Editorials, Opinion

Insidious nature of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

As Ash Orr mentions in their guest essay, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced across the nation — most of which target transgender people. We’ve noticed, however, the anti-trans rhetoric is the tip of the spear — the foot in the door, so to speak. 

Polling data between 2019 and 2022 shows the highest rate of acceptance for same-sex relationships and marriages and gay/lesbian employment rights Gallup has ever recorded.  

But the acceptance for gay and lesbian people hasn’t quite extended to transgender individuals. And it’s the lack of understanding and fear around transgender people that anti-LGBTQ+ organizations and politicians use to galvanize support for legislation that targets all LGBTQ+ people.  

It starts with fearmongering around transgender girls (always framed as “biological males”) in girls’ sports, even though there are only a handful of transgender athletes in the country. They frame it in terms of fairness, and when they have enough public support, they pass a bill banning it. 

Now that people are wondering about transgender children, they move onto gender-affirming health care. The transphobic rhetoric crafts a false narrative of genital mutilation performed on children — which it never is.  But now that the public is in a frame of mind that equates “transgender” with child abuse, politicians pass bills banning everything from the surgeries no child was receiving to the puberty blockers some teenagers took to the ability to request to be called by preferred names and pronouns. 

Now that the public has an image of “transgender” as dangerous, anti-LGBTQ+ advocates move onto drag, since it looks like it could be related to being transgender, with biological men dressed as women. So they start referring to it as obscene and inappropriate for kids — because it’s always about “the children,” even though it’s never about the children. So they work on limiting and banning drag. 

And if drag is bad, and drag is mostly done by gay men, then gay men must be bad. They start referring to gay (and lesbian) adults as pedophiles and groomers indoctrinating kids with books and movies and rainbow flags and accessories. To “protect” the children, anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers start forbidding the mention of anything related to the LGBTQ+ community and make it easy to remove any literature about LGBTQ+ people.  

Now that just enough people perceive not just transgender, but nonbinary, lesbian, gay and other queer individuals as a potential danger to kids, anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers can push through laws to undo the hard-fought gains for gay and lesbian people, like job and housing discrimination protections and local equality ordinances. 

And that’s how anti-LGBTQ+ organizations and politicians use trepidation around transgender people to attack the entire LGBTQ+ community, despite record high public support for gay and lesbian people.  

But we must remember LGBTQ+ individuals are people just like anyone else, and we must protect their rights as stridently as we protect our own.