The United States is experiencing its worst wave of homophobia in decades.
Hate to LGBTQ people has roared back into American life with the strengthening the Republican governors† senatorsand propagandists† State legislators across the country have proposed something like: 240 anti-LGBT bills† And senior Republican officials have compared law-abiding gay and trans teachers, government employees and librarians to pedophiles.
Christian nationalists and far-right extremists run on the noxious fumes of paranoid conspiracy theories with secret cliques of sex traffickers, maniacal pederasty and devious plots in schools, libraries and pizzerias. As a result, states like Florida (with its infamous “Don’t say gay” policy), have passed laws that LGBTQ history of school curricula, and forbidden books with homo- or trans-protagonists from libraries. Under the old deception of “religious freedom”, several states are also proposing to allow business owners and medical providers discriminate against LGBTQ clients and patients. The Texas Republican Party, in its official platform, makes no attempt to even hide his agenda of persecution. The Texas GOP denigrated homosexuality as an “abnormal lifestyle choice,” announcing opposition to “all efforts to validate the transgender lifestyle,” and denying Log Cabin Republicans the chance to participate in its convention.
As the unhinged QAnon conspiracy theory has become increasingly influential in mainstream Republican Party politics, some of its supporters have risen to congressional and right-wing media stardom. Mayra Floreswill soon join the Q caucus alongside Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert after winning a congressional seat in Texas.
The belief that Hollywood, the Democratic Party and major media outlets are collaborators in a widespread pedophile campaign against American children, coupled with the false notion that same-sex attraction is more likely to abuse minors, is not only enabling legislative homophobia. , but also an alarming rise in violence against LGBTQ Americans.
Patriot Front, a white supremacist organization, recently attempted assault participants in an LGBTQ pride parade in Idaho. A few days later, the proud boys (no longer satisfied with “wait ready”) disrupted a drag queen story hour in a San Francisco library, screaming homophobic slander and violent threats.
These are not isolated incidents. hate crimes against LGBTQ Americans has risen steadily since 2015. The Human Rights Campaign reports that 2021 was the worst year on record for targeted murders of LGBTQ citizens since 2013.
According to the American Library Association, the same year saw the worst attempt at book bans in two decades: Five of the ten “most challenged books” in schools and libraries contain LGBTQ content. Targeting schools has escalated in recent months as right-wing pundits and politicians dangerous smear that LGBTQ teachers are “grooming” their students for sexual rapacity.
The “grooming” charge is a resurrection of one of the oldest and, unfortunately, most effective weapons of homophobia.
In the 70s, the singer and winner of a beauty contest, Anita Bryant, joined forces with Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Religious Right to advocate the repeal of ordinances prohibiting discrimination against gay employees and job applicants in the public sector. Bryant’s campaign succeeded in Florida and Oklahoma, which banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Bryant called her hate movement “Save Our Children,” absurdly claiming that gay teachers “recruited” adolescent boys and girls for their sexual orientation.
When I exchanged emails with John D’Emilio, one of the country’s most accomplished and influential historians of gay and lesbian studies, on the terrifying resurgence of homophobia, he wrote: “There is a long history of attacking LGBTQ people, especially gay men, with the claim that they will spoil children.” D’Emilio expressed his particular concern about transgender Americans, who enjoy “less legal protection” than gay people.
While his analysis further justified anger and concern, he also expressed a pledge of hope: “In the past, organized political attacks on the LGBTQ community have led to an increase in community organizing. As one Chicago activist told a reporter who asked about the impact of Anita Bryant’s homophobic campaigns, “every kick is a boost.”
The Democratic Party should accept the boost and fight for the full protection and representation of LGBTQ Americans. The party’s most prominent officials have shown resistance to the rising right-wing homophobic hatred, but as is all too often characteristic of Democrats, they have done so with insufficient aggression.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke forcefully at a Pride event in Washington, DC, and many Democratic governors† senatorsand mayors have made similar appearances in their cities, states and districts. Public displays of support are commendable, but the anti-LGBTQ hate movement will not end next month, and neither should the Democratic backlash.
President Joe Biden should also be involved more consistently. He delivered a excellent address at a White House Pride event on June 14, and signed an executive order directing federal agencies to oppose anti-LGBTQ laws passed at the state level. The president must continue to bring the issue to the public’s attention, but Democrats must recognize that executive orders are vulnerable to overturning by future presidents.
Only legislation at the municipal, state, and federal levels can codify protections for LGBTQ Americans — and permanently revoke the gains made by right-wing homophobes over the past two years. The party boasts an array of impressive LGBTQ officials to take charge, including Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Democrats have overcome their rhetorical passivity about LGBTQ rights and most of the American public has joined them. A March 2022 Public Religion Research Institute poll shows that: more Americans support anti-discrimination measures for LGBTQ Americans — including same-sex marriage — than at any time in history.
Yet there is ominous evidence that the cultural clash between social liberalism and Puritan animosity is about to deepen, and that the rights of millions of LGBT Americans are at stake. According to an April Politico/Morning Consult poll, only 25 percent of Republican voters object to a political candidate making anti-LGBT comments. Reactionary right-wing propaganda is starting to take hold, and Democrats must prevent further regression with a muscular commitment to LGBTQ advocacy in legal, political and cultural ways.
Given the centrality of Christian nationalism in the American right and the importance of LGBTQ voters in the Democratic coalition, weakness over homophobia would amount to political and moral failure.