summer, Rufo again appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight, this time to circulate disinformation about a children’s hospital that provides care to trans youth. Rufo’s appearance was part of a larger right-wing attack on health care providers for trans kids and adolescents, culminating in a bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital in August 2022. Rufo and other right-wing personalities attempted to sow doubt about the veracity of the threat until the FBI announced it had arrested a suspect.
In another Tucker Carlson Tonight appearance, Rufo attacked drag queen story hour events, arguing that they sexualize children and put them at risk. Those false claims were repeated elsewhere on Fox, further amplifying their reach.
Rufo’s appointment comes amid speculation that DeSantis will run for president in 2024. If he does, he will likely highlight his success in what the mainstream press often refers to as so-called culture wars but which are in fact unrelenting attacks on LGBTQ, Black, immigrant, and other marginalized communities. He has already received friendly profiles in The New York Times and The New Yorker, which both provided Rufo a national platform to spread his ideas with little pushback. Now, he’ll have every incentive to continue to harass, and marginalize those communities from his new official position, and the people who will suffer the consequences first may be the gay and trans students at New College of Florida.
LGBTQ+ people 9X more likely to be victims of violent hate crimes
The rise of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors may embolden individuals to carry out hate crimes against LGBTQ people
LOS ANGELES – About one out of 10 violent victimizations against LGBT people are hate crimes, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. LGBT people are nine times more likely than non-LGBT people to be victims of violent hate crimes. In addition, LGBT violent hate crime victims are more likely to be younger, have a relationship with their assailant, and have an assailant who is white.
Researchers analyzed hate crime data from the 2017-2019 National Crime Victimization Survey, the first nationally representative and comprehensive criminal victimization data to include information on the sexual orientation and gender identity of respondents. They defined violent hate crimes as victimizations on people’s bodies (such as assaults) that were motivated by bias and involved hate language, hate symbols, or some confirmation by police as evidence that the incident was a hate crime.
Results showed that, between 2017 and 2019, LGBT people experienced 6.6 violent hate crime victimizations per 1,000 people, compared to 0.8 victimizations per 1,000 people for non-LGBT people. LGBT victims of violent hate crimes were more likely than LGBT non-hate crime victims to report problems in their social lives, negative emotional responses, and physical symptoms of distress.
“The rise of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors may embolden individuals to carry out hate crimes against LGBT people, so it will be important to track how our findings may change after 2019,” said lead author Andrew R. Flores, Affiliated Scholar at the Williams Institute. “It is vital that law enforcement and anti-violence programs are trained and prepared to effectively serve the unique needs of LGBT victims.”
- About 9% of all violent victimizations against LGBT people are hate crimes, compared to 4% of violent victimizations against non-LGBT people.
- LGBT violent hate crime victims (85%) are more likely to report that the bias motivation was gender or sexuality, compared to 25% of non-LGBT violent hate crime victims.
- LGBT people experienced 5.4 violent hate crimes specifically motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity per 1,000 people, compared to 0.2 victimizations per 1,000 people for non-LGBT people.
- LGBT violent hate crime victims are more likely than non-LGBT victims to be below age 35 (73% vs. 38%, respectively), have a relationship with their assailant (49% vs. 11%, respectively), and have an assailant who is white (88% vs. 54%, respectively).
- The majority of LGBT violent hate crime victims are women (61%) and the majority of offenders are male (74%).
- LGBT victims of violent hate crimes are about five times more likely than LGBT victims of other types of violent crimes to feel angry, violated, and unsafe, and four times more likely to feel anxious, sad, or depressed, as a result of the victimization.
- LGBT victims of violent hate crimes are six times more likely than LGBT victims of other types of violent crimes to have high blood pressure, five times more likely to have headaches, and three times more likely to have trouble sleeping as a result of the victimization.
- Fewer than four out of ten LGBT violent hate crime victims sought professional help for their emotional (39%) or physical (35%) problems related to the victimization.
“Hate crimes have adverse physical and psychological effects on LGBT victims that are greater than the effect of similar crimes not motivated by hate,” said study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “These findings highlight the importance of developing and strengthening federal, state, and local interventions to protect LGBT people from victimization and providing support and services to mitigate the ill effects of hate crime victimization.”
