The Reach: June 1-7, 2023

Pride Month Begins With DHS Warning 

Earlier in May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a warning that, as Pride Month approaches, hate crimes are on the rise — as are threats from domestic extremists — leaving DHS concerned that an attack targeting the LGBTQ+ community may take place in the coming months.

“These [threats] include actions linked to drag-themed events, gender-affirming care, and LGBTQIA+ curricula in schools,” the warning reads.  

This comes amidst a wave of hate legislation sweeping the nation, with the ACLU currently tracking 491 homophobic bills in state legislatures.

In Virginia, 12 bills were narrowly defeated, thanks to a single-vote advantage the Democrats currently hold in the Virginia Senate.  

This November, the entire Virginia House and Senate are up for election.  There is currently a primary underway.  

No Pride For You 

Unlike Virginia, most hate bills were passed by other states.  This includes new laws banning minors from being in the presence of somebody dressed in drag, or in some scenarios any mention of the existence of queer people, let alone their preferred pronouns.  

In response, many Pride organizations are being forced to choose between breaking the law, excluding components of the community, being adults-only (most Pride festivals are family-friendly), or canceling altogether.   

Tampa canceled their river parade.  St. Cloud canceled their entire Pride Festival, saying “we have recently become aware of a number of factors that make it unsafe to hold this event at this time,” before referencing the “climate of fear and hostility” in Florida putting the community at risk.

Target Partially Pulls Pride Merchandise 

Target pulled their line of Pride merchandise from stores in response to escalating aggression between customers and employees.  In a statement, Target said:

“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.  Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.” 

  Many LGBTQ+ individuals and supporters were outraged with Target, and many still are, however this decision was made in response to very real threats, acts of violence, and vandalism that left the company with understandable concern for the safety of their customers and employees.  Target was a leader in introducing pride-themed merchandise, however, and still supports the community with a massive presence at festivals and parades, volunteers, employee resource groups, and financial contributions.  Don’t boycott Target.  Fight the hate. 

Terminology Intentionally Conflated

This writer has struggled through the 73 pages comprising the bills passed in Florida and, as a queer person with an extensive resume of LGBTQ+ leadership, can see homophobia woven throughout the fabric of every page.  

In particular, the bills repeatedly (incessantly, in some cases) use the inaccurate/disinformation term “sex-reassignment prescriptions” when referring to puberty blockers.

Puberty blockers have been used since the 80s.  They have regularly been used for precocious puberty (when puberty begins prior to age 8-9) for 40 years — including in toddlers.  Treatment involves an annual implant or an injection every one, three, or six months.  

Once the child is physically and mentally equipped to handle puberty, treatment stops.  Once treatment stops, puberty starts.  The treatment is reversible and safe.  

Though previously believed to cause some decrease in bone mineral density as adults, recent findings show low bone mineral density before beginning treatment, particularly in trans girls, suggesting decreased exercise to be the true culprit (likely in an attempt to avoid developing a masculine build).  Regardless, even with a decrease, they are safe and effective, and risks are well-known after decades of use. 

Puberty blockers are also the true target of the bills focused on “sex reassignment,” but because the science of these blockers doesn’t back the disinformation being spread, the language in the bills obfuscates what we’re even discussing.

Can We Agree On Some Basics?

There is no acceptable level for hate in our administration of justice or opportunity in our society, nor in our political discourse. 

Puberty blockers can only block puberty if they are taken before and during puberty, and puberty happens before adulthood, so anybody debating their use in minors is doing so in bad faith.

Parents make the final call when it comes to healthcare for their children, and nobody is questioning that.  These bills are overriding parental decisions, not protecting or establishing parental rights.

When bills are proposed for hateful purposes, targeting a group of people for harm, there is nothing good to salvage from the bill.  The hate is in the minutiae of the sentence structure; it’s in the definitions; there are little gaslights across all 73 pages of the bills passed into law in  Florida.  

You cannot wash the hate out of bad-faith bills, and trying is itself giving quarter to hate.  Trash them.

If a candidate doesn’t believe fully in LGBTQ+ equality, seems unable to bring themselves to speak about it, and/or has a history of causing direct harm to the LGBTQ+ community… don’t ask your queer friends for absolution if you’re prioritizing down their humanity.

Certainly don’t try to justify whatever calculation you’re making.

We’re used to being disappointed, so we’ll probably move on, but you can’t undo compromising our safety for, as an example, a big campaign contribution — so just realize that, yes, we do indeed care and notice… like we always have.

Oh Look, They Learned A New Word

The word “indoctrinate” is being overused and misused as a new favorite word by hateful voices on the right.  Indoctrinate, largely, means ‘to teach’ — though usually it implies teaching values, principles, or other foundational knowledge.  

Parents don’t “indoctrinate” their kids; they raise them.  Teachers don’t “indoctrinate” kids; they teach them.  The next time somebody invokes that word, please ask them to explain exactly what indoctrination they’re referring to, and please let this writer know if they are able to coherently respond, or if it’s just a weird vocabulary flex.

Why do I Keep Bringing This Up?

First of all — to be clear — this writer, along with all other queer people, didn’t bring this up.  We’ve never wanted to regularly hear speculation about our private lives, nor have we ever requested our validity or agency as individuals to be challenged in the public square.  

This writer keeps bringing this up because, well, I’ve been witnessing an alarming backslide in the public dialogue lately.  I’ve heard excuses for objective and explicit homophobia, and I’ve encountered transphobic disinformation coming from friends who consider themselves allies — fully unaware that they’ve been spun around by manipulative charlatans posing as ‘concerned protectors of the innocent.’

This writer has also heard multiple reports of violence and vandalism targeting members and leaders within the local LGBTQ+ community, which have been noticeably escalating as Pride Month approaches.

The conflation of issues and terms appears to be quite effective in creating confusion and questions in many (unaffected) heterosexuals surrounding the minutiae of being transgender — including folks who consider themselves progressive.

As a result?  This writer is afraid.  

I’m afraid that the truth isn’t getting ahead of the lies quickly enough.  

I’m afraid straight people are taking the bait.

I’m afraid that parents protecting their trans kids’ privacy means their stories aren’t told, while the charlatans pass disinformation into law.  

I’m afraid that another generation of queer kids will grow up as traumatized by grade school as this writer was… or worse.  

In particular, I’m afraid because many politicians we trusted as allies are now encountering homophobia for the first time as elected leaders, and they appear to be failing the stress test with ironically flying colors.

Leadership involves, believe it or not, leading; if a politician cannot seem to lead on an important issue, vote them out.

The Final Word

Most LGBTQ+ people aren’t historians, scientists, politicians or surgeons — your average queer neighbor is not an expert on all things gender and sexuality.  We aren’t equipped to discuss another individual’s personal, private life.  Neither are you.

Please don’t expect to be educated with authority on, for example, puberty blockers for trans girls by your gay hairdresser.  

It’s none of their business, either.