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Don't Say Gay (Also Black, Poor, Horny, Bi, Brown Or Lesbians Buying A House) 

 

SAY WHAT? - Intent on making America bigoted again, GOP-controlled states - because who else would do it - have cavalierly added LGBTQ+ identity to racism as a "divisive" subject in order to support their feverish efforts to push queer or other "other" kids back in the fearful closet with deliberately vague, singularly cruel bills essentially banning any discussion or material that supports, addresses, depicts or even friggin' recognizes the existence of, you know. Because the right's censorship crusade was never gonna stop with Critical Race Theory, their new focus on sexuality in addition to race is a logical extension of an unprecedented "national assault on our education system, censoring both what teachers can say and what students may learn," argues PEN, which has already documented a steep rise in educational gag orders and book bans, often accompanied by uncommonly harsh punishments. Now, they say, "bills silencing speech about LGBTQ+ identities have also surged to the fore," rising on the tide of an anti-Critical-Race-Theory and "indoctrination" hysteria that has "primed the public to support sweeping censorship of classroom speech." The sorry result: a "once-in a generation opportunity" for anti-LGBTQ+ activists to "lock LGBTQ+ topics on the wrong side of the schoolhouse gate."

Terrifyingly, the ACLU estimates there are up to 100 anti-LGBTQ bills making their way through state legislatures. Among them: a bill in Tennessee prohibiting public school instructional materials that "promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans issues"; a South Carolina bill that says teachers can't “subject” students to “controversial and age-inappropriate topics like gender identity or lifestyles”; an Oklahoma bill considering 10 gag orders, with the five most extreme banning books "that make as their primary subject the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual identity, or gender identity"; and a  Kansas bill that, after blasting "racially essentialist doctrines" (CRT, which, one more time, isn't taught) changes the state's obscenity law to make it a class B misdemeanor for teachers to use any material "depicting homosexuality." Not sexually explicit homosexuality. Just...any homosexuality, like what almost 20 million Americans practice. The "scholastic bugaboo," writes Tim Miller, simply obscures a brazen move to erase what are large, queer swaths of society: "They don't want it to be something that is considered just a normal part of American life as it currently is. They don’t want to see it or hear about it, just as they don’t want to see or hear about structural racism in America."

As usual, Florida takes the repressive, Anita-Bryant-Lives-Again cake with two bills being fast-tracked through the state legislature with Gov. Ron DeathSantis to help them and the "fig-leaf " of parental rights to camouflage them. HB 1557, the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, dubbed the Don’t Say Gay bill, is poisonously brief and vague: A school district may not "encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity" in primary grades, period, or in higher grades, "in a manner that is not age-appropriate." If word surfaces they are, a bounty system replicating Texas' abortion ban would allow any wingnut, ignorant or homophobic parent to sue them. Same for a Stop WOKE Act that bans talk of racism, injustice or any other issue that makes kids feel "discomfort," or any "critical decision" affecting their mental or physical health, without first notifying parents. So vegetarian food, reading Beloved, a family tree featuring two moms - sue 'em, and keep teachers fearful wondering if you plan to. Biden has denounced Florida's bills as "hateful," Equality Florida - Free to Say Gay - is fighting back against "DeSantis' Censorship and Surveillance State Agenda" with some terrific ads, and already marginalized kids "tired of being treated like aliens" are protesting - "Honk If You're Queer" - the brazen efforts to censor who they are and what they want.

As usual, they're often fighting the shadowy forces of right-wing money behind the scenes, just barely. One Million Moms - 999,999 shy except for Monica Cole - is an astroturf project of the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, obsessed with "standing up for Biblical truth" to protect kids from America's "filth," often queer. They blasted the "extremely vulgar" Super Bowl show's "nearly naked backup dancers shaking their scantily clad rear ends and numerous other body parts...all while children watched." Now they're decrying a real estate ad from Zillow - "Zillow promotes sin!" - that "pushes the LGBTQ agenda" and "brainwashes" children to think "homosexuality is natural, (not) the unnatural love forbidden by Scriptures - Romans 1:26-27: "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections" - which, oddly, they quote for every campaign. The heinous, brief ad shows two black women sitting on a couch; across one of their laps lies a sweet, sleepy dog whose goofy closeups are definitely the best, if most diversionary, part of the ad. Shockingly, the women are house-shopping: One looks at a photo on her phone, shows it to the other, bookmarks it as, One Mom breathlessly reports, the women are "playfully and lovingly stroking, caressing, and tickling each other’s hands.” OMG. The staggering cognitive dissonance here, the "heartless hypocrisy": The ad's title is "The Feeling of Finding Your Place." Just like, take empathetic note, all these tender, questing, besieged, coming-into-their-own kids want to do.

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(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])