Help, the "protect the kids" argument is back. What are we supposed to do with this?

A conservative horror scenario makes its return to the public debate: the child as the victim of LGBT+ emancipation. Children are said to be “recruited” by the LGBT+ community thanks to education in schools. Drag queen performances are under fire, because they are "grooming children". Supporting transgender children in their transition is “child abuse”. Slowly, this American rhetoric is also clawing its way into Western Europe, undermining the visibility of our community.
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[editorial comment]

The current social climate is hardening, with negative consequences for LGBT+ people. The visibility of the community is increasingly being questioned. The narrative that the conservative right is developing goes beyond the widely accepted homophobic statement “does it all have to be so in your face?”. In their resistance to LGBT+ emancipation, conservatives have singled out the ultimate victim: children.

That reasoning, perfected in the United States, goes as follows: the progressive elite (feel free to use the word 'woke') tries to indoctrinate children through education about sexual orientation and gender identity and make them doubt themselves. Through all kinds of legislation and social pressure, children should be denied access to anything LGBT+ related.

It is an often used tactic in media framing: there is a victim (children), who is threatened by a villain (the progressive elite). In this fairy tale, the right-wing conservatives are the hero. Like a knight, they fight the progressive LGBT+ dragon. And it is difficult to argue against that, because who is not for protecting “our children”? And so this trick is repeated continuously. Drag queens would make children doubt their own identity, so drag queens have to be 18+. Children are supposedly being  forced to question their gender and so they are not allowed to transition until they are adults. A children's book about gay parents? Children must also be protected against this, because “they are not yet thinking about such things”.

In this way, politicians and opinion makers can assert that they are not gay or transphobic: they are not against LGBT+ people, but in favour of protecting children, another classic framing trick. See also the abortion debate: you are pro-life, not anti-abortion.

While it may sound reasonable, “letting kids be kids” also indirectly attacks the achievements of the LGBT+ community. Do not forget that, for example, information in the classroom is something that has been fought for a long time, in order to create a safe climate for LGBT+ students. And it's not without reason that the focus is aimed at drag queens. They are one of the most visible symbols of LGBT+ emancipation. The fact that some laws in the US already equate them with strippers and gogo dancers restricts the community's freedom of expression.


Anita Bryant

The assumption that children should be seen as victims of LGBT+ emancipation is nothing new. In the late 1970s, the gay community was already dismissed as a threat to children. Former Miss Oklahoma and singer Anita Bryant started a campaign called "Save Our Children" in 1977. In her campaign, she suggested that homosexuals intend to "recruit" children since they cannot have children of their own. Her rhetoric sparked so much anger within the gay community that an activist threw a pie in her face during a press conference.

An unfortunate comeback

Bryant's rhetoric is now making a comeback in the debate. This reasoning was used last year in the US state of Florida for the infamous Don't Say Gay law. The law states that a school "may not encourage class discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity (...) in a way that is not appropriate for the age or development of students." In the US today, the word "grooming" is often used, which implicitly links homosexuals to paedophilia.

That rhetoric has now crossed the ocean. Recently, a drag queen reading afternoon  for children in Belgium was disrupted by extreme right-wing youths with signs such as “gender ideology is paedophilia”. The word "grooming" was used by them, taken directly from the American discourse. In the Netherlands, a far-right party is calling for a ban on Pride events and drag queen performances for minors. In the French city of Toulouse, a drag queen reading afternoon had to be made 18+ after pressure from right-wing organisations. In Spain, a congresswoman spoke of the "alarming increase in cases of homosexuality and transsexualism" which she says are the result of "government indoctrination".


What should we do with this?

And so the American debate trickles down into Western European societies. That this rhetoric undermines the foundation of LGBT+ emancipation should be taken seriously. The culture in our community may have been formed behind taped windows and anonymous entrance doors, the fact that we have made a place for ourselves in society is something that is our right. Describing the LGBT+ community as something that children shouldn't have to deal with is a disguised version of: go back to your hidden pubs. The conservative right also knows that this would be a step too far for today's society, making the "protect the children" argument a nice facade to hide their anti-LGBT+  rhetoric behind.

And yet such rhetoric can do harm to the community. The stigma that LGBT+ people want to indoctrinate children can provoke hostility. Making LGBT+ activities 18+ drastically affects our visibility.

Should we, as a medium, report on these kinds of noises? Are we not giving oxygen to this rhetoric? It is important to continue to draw attention to these developments as they pose a threat to our community. We must be aware of it and not ignore such noises. At the same time, it is also important to offer a counterpoint. Therefore, articles containing this kind of reasoning will include an extra paragraph about the context and underlying sentiments. OUTtv tries to approach all news about the LGBT+ community as independently as possible, but as an LGBT+ medium we draw a line at rhetoric that undermines our social position.

We must cherish and defend the visibility of our community, including for children. Visibility is not “imposing”, is not “indoctrination” and certainly not “child grooming”. Visibility is our right.

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