“The only thing that sells better than sex is fear” – Jestin Coler
For the past 30+ years, Republicans have been laser-focused on finding a misunderstood or marginalized group, convincing voters that members of that group pose a threat to society, then riding to victory promises of using power to force their will on said group. A regular target for the religious right has been, and continues to be, the gay community
As gay Americans have demanded equal rights, anti-gay sentiments have fallen out of favor with the mainstream. “Conservatives”, having fought against gay rights for decades feel their control of the issue faded. With the gay community becoming widely accepted, issues targeting the community no longer turn out voters like they used to, but that won’t stop Conservatives from trying.
“Don’t Say Gay”
Republican-led legislatures in multiple states have taken an interest in anti-gay gag orders. Most notably the “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed in Florida outlaws “classroom instruction” about “sexual orientation or gender identity”. Hiding (intentionally) behind ambiguous terms, the bill creates a chilling effect on educators teaching on subjects/current events that involve the gay community
The Indiana House, including Denny Zent, voted on a bill during the most recent session to prevent discussions of Critical Race Theory (“CRT”). This anti-CRT bill failed, but in the process has primed the public into supporting sweeping censorship of classroom curriculum.
The bill, framed as a “parents’ rights” measure, is meant to stifle discussion and send a message of intolerance. While seemingly unrelated, this legislation WILL rear its head again, and it WILL be used to target discussions on sexuality.
Again and again, Republicans have targeted groups they believe too small, or powerless, to spark a backlash. Having failed at preventing marriage equality, they have chosen a new fight they might actually win…against trans children.
Republicans in Arkansas passed a bill banning gender-affirmed care for trans youth, Alabama passed a similar bill. Republicans in North Caroline have proposed legislation that would force state employees to immediately report children displaying “gender nonconformity” to parents. A Texas bill would label gender-affirming care a form of child abuse and separate trans children from their parents.
Legislation aimed at preventing trans youth from participating in sports was passed by the Indiana House and Senate during this year’s session but was vetoed by Governor Holcomb. A widely symbolic vote, as the number of trans athletes in Indiana hardly merits even a minute of time from our state’s legislators and shows their desire to do anything other than actually govern. The bill is far from dead however, as Denny Zent and his colleagues in Indianapolis are poised to overturn the Governor’s veto.
Anti-gay activists have pushed their agenda by masking their homophobia as a concern for children for decades. They have used this argument against gay marriage. They have used this argument against gay adoption. They have/will use this argument to stifle the mere mention of the word “gay”. They will use this argument to remove books by gay authors, or that contain gay themes from schools and libraries, etc.
Having spent much of the past 15 years living in either South Florida or Southern California, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, working with, and building friendships with many in the gay community. I’ve had discussions at length regarding how it feels to be closeted, what it takes to come out, the fear (often guilt or self-hatred among those that come from Conservative/religious backgrounds) of being different.
I don’t need to be homeless to understand the challenges of being homeless. I don’t need to be a Veteran to care about Veteran’s issues. I don’t need to be a woman to care about issues facing women and I don’t need to be gay to have empathy and understanding of the struggles facing the gay community.
Indiana is at a crossroads. We can either live in denial of the existence of the gay community (as in Russia or Iran), or we can embrace our differences and learn to accept and protect the rights of those living in the shadows.
The gay community has an ally in me. Gay rights are human rights. Love is love. Your lives and loves are important to me. I see you, appreciate you, respect you, and will continue to be on your side.