This week, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill into law, banning any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity in state classrooms. The law’s language is so sweeping that it effectively criminalizes teachers using books about different kinds of families, or even administrators talking about their same sex spouses.
To distract from that very obvious bigotry, conservatives have revived one of the oldest and most dangerous lies about the LGBTQ community: that they are predators targeting children. At the signing event for the legislation, Gov. DeSantis claimed those opposed to the law “support sexualizing kids in kindergarten.”
Earlier this month, the governor’s press secretary used similar language, tweeting that anyone who was against Florida’s law—which she called “anti-grooming”—was “probably a groomer.” Fox News host Laura Ingraham has also used the word ‘grooming’ when discussing the law—saying “it’s disgusting, it’s despicable”—as have countless other pundits and conservative groups trying to quash speech in American classrooms.
The idea that it’s sexualizing or predatory to talk with children about the mere existence of LGBTQ isn’t just a lie, it’s dangerous. Already, parents of trans children are being reported to state child abuse authorities, and those in the LGBTQ community and their supporters are being labeled pedophiles and predators by angry online hordes.
A BlazeTV host, for example, singled out Pete Buttigieg’s husband earlier this month, calling him “a groomer” after a video was posted of Chasten speaking to kids at a LGBTQ camp. And just this week, Disney executive Karey Burke was pummeled online and in the media simply for talking about her queer children; Burke was accused of “sexualizing” children and grooming while others called for her kids to be removed from her home.
But who is actually sexualizing children? People who don’t want LGBTQ kids to feel ostracized? Teachers who want to have inclusive curricula? Or is it those who have zero ability to think about gender identity and sexual orientation without being total fucking creeps about it?
Consider conservative Andrew Giuliani, son of former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is running to be the state governor. While making anti-trans remarks at a Long Island rally this week, the political hopeful started talking about his infant daughter’s genitals: “I have changed the diapers, I have looked under the hood. She’s a woman.”
“I’m gonna be the last guy in a long time that looks under the hood right there,” he continued. Giuliani also told the crowd that he promised his four-month-old, “I’m the only boyfriend till you’re 25 years-old.”
In what universe is talking about being your baby daughter’s boyfriend and “looking under the hood” less sexualizing than a school library carrying a book about a kid with two moms?
The truth is that the conservative obsession with traditional gender roles has always sexualized young people: Whether it’s purity balls where young girls are expected to pledge their virginity to their fathers, abstinence-only education classes that teach children that boys have uncontrollable sexual urges, or even the bizarre insistence that cancer-preventing vaccines will make girls promiscuous.
After all, these are the people who elected a president that talked (frequently!) about being attracted to his daughter; they’re the same politicians and voters who supported Roy Moore for Alabama Senate, a predator who had a habit of hanging out the local mall when he was in his 30s to pursue 14 year-olds.
Who is more dangerous and ‘predatory’? A teacher who mentions the existence of gay people or a Congressman who Venmos teenagers for sex? What’s more damaging to kids? Learning in a classroom where they’re free to be themselves, or living in a state where leaders are okay with children marrying adults?
If conservatives actually want to stop the sexualization of children, that’s terrific. But they don’t need to target inclusive classrooms or supportive parents—they just need to clean house.
Maybe when you don't value education, reading, free thinking, creativity, etc., then there's nothing left to do but drink and sexualize everything.