Anti-LGBTQ bills giving media much to cover
by Joe Siegel
A wave of legislation targeting the LGBTQ community has included attacks on gender-affirming care, drag shows, trans rights, and the removal of content regarding gender identity and sexual orientation from public schools. It has provided LGBTQ media outlets with plenty of stories to cover.
“For several years now there has been a war against the LGBT community in many forms. Among them are the murder and violence against our trans community, ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation, book bannings, and preventing trans people from accessing healthcare, just to name a few. And they all have one thing at their root: they are attempting to erase our visibility and put us back in the closet,” wrote Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News.
“Now the war against LGBT people involves restricting our view in public,” Segal continued. “This fight against drag performers, and specifically drag queen story hour, is a pivotal point in this fight. The reason is obvious. Since our campaign for equality has been so successful with ‘normalizing’ lesbian and gay men, the conservative right needs a new group to attack. So they attack those with less visibility, especially trans people and, yes, drag queens.”
Last month, the Washington Blade reported on a vote by House Republicans to pass the anti-LGBTQ Parents Bill of Rights Act.
“U.S. House Republicans … passed the Parents Bill of Rights Act, a proposal that would require public schools to share educational materials with parents and also contains provisions that would trigger the outing of LGBTQ students without their consent,” the Blade’s Christopher Kane reported. “Critics say the legislation’s professed purpose, to equip parents with the information necessary for them to better engage with their children’s educators, is a pretext for its ultimate goals: For schools to censor out content addressing race, or materials containing LGBTQ characters or themes, while also discouraging LGBTQ students from being out at school.”
The Congressional Equality Caucus noted the likelihood of that outcome in a statement denouncing the bill, which the group’s chair, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), called “dangerous” — pointing to its requirement for “schools to forcibly out transgender students, even if it puts those youth in harm’s way,” Kane noted.
Since the beginning of this year, at least 32 bills have been filed more than 15 states targeting drag performances, with more likely to come.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate, is looking to ban classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, expanding the controversial law critics call “Don’t Say Gay.” The proposal, which would not require legislative approval, was scheduled for a vote before the state Board of Education and has been put forward by the state Education Department, both of which are led by appointees of the governor.
The rule change would ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades 4 to 12, unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take.
“We’re seeing this across all Republican-controlled states where it’s clear they’re feeding off each other and trying to outdo each other,” said Jason Parsley, publisher of the South Florida Gay News.
“It’s sad and unfortunate,” Parsley said. “Donald Trump upended the Republican Party with his populist-fueled positions and rhetoric. The GOP is now in the middle of an identity crisis so they’re looking for anything that unites them, and so they’ve latched onto these culture wars. Since DeSantis can’t solve real issues facing Floridians, like skyrocketing property insurance rates, he’s instead deflected and focused his attention on Disney and drag queens.”
“Our enemies are emboldened now that they have an activist right-wing Supreme Court to do their bidding,” said Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade. “It will take a sustained effort over many years to counteract the backlash we’re seeing now. I fear it will only get worse as we get into the 2024 presidential race, and I hope President Biden will start speaking out more strongly in defense of LGBTQ Americans, and especially the youngest and most vulnerable among us.”
“There is an absolute flood of legislative attacks coming at us right now from every side,” added Tammye Nash, managing editor of Dallas Voice. “There is just no way that we can keep up with each and every one. So we try to focus primarily on what’s happening in Texas as far as our reporting goes, and then to share via our blog reporting from other sources on what’s happening elsewhere.”
Nash said the Voice’s senior staff writer David Taffet traveled to Austin with a busload of LGBTQ activists to join advocates from other areas of the state for HIV Advocacy Day. James Russell, who specializes in covering the Texas Legislature, wrote an update on the latest news regarding anti-LGBTQ bills being considered.
“Of course, we have seen more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in this legislative session, so just keeping up with what’s going on in our own state is near-overwhelming,” Nash noted.
The 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage resulted in a call to action among conservatives, Nash believes. “I believe that backlash helped propel Donald Trump into the White House in 2016. And we all know that Trump’s biggest legacy was to make it okay to be an openly hateful, phobic bigot. Now the right-wing politicians are building on that and using our community as the scapegoat target to rile up the extremists in their base and keep themselves in power.”