All young people attending school have had their worlds fundamentally altered during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some students are back in the in-person classroom—and even some without face masks—plenty of students are still in virtual or hybrid classrooms. Some people are homeschooled or learning on the road with their families. Some young people are navigating how to safely participate in sports and extracurriculars while being immunocompromised or living with folks who are, as well as those whose family members have high-risk jobs in terms of exposure. Some people still can’t be vaccinated even if they want to be.
And that’s just in terms of the pandemic. LGBTQ+ youth have extra worries, thanks to Republicans when it comes to being safely “out” in the classroom. Trans youth, in particular, are facing a relentless onslaught of hateful propaganda that’s already affecting their ability to use the restroom, play sports, accessing safe, age-appropriate gender-affirming health care, and the chance to discuss their identity with adults, like teachers and coaches.
Now, again thanks to conservative hysteria, LGBTQ+ youth are losing access to yet another affirming program. This time, it’s about children’s books.
As covered by The Daily Beast, State Farm (yes, the insurance company) bailed on its support for GenderCool, a philanthropic program designed to get LGBTQ+ children’s books to teachers and libraries. The program tries to get LGBTQ+ children’s books into the hands of librarians, teachers, and community centers in order to increase representation and build inclusivity and empowerment in children five and up.
Sadly, a whistleblower report from inside State Farm about the program made massive waves with conservatives, including the infamous Libs of TikTok account.
Conservatives, of course, decided to take an inclusive book program as an opportunity to spew false terror over young people being groomed or targeted into being LGBTQ+.
According to the outlet, Victor Terry, who serves as the insurance company’s chief diversity officer, wrote an email to staff explaining the decision to step away from the program and it is… not good.
“State Farm’s support of a philanthropic program, GenderCool, has been the subject of news and customer inquiries,” the email reads in part. “This program that included books about gender identity was intended to promote inclusivity.” Terry went on to say the company will “no longer support” the program and that “conversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents.”
Truly: Why? Why are we relying on parents exclusively to talk about gender and identity? There is no good for it that does not rest on the assumption that LGBTQ+ identities are inherently inappropriate or sexual. Whether kids are LGBTQ+ themselves, allies, or questioning, they have every right to safely access related material that’s appropriate for their age level and without shame, anxiety, or having those resources stolen from them.
“Grooming” hysteria has long been used by the Republican party when it comes to LGBTQ+ people; at some points, it was aimed at gay and lesbian adults, with the aim to keep openly queer adults from, for example, working with children or even maintaining custody or visitation with their own kids. Now it’s mostly aimed at trans folks (see: bathroom bills) but as is the case in Florida, the Don’t Say Gay legislation effectively keeps all LGBTQ+ folks in the closet. After all, openly queer teachers are already being forced to resign, and the law hasn’t even gone into effect yet.
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