GLAAD report: Drag shows targeted by right-wing every 2.5 days
A number of incidents involved violence or weapons. Extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, & white supremacists were involved
LOS ANGELES – Every 2.5 days or 38% of this year there have been attacks on drag performances and shows across the United States in data released by GLAAD this past week. Many of these attacks escalated into violence including the mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs last month.
A number of the drag events targeted by threats and protests in person were first targeted by right-wing media outlets like Fox News and the Daily Wire, and social media accounts like Libs Of TikTok.
The data showed that 2022 news reports cited incidents targeting drag events in 47 U.S. states, with the exclusion of South Dakota, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Washington, DC. GLAAD did note that it is possible that incidents did occur in those areas but they did not receive media coverage.
The states with the highest number of drag events targeted by protests and threats in 2022 were:
North Carolina (10)
While many of the incidents were reported in smaller cities and towns in the South and Midwest, a number also took place in areas with higher LGBTQ populations and LGBTQ-inclusive communities.
New York saw four protest incidents, three of which took place in New York City. Some of the more violent or threatening incidents took place in Eugene, Oregon; San Francisco suburbs, and Oklahoma’s capital, Tulsa. Events were also targeted in larger cities including New York, Philadelphia, Memphis, Dallas, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
A number of the drag events targeted by threats and protests in person were first targeted by right-wing media outlets like Fox News and the Daily Wire, and social media accounts like Libs Of TikTok.
The right-wing media outlets and accounts often misrepresented what would occur at upcoming drag events, spinning them as harmful to children, and protests or threats would follow.
A Media Matters report from June found that Fox News had devoted more hours to targeting drag queens and transgender people than to coverage of the January 6th insurrection hearings.
A Media Matters analysis in November found that disturbing misinformation about drag had ramped up on Fox News and the Daily Wire in the weeks before the Tulsa firebombing, with Tucker Carlson falsely claiming that drag queens “want to sexualize children,” and the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh calling on police to “break down the doors” of LGBTQ clubs and arrest drag queens.
Sometimes the targeting came full-circle, with right-wing media hyping up negative attention ahead of an event and continuing afterward. In June, Libs Of TikTok targeted the Couer D’Alene, Idaho ‘Pride In The Park’ (where 31 anti-LGBTQ protesters were arrested) ahead of the event, saying that a ‘family friendly drag dance party’ was being promoted by the Idaho Satanic Temple.
Afterward, the account shared a doctored video of a drag performer that spread misinformation and falsely alleged indecent exposure during the performance, which led the drag performer to file a lawsuit in September.
The Libs Of TikTok account was briefly suspended by Twitter in September after news reports connected its posts to bomb threats made against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth, but the account was reinstated.
A typical Libs of TikTok Tweet:
🚨 EXTREMELY GRAPHIC 🚨— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) December 15, 2022
A drag queen wearing fake exposed breasts does a stand-up routine at an “all ages family-friendly” drag show in Austin, TX.
He makes a series of sexual jokes, receives a “spanking” & twerks in front of children.
Cc: @GregAbbott_TX pic.twitter.com/1XUwSNkVcY
A number of incidents involved violence or weapons. Extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and local white supremacist chapters were involved in several incidents.
- In Tulsa, Oklahoma, this October, security video captured a person smashing the windows of a donut shop before lighting a Molotov cocktail and firebombing the storefront.
- A bomb threat was emailed to a local news station in South Carolina, claiming several bombs were planted at a restaurant hosting drag brunch and threatening to kill performers and attendees.
- About 50 members of the Proud Boys extremist group armed with long guns and in helmets, full face masks and flak jackets protested drag story hour at a church in Ohio.
- Neo-Nazis with swastikas and transphobic signs at a Pflugerville, TX restaurant hosting a drag brunch.
- Armed protestors, raising hands in Nazi salutes, disrupt drag bingo fundraiser in Katy, TX.
- Alleged Proud Boys disrupt multiple LGBTQ-inclusive events in Arlington, TX, blocking the sidewalk, falsely claiming attendees were “pedophiles.”
- Extremist protesters with a history of recording and photographing children without consent protest drag performances at a restaurant in Houston.
