Capitol police try to hold back rioters outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by Alex Kent for the Tennessee Lookout)
Waiting for ‘hate’ to reach its half-life takes a long time. Or so it seems.
For the 1999 Fall issue of the media journal Spectacle, I was commissioned to write a lengthy essay on what has changed in the realm of media and the events it covers since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. The gist of my essay was that without our post-WWII national religion of fighting Communism (a good thing), We the People will be targeted as the next enemy.
That we’ll slowly move to the unearned status of ‘internal threat.” That our imagined threat to national safety will lead to repressions of all sorts, tailored to the unique demographics of various groups who are not cis-gendered, white, Conservatives. Headlines now scream out a steady flow of imagined threats to our safety by – well – the rest of us.
I write now to compare what’s currently going on in the context of what I wrote then. And from my perspective as a gay man.
At first it was funny
Noticeable about hate, science denial, or whatever rock is lodged in your mental shoe, is that fears are often conflated.
The current ‘gay scare’ started rearing its ugly head after marriage equality was finally achieved. Individuals, groups, and organized religions that cannot fathom queer people started losing sleep over us. They think about all things gay more than I do. Now their fears combine the issues of sexuality, Covid, voting rights, race, add one yourself.
Our first example is from York County where we had a conflation of anti-Covid and book banning sentiments with ‘furries.’ I can’t explain it either.
An example: The Daily Beast reports that in York County: It happened every time a school board member spoke up about changes to the Central York School District’s COVID-19 plan. “Meow!” a group of four people would taunt from the back of the room. “Cat!”
Amelia McMillan, a parent in the Pennsylvania district, recognized the four people. They’d supported Central York’s recent and now overturned ban on certain school books, many of them about race. After the mid-January meeting ended, McMillan said she saw the group corner a local father in a hallway.
“They were yelling at him about his kid being a furry,” McMillan told The Daily Beast. The group cited “an email someone sent to the board about furries. I heard him say, ‘Leave my kid out of this.’ Two administrators from the school broke up this interaction and shuffled the four aggressors out of the building, and then asked the father if he was alright. He told everyone standing there (myself included) that they were calling his child a furry and he asked them to stop.”
Now it’s scary
Some of our detractors choose violence to express their frustrations.
Queerty.com reported that in 2021, antigay Kansas state Rep. Mark Samsel was sentenced to 12 months probation after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct charges stemming from a violent homophobic meltdown he had in a middle school classroom in 2021. Samsel was working as a middle school substitute teacher who was caught on video literally screaming about same-sex parents, suicide, masturbation, God, and “making babies.” According to reports, his rant led him to chase a male student around the classroom, grabbing the child from behind, and, according to witnesses, kicking him in the groin before asking, “Did it hurt?”
The Daily Beast reported that Randy Bishop, who goes by “Trucker Randy,” made the comments on his March 31 radio show, perpetuating the racist argument that the media is controlled by Black Americans who seek to raise issues of voter suppression while somehow suppressing white Americans. According to the Detroit News, “A far-right radio host running for a Michigan state Senate seat as a Democrat complained last month how a standard family is no longer portrayed as “a white mom, a white dad, and white kids,” according to the Detroit News.
Bishop continued: “Can’t even watch a college basketball tournament without commercials telling me I have to feel guilty because I think a family should be a white mom, a white dad, and white kids,” he said. “They want us to die and go away. And they’re going to try to do it through politics this year. Well, we have got to be just as smart.” His comments on Black Americans were even starker: “Why are we allowing such a small percentage of our population to control our society? Because they own the media. Because they own the politicians. Because they own the public schools.”
NBCNews.com reported: “A California man was arrested and charged with making threats against Merriam-Webster Inc. for the company’s inclusive language around gender, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. Jeremy David Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor, California, was arrested and charged with one count of interstate communication of threats to commit violence, according to a press release.” Now that’s a war against words.
LGBTQ Nation reported: An entire family is facing attempted murder and hate crimes charges for attacking their son’s boyfriend and leaving him blind in the brutal beating. Now the motive has been revealed; they believed that he turned their son gay. Court documents show that investigators believe that Inna Makarenko, 44, Yevhen Makarenko, 43, Vladyslav Makarenko, 25, and Oleh Makarenko, 21, attacked the gay victim – whose identity is not being released – because he was dating Oleh Makarenko. The family found out about the relationship between Oleh and the victim in July 2021, the victim told police, and “his father was treating him poorly and not accepting him, and his mother was forcing him to marry a woman.”
In other words, hate metastasizes when allow to flourish. And it has. Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law amounts to permission giving for all forms of hatred, even deadly violence.
Queerty reported in contrast to Florida’s law: “Uju Anya, Ph.D., is a professor of second language acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Modern Languages. In just 45 words, she exposed the hypocrisy of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and other legislation of its ilk.”
Her 45 Tweet words are “Heterosexual is a sexual orientation. If a child knows a “mommy and daddy,” “husband and wife,” or “boyfriend and girlfriend,” they know something about sexual orientation. The topic of sexual orientation is in your kid’s face everywhere every day, not just when we discuss gays.”
The level of violence against the transgender community is at an all-time high, according to the Human Rights Campaign. For 2022, five transgender deaths by violence in the U.S. have been reported. In 2020 that number was 44. In 2021, there were at least 50 trans deaths by violence.
Worldwide, Forbes reported: “375 transgender people were killed this year (2021), a figure that has risen since last year’s total of 350, based on a report by Transgender Day of Remembrance. One in four of those murdered were killed in their own home.
Enter convicted felon and televangelist Jim Bakker who claims – in contrast to the data about transgender deaths – that Christian pastors are being murdered while ranting about Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law.
LGBTQ Nation reported: “They call it ‘don’t say gay’ — it’s not even true, it’s not even in the law,” Bakker said. That’s technically correct: the bill bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity before fourth grade and requires such discussions be “developmentally appropriate” in older grades. The problem is that the vague bill doesn’t define what that means exactly, and the bill’s supporters have defended it by calling LGBTQ people who come out to children “groomers.” Moreover, instead of leaving the definitions of its terms to a government agency, the law allows parents to sue school districts if they believe the law has been violated, which opponents of the law say will lead to teachers being punished for allowing the kids of same-sex couples to talk about their families in class.
Compass Q reported: A Michigan Republican sent an unhinged text message to supporters to raise funds for his campaign that claimed that their children had been signed up for “gender reassignment surgery.”
Hate is metastasizing.
There are roughly 280 proposals in statehouses across the country aimed at some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community, including Pennsylvania. https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/house-passes-bill-banning-transgender-women-from-competing-womens-sports-teams/ The number of proposals nationwide in 2020 was 79 and 147 in 2021.
Will anti-gay legislation unleash more violence against queers? It seems fair to say there will be more violence ahead. Especially since we’re all floating dangerously in the soup of hate – unless you’re in the demographic of cis-gendered, white, and Conservative. And the heat is being turned up with mid-term elections this year and in anticipation of the 2024 presidential campaign season.
Correspondent Frank Pizzoli, the former editor and publisher of the Central Voice, writes about the issues that impact Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ+ community. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
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