Truth Wins Out:

When groups are demonized, individuals are victimized

Fighting Hate in the Sunshine State

One of the more incongruous aspects of LGBTQ activism is finding a handful of right-wing activists that you sorta like. Counterintuitively, people from differing political viewpoints can still have compatible personalities, similar interests and likeminded senses of humor. Similarly, there are times that you don’t share a strong human connection with people on your political team.

Sometimes, you look at your more pleasant foes and think, “if you weren’t trying to destroy my life and snatch away my rights, we could be friends.”

What’s fascinating is how these generally nice people can like you on an individual level, but still find a way to justify attacking everything you cherish and hold dear. They do so by compartmentalizing their hurtful actions and convincing themselves that the pain they cause is for the greater good.  

The most common way they rationalize what they are inflicting is by looking you in the eyes and saying, “This isn’t personal.”

How is stripping away legal rights from my family not as personal as it gets? How is passing laws that could potentially put me in prison not an attack? How is stirring up resentment that could lead to violence against people I love not affecting my life?

Sorry, but the political is intimately personal and actions have consequences. When hate happens in Congress or state capitols, it indubitably seeps like raw sewage into society’s darkest recesses. When groups are demonized, individuals are victimized.  

Exhibit A is Florida, a state that recently passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which seeks to muzzle teachers so they can’t help LGBTQ youth in crisis. The administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis portrayed those opposed to his bigoted new law as “groomers”.

This vile smear has deep roots in Florida. During the Red Scare of the 1950’s and 1960’s, a Florida Legislative Investigation Committee was created to root out communists, subversives and homosexuals. This witch hunt was chaired by former state senator and governor Charley Eugene Johns and was known as the Johns Committee. A foul offspring of McCarthyism, it ruined numerous lives and wrecked many careers, particularly at state colleges, such as The University of Florida. When I attended UF in 1992, merely mentioning this era still sent chills up the spines of the old timers.

In 1959, the Johns Committee reported to the Legislature that “homosexual professors were recruiting students into ‘homosexual practices’ and they in turn were becoming teachers in Florida’s public-school system and recruiting even younger students.”

In the 1970’s, former orange juice spokesperson Anita Bryant picked up and bandied this brutal club to stop laws that aimed to protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination.

“Homosexuals cannot reproduce – so they must recruit. And to freshen their ranks, they must recruit the youth of America. I shall continue to fight against that recruitment,” Bryant spewed.

Gov. DeSantis’ revival of this antiquated, yet still destructive, act will bring untold consequences in contemporary times. People will be targeted, and families will fracture. When groups are singled out, causing ignorant people to freak out – it’s predictable that some will soon strike out at the intended scapegoats.

Like clockwork, a gay male couple and their young children were confronted this week by a homophobic bully on an Amtrak train. The right-wing thug hurled the pedophile canard to justify his ugly abuse. The Daily Dot wrote of the harrowing encounter:

In this alleged instance, no one was physically injured, and the perpetrator was said to be arrested when he refused to leave the train. Maybe the next gay person or family won’t be so lucky. Still, even without physical violence, the mental scars inflicted were no doubt seared into this family’s memory. Will they be able to travel again or go for a walk in the park without fearing another scary situation?

“A man was suddenly standing next to me, shouting across me at my 6yo son, ‘Remember what I told you. They stole you. They’re pedophiles,’” Robbie Pierce, one of the father’s wrote on Twitter. Pierce said that he stood up and told the man to get away from his family.

“‘Family!? That’s not a family!’” he said the man replied, “‘You’re rapists.’”

Pierce said his son and 5-year-old daughter began “openly crying, petrified,” but the man was indifferent to their fear and anguish. (The Daily Dot has not independently verified his story.)

“He yelled right at them, unmoved: ‘These guys aren’t natural. Homosexuals are an abomination. They steal and rape kids.’”

What’s interesting is the shallowness and hypocrisy of angry right-wing conservatives. They claim to care about children, but in this case, a child was made to weep in terror. I know they profess to worship family, but on this train, an adherent to their “values” insulted parents and diminished them in front of their own son and daughter.

This behavior reminds me of the family loving conservatives of previous generations that would publicly humiliate unmarried mothers as “whores” and shun their “bastard” children. What kind of sick morality maligns people and ridicules them in the public square? It seems that such behavior is sadistic in the guise of moralistic.           

Tragically, there will likely soon be more hate-inspired violence. Republicans are “grooming” their base for gay and trans bashing, with lawmakers filing a record 238 anti-LGBTQ bills in 2022, according to NBC News.

But, hey, if it makes you and your targeted family feel any better, at least “it’s not “personal”.  

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