There’s a lot going on right now. Inflation, caused in part by record corporate profits, is straining our ability to make ends meet. Courts are dismantling parts of the government that protect consumers from predators. We’re at the precipice of a tariff-caused recession that everyone can see coming but nobody has figured out how to mitigate. Florida retirees who can’t rebuild without insurance are joining the trickle of climate refugees that will only grow in the coming years. Rivers are running dry. People yearn to return to a pre-COVID “normal” that is never coming back. We need wise, visionary leaders at the top of their game to see us through, but what do we get instead? A nationwide “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Yes, really.
Introduced by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) with 32 Republican co-sponsors (naturally), H.R. 9197, the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act,” is an attempt to enshrine right-wing paranoia into law. The bill would prohibit the use of federal funds “to develop, implement, facilitate, or fund any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10, including hosting or promoting any program, event, or literature involving sexually-oriented material, or any program, event, or literature that exposes children under the age of 10 to nude adults, individuals who are stripping, or lewd or lascivious dancing” while defining “sexually oriented material” as “any depiction, description, or simulation of sexual activity, any lewd or lascivious depiction or description of human genitals, or any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects.”
These Republicans also took the time to define “stripping” in the bill, in case anyone might be confused about it being “any act which involves the removal or simulated removal of clothing in a sexual manner for the entertainment of one or more individuals.” One wonders how much off-site research went into that definition, and if any of it included visiting elementary schools.
Johnson describes the bill as being “commonsense,” and that would be true if we had a real problem with confused, horny people walking into daycares instead of night clubs. Which isn’t to say that some Republicans don’t get arrested for (allegedly, of course) masturbating to porn in clear view of a child care center, like one GOP candidate in Maricopa County, AZ, did recently, but wouldn’t the common sense approach to cleaning up that spoogy mess be to look within, perhaps pulling that fat, throbbing beam out of their own party’s eye before attacking anyone else’s mote?
If passed, the national “don’t say gay” bill would be a supercharged Frankenstein of a law. It combines the paranoid quality of Florida’s “don’t say gay” legislation with a Texas-abortion style bounty, plus the possible defunding of public schools (long a theocratic goal) if a teacher so much as mentions gender identity, sexual orientation, or any similar subject. While people like Marco Rubio obsess about “drag queen story hours” being some kind of taxpayer-funded kinder-orgy (and why would he want to imagine that?), it’s more likely that well-meaning straight people begin the indoctrination early by asking a five year old boy how many girlfriends he has, calling a teacher “Mr.” or “Mrs.” So-and-So, or telling the parent of a three-year-old girl that they better lock her up, lest all the boys start chasing her.
Imagine having to remember your pronouns long enough to call everybody “they,” in order to avoid gendering or sexualizing them!
In the end, while a national “don’t say gay” law would create a world of trouble for our friends and kin in the LGBT and educational communities by pushing them in the closet and policing their speech, it would be folly to think the effort behind the bill would stop there. Just like abortion was supposed to be “returned to the states” and then came the national abortion ban initiative, it’s so often a slippery slope, isn’t it? First it’s commonsense “won’t somebody think of the children” (and not in that way) legislation, which seems aimed at connecting the gay community with child abusers and “grooming” activity in the (over-active) public imagination. Once that dirty connection has been fully swallowed, it opens the door for other freedom-erasing efforts by those who claim to love freedom. Perhaps they’re the ones who ought to avoid getting turned on by drag queen story hour, or mentally sexualizing the children who attend. Do they need help?
Related: Witch Hunts, Yesterday and Today