- San Antonio concert venue cancels upcoming drag shows for the year, citing threats against performers and staff.
- In Eugene, Oregon, this October, protesters carried semiautomatic rifles and threw rocks and smoke bombs.
- In the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Illinois, in September, a public library canceled a drag bingo event after receiving a threatening letter that included a bullet and the phrase “more to come.”
- In Memphis, Tennessee, in September, local leaders said Proud Boys were among the armed protesters that showed up to a drag event at the Museum of Science and Industry, forcing the event’s last-minute cancellation.
- In Sparks, Nevada, in June, children at the town library ran for safety from a Proud Boys protester carrying a gun.
- In Couer d’Alene, Idaho, in June, police arrested 31 Patriot Front members who had traveled from ten different states armed with riot gear and smoke grenades to protest a Pride event that had been targeted by Libs Of TikTok online.
GLAAD reviewed legislative proposals in six states that aim to restrict or ban drag. In most cases, extremist politicians pointed to local drag events as the motivation for new legislation that would ban public drag performances such as those that take place at Pride festivals, or ban minors from observing drag performers, including library events such as Drag Story Hour.
- In Tennessee this November, Sen. Jack Johnson filed a bill that aims to ban drag performance in public.
- In Texas, two bills were proposed in June and November. One proposal seeks to ban minors from attending drag story hours or similar events, and another would classify drag as a “sexually oriented business” on par with strip clubs.
- A federal bill introduced in October and backed by 30 House Republicans would ban drag shows at any federally-funded institution such as libraries and schools.
- Idaho news outlets reported in October that a bill banning drag in public would be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.
- In Michigan this June, lawmakers announced a plan to ban drag from schools despite no evidence of any drag events at Michigan schools.
- In Arizona, state senator Vincent Leach announced in June he and other Republican colleagues would attempt to ban minors from drag events.
- In Florida this June, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he would consider a proposal to ban minors from drag events. Later that month, he filed a complaint against a Miami restaurant that held an all-ages drag show.
Dragphobia is on the Rise
“There is clear and present danger against our community and threats… we really haven’t seen it at this level in over a decade, if ever,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said on the “Takeaway” podcast this week.
“Wanting to shield children from sexual adult entertainment, whose stated goal is to encourage queerness, is now called ‘dragphobia,'” anti-LGBTQ+ Libs of TikTok posted. “They can make up whatever terms they want and call us all kinds of names but that doesn’t change the fact that drag isn’t appropriate for kids.”
Wanting to shield children from sexual adult entertainment, whose stated goal is to encourage queerness, is now called “dragphobia”— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) December 16, 2022
They can make up whatever terms they want and call us all kinds of names but that doesn’t change the fact that drag isn’t appropriate for kids. https://t.co/C83bFtZ3Ko
In Canada there has also been a sharp uptick in protests and threats of violence targeting drag shows and performances. The most recent in Kelowna, British Columbia, in early December where a drag event at The DunnEnzies Pizza Lower Mission location was targeted with protestors telling one of the owners of the restaurant that they were a “sick bunch of pedophiles” and “parasites” and told they should hang from the gallows.
The Federalist & Heritage Foundation using anti-LGBTQ alarmism
Conservatives are using the demonization of LGBTQ people to capture education through book bans, school board meetings, & legislation
By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – FoxNews.com recently published an op-ed from the Heritage Foundation’s Jay Greene claiming children in America were being subjected to “proselytization by left-leaning teachers” intent on providing instruction on “controversial topics, such as critical race theory and gender identity.”
The answer, Greene suggested, was the expansion of policies favoring private and charter schools like Education Savings Accounts. These policies, which threaten to drain money from the public education system, are often promoted by organizations like Heritage that seek to decimate the American public school system in the name of right-wing ideology and profit.
The past year saw a resurgence in conservative attempts to use the demonization of the LGBTQ community in order to ideologically capture the issue of education.
It came through a renewed focus on school board races, bans on books and curriculum discussing race and LGBTQ identity, and the passage of legislation threatening to force LGBTQ educators from their teaching positions.
