Right-Wing Rhetoric Harms LGBTQ+ Community

On Saturday, Nov. 19, five people were murdered and 13 injured in a shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ nightclub. Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, has been identified as the shooter by officials and is currently facing charges. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first shooting or hate crime of its kind against the LGBTQ+ community. Six years ago, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history occurred at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, where 49 people were killed and 53 left injured. There are no words to express the horrendous and heinous nature of these acts and the reasons behind them.

In light of these events, I want to turn to a trend we have seen over the years. Throughout history and even more so in recent years, many conservatives have convinced people that they should be worried about the LGBTQ+ community and Democrats grooming children to become LGBTQ+. This narrative, propagated through social media, right-wing news channels, and far-right extremists, includes accusations of pedophilia and sex trafficking as well. This rhetoric has become mainstream among conservatives encouraging hatred of the LGBTQ+ community. 

In April, for instance, U.S. Representative from Georgia Marjorie Taylor Greene said that “Democrats are the party of killing babies, grooming and transitioning children, and pro-pedophile politics.” Most of us have heard about the nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” bill, signed into law by Florida governor Ron DeSantis, that forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade. In response to the nickname given by Democrats, Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ then-press secretary, said, “The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill.” A report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Human Rights Campaign named “Digital Hate: Social Media’s Role In Amplifying Dangerous Lies About LGBTQ+ People” showed that within a month of the bill being passed, there was a 406 percent increase in the use of words such as “groomers” or “pedophile” in relation to the LGBTQ+ community on Twitter.

Far-right conspiracy theories have further led to protests against the LGBTQ+ community. In December 2021, Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviewed Abigail Shrier, the author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. In the interview, they discussed the California Teachers Association’s encouragement of young students’ exploration of sexual identity. Carlson said, “Yeah, they’re grooming seven-year-olds and talking to seven-year-olds about their sex lives. Where are the dads, by the way?” On June 13 in California, while the San Lorenzo Library was hosting Drag Queen Story Hour, a group of five men from the far-right extremist group Proud Boys interrupted the event and yelled homophobic and transphobic insults. This Republican and far-right theory that Democrats and the LGBTQ+ community are groomers is not new and has consistently been used as a harmful political tactic. 

For example, in 1977, after a gay rights ordinance was passed in Miami, singer Anita Bryant created an organization called “Save Our Children” that focused on the claim that LGBTQ+ people were a threat to children. An extremely powerful fear-inducing rhetoric was thus created for social conservatives. This is just one example of its origins. Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit that researches public opinion on LGBTQ+ rights, said, “What the far right often does is they engage people’s reptilian brains, the fight-or-flight instinct … And so it behooves far-right conservatives to put people in a state of fear, because then they’re reactive. They don’t support change.” This fearmongering by conservatives is a deliberate tactic that weaponizes a deeply harmful and alarming narrative. 

Guised as real concern, elevated anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is leading to hatred and violence toward the LGBTQ+ community. In response to the recent Colorado shooting, Democratic Colorado state representative Brianna Titone tweeted, “The LGBTQ+ community woke up this morning to yet another horrific event of murder. When politicians and pundits keep perpetuating tropes, insults, and misinformation about the trans and [LGBTQ+] community, this is a result.” We shouldn’t be fearful of human beings having every right to be who they are. We should fear rhetoric that encourages us to dehumanize people for who they are. We can only hope that voices like Titone’s will help awaken all of us to responses elicited by bigoted political rhetoric.