By Mary Sanchez
No one’s going back into the closet.
If you sliced the American population into segments, most people under 30 aren’t buying what conservative politicians are shoveling.
They are not interested in retreating to the era when people were made to feel so ashamed of their sexual orientation that they faked straight marriages, lied to family and clergy about who they loved, and desperately tried to shove the most natural aspects of being human — sexuality and gender identity — aside.
The political jousting of late, especially the uproar over Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, won’t change this fact.
Younger generations are too open-minded, too accepting and too educated on these issues to allow even the most vocal and politically savvy among us undercut what they believe.
Fox News, of all outlets, just showed us another reason to have faith in the wisdom of younger generations to push the nation past this anti-transgender, homophobic nonsense.
Recent reporting found that LGBTQ employees at the company used their leverage to speak out against the twisted, opportunistic news coverage by some of the network’s top talent, including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.
This began in March, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law the “Parental Rights in Education” bill.
The law makes it illegal for any state school employee or invited guests to give “classroom instruction” on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” in grades kindergarten to third grade.
The law is vague, likely by design. Educators fear they might be held accountable. What if someone complains about a teacher who acknowledges that a student is being raised by two loving and devoted men, or women?
Hence, the “Don’t Say Gay,” moniker, which is a stretch. The law does not criminalize the word gay.
But what about gay or lesbian teachers? Are they to pretend that they’re heterosexual, without ever mentioning their same-gender partner?
Disney, pushed by its own employees, eventually spoke out as a corporation against the law. Disney is one of Florida’s largest employers.
After that, it was hellfire and brimstone against any of Disney’s beloved characters. Pontifications began about “doom and groom,” and talk of “the oligarchs of the mouse company” and “chemical castration” became a part of Fox News coverage.
Spoofs like “the Woke World of Disney” also took hold.
As first reported by a media gossip group and later by The Daily Beast, an internal group of Fox LGBTQ employees and their allies sent the following statement to management:
“Fox Pride denounces statements made regarding sexual orientation and gender identity on FOX News in the past week. While the internal support and resources Fox Corp. offers to LGBTQ+ employees are amazing and supportive, the public facing messaging and rhetoric is the opposite. We find it disheartening and a step backward in the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community,” the group wrote.
A step backward, indeed. The group also firmly stated why such legislation, followed by ethically and factually challenged news coverage, is so dangerous.
“FOX News is one of the most watched cable networks in the nation and we must be mindful that the impact these words have on the LGBTQ+ community — especially youth. LGBTQ+ youth have the highest rate of suicide and words matter. Hateful words and generalizations about sexual orientation and gender identity have a direct impact on people’s lives.”
When DeSantis signed the law, he noted, “We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.”
The statement leans into the falsehood that children can be turned gay. Florida legislators and news hosts have also talked about “grooming” children and used language that disingenuously links pedophilia with homosexuality.
Heavy sigh there. It’s tragic that such diatribes still have resonance.
Homophobia, a lack of understanding about gender dysphoria, will not be erased anytime soon. Similar destructive laws will likely be passed in other states.
There was also heated news coverage of a series of videos that showed Disney executives discussing the need for more diversity in lead characters for their films. One executive said that she’d like to see 50 percent of future roles be for LGBTQ-identified or racial and ethnic minorities.
But as the video was discussed by many politicians, the statement was shortened, nixing the fact that the 50% goal also included people of color.
Even more basic math will eventually play out. Republicans have gay family members too.
On their behalf, there will be pushback, often from the children of conservatives. Around dinner tables across America and around virtual water coolers, people educate others on these issues.
Increasingly, it’s teenagers who lead protests against school boards attempting to eliminate LGBTQ-themed books from libraries. Their stances differ from those of even a decade ago. More youth are involved. And there’s often a deep sense of being allies to LGBTQ students.
You can’t erase such a commitment to fairness and human dignity with flagrantly vague legislation.
This isn’t a call for older people to step aside and let younger generations take this on solo. Too often, that occurs, as if what older generations have soiled in society, the younger ones should fix.
Rather, there should be more efforts to lift them up. Businesses should give them a platform, like the one used by the Fox employees.
But eventually, support for laws like “Don’t Say Gay” will run dry. This kind of legislation has a shelf life. And the date is coming due.