Integral to these attempts to reshape public education are anti-public education activists who seek to divert taxpayer dollars from public K-12 schools to institutions with less oversight and sometimes a far-right curriculum.
Organizations with vested interests in charter schools latch onto latest culture war panic to push for school privatization
Greene works for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank actively engaged in fighting LGBTQ rights through propaganda campaigns. Heritage content regularly pushes an anti-gay and anti-trans ideology alongside pro-charter school and anti-public school talking points. In June, when the organization sought someone to write its embarrassingly inept study attacking gender-affirming care for trans youth, it chose Greene, whose greatest claim to fame is not experience in medicine but rather a citation in a Supreme Court opinion upholding public funding for private religious schools.
Heritage’s rhetoric shares deep financial ties with groups funded by the Koch brothers, the billionaires long connected to the anti-public school movement. In 2019, the Koch brothers recommitted their resources to decimating America’s K-12 public education system under the banner of school choice, a term often co-opted by anti-public school activists as a euphemism for policies exclusively favoring private and charter schools. Heritage is one of several groups and outlets leading the fight to undermine both LGBTQ rights and public education that are also tied to people and entities invested in both the political effort to promote private and charter schools and those schools themselves.
Another such outlet is The Federalist, which throughout 2020 and 2021 published numerous articles bashing public schools over the false claim they were teaching critical race theory and calling for Republicans to push pro-charter school policies.
The alarmism driven by outlets like The Federalist was subsequently used by Hillsdale College, a far-right Christian college with a history of hostility toward LGBTQ students, to expand its network of affiliated charter schools and right-wing K-12 curriculum marketed to private and charter schools.
Hillsdale also has close ties with The Federalist — co-founder Ben Domenech has used the college to host his podcast, current Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway is a senior journalism fellow at the school, and Executive Editor Joy Pullman is a Hillsdale alumna.
Recent articles from The Federalist have taken a similar tone as last year, albeit with a new boogeyman, attacking public schools for teaching “gender ideology” (a catchall term invented by anti-LGBTQ activists to malign any open discussion of LGBTQ identity) and with false claims that school libraries contained “pornography,” while calling for states to “adopt the school choice model.” The outlet does this while also explicitly promoting Hillsdale’s charter schools, which it ironically frames as a “no-politics” alternative to public education.
Chris Rufo, a figure who has likewise played a role in concocting anger against both the LGBTQ community and public school teachers, has followed a similar path. Rufo first tested his tactic of ginning up outrage by branding outmoded fears of diversity and inclusion under labels easily digestible by his audience last year with his fearmongering over critical race theory. This year he transitioned to spreading the false claim that LGBTQ people were “grooming” children. Rufo is also an ardent critic of public education and staunch proponent of policies favoring charter schools, saying in April, during a speech he gave to Hillsdale, “To get universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust.”
Rufo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank regularly involved in pushing anti-public school rhetoric whose chairman, hedge fund manager Paul E. Singer, has contributed heavily to charter schools and pro-charter school organizations.
Right-wing media opportunistically follow the lead, tying together anti-LGBTQ alarmism and anti-public school rhetoric
Seeing a chance to target teachers’ unions, malign public schools, and demonize the LGBTQ community, right-wing media are following the lead of Heritage and outlets like The Federalist, using appeals to “school choice” alongside anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to push a pro-conservative, anti-inclusion agenda.
Media outlets have hosted content from members of the Independent Women’s Forum, an anti-LGBTQ group also backed by the Koch brothers, following this formula. An op-ed titled “School choice can save children from radical gender ideology” appeared in the Washington Examiner in August and called for “Parents desperate to protect emotionally vulnerable children from cultlike indoctrination and secretive gender transitions” to “leave the public school system.”
In October, Fox News’ Fox & Friends First hosted Nicole Solas, a senior fellow for the group, who called for parents to embrace “school choice,” saying that “the only way you’re going to avoid catastrophe with these gender cultists is to leave your school.”
Fox networks continued to amplify rhetoric jointly attacking public schools and LGBTQ inclusion. On the October 26 edition of Fox Business’ Kennedy, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery used a story on a New Jersey school district defending its protections for trans students to transition into a segment on “School Choice in America.”
The next month, during Fox News’ The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said, “Republicans have to further cement themselves as the parents’ party, right, and let the Dems be the party of government interference between mother and father and child. Let them defend activists who pushed gender ideology in preschool, let them be against school choice and in-person learning. Republicans should be the pro-family party because it’s working. When the left calls you racist, what do you call them? Groomers.”
Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.
Turning Point USA turns its attention to elementary-schoolers
Amid accusations that Democrats are indoctrinating children, TPUSA launches programming geared toward a K-12 audience
By Alyssa Tirrell | WASHINGTON – A decade ago, Charlie Kirk founded Turning Point USA, whose stated intent is playing “offense with a sense of urgency to win America’s culture war” on high school and college campuses.
Now, the organization has turned its attention to an even younger demographic, announcing the launch of Turning Point Academy, a supposedly anti-“woke” “educational movement” curriculum which aims to bring conservative values and right-wing talking points into elementary and high school classrooms.
Recent TPUSA campaigns, which feature at least one K-12 school and incentives for young people to attend the organization’s annual conference, come amid a broader political landscape in which right-wing media and political figures, including Kirk and others associated with TPUSA, have been lobbing false accusations that Democrats are forcing a “woke” agenda on children that amounts to sexual grooming.
On June 7, TPUSA put out a press release announcing that it would be opening its first “brick and mortar” school, Turning Point Academy, in collaboration with Dream City Christian Schools in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. According to the release, “Dream City Christian, a Turning Point Academy,” is the first in a “growing network of schools” that will incorporate the curriculum and structure designed by TPUSA and Kirk.
This curriculum attempts to undermine what right-wing figures have identified as threats to conservative education. Rather than arguing that this educational project is apolitical, as other right-wing figures have, Turning Point Academy is proud to announce that it is “Christian, Classical, conservative, church-based and cost-affordable.” Turning Point Academy assures parents that “CRT, postmodernism, ‘Wokeism,’ deconstructionism, queer theory, radical LGBT agendas, and anti-American ideas such as the 1619 project will have no place at our institution” and promises “to never waver from the truth and to teach self-government and liberty to students.”
Dream City Christian is an existing K-12 private school that claims the “current political and spiritual climate in the country is in turmoil” and that a “well-established biblical worldview is a must for every student.” This combined ethos of Christian education and right-wing politics makes Dream City Christian a clear fit for TPUSA’s particular blend of Christian fundamentalism and Trumpism.
“Having been in the educational world for 10 years, we have access to some of the best educational resources, teachers, academics and curriculums this country has to offer. We can bring those to bear as we relaunch Dream City Christian as the first Turning Point Academy, ensuring it is a model for others to follow as we launch additional Turning Point Academies around the country.”
The “educational resources” TPUSA offers include activism kits, original media, and access to a number of conservative speaking events. Alongside Young America’s Foundation, and its campus organization Young Americans for Freedom, TPUSA is a major conservative influence on campuses around the country.
TPUSA also hosts AmericaFest, a conservative conference that will take place from December 17 to December 20 of this year, featuring speakers including Candace Owens and Matt Walsh. This year’s conference will also include Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who was the subject of a federal probe due to allegations that he violated federal child sex trafficking laws and whose associate, Joel Greenberg, was recently convicted of charges for similar infractions resulting from the investigation.
TPUSA has special provisions in place aimed at attracting conservative minors to the event, including reduced ticket prices, hotel accommodations, and travel stipends. At the same time, the organization will host its Educators’ Summit, an event it has advertised to parents and teachers who may be curious about Turning Point Academy.
TPUSA’s appeal to the next generation comes while right-wing figures continue to accuse the Democratic Party of indoctrinating students with “woke” curricula and falsely conflate LGBTQ representation in schools with the sexual grooming of young people. In addition to rejecting LGBTQ representation and inclusive curriculum in schools, these conservative influences are often explicitly anti-trans, as in the case of conservative children’s books recently published by Matt Walsh and Steven Crowder. TPUSA, which has long been a conservative influence on college campuses and a pipeline to conservative media outlets across the country, is now highlighting the next frontier of the conservative educational ecosystem: children and minors “15 & under.”
The preceding article was previously published by Media Matter for America and is republished by permission.
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