He also signaled his intentions to run for president in 2024.
Donald Trump’s four years in office are a nightmare we wish we could forget, but the former president isn’t going away soon. The anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in the U.S. has since risen to a fever pitch, and Trump is doubling down. He went so far as to call LGBTQ+ folks and our allies “sickos,” to the apparent glee of his supporters.
In a bizarre and deranged speech at the America First Policy, Donald Trump equated the push for LGBTQ-inclusive education to the “sexualization of children.”
He is Talking About You
If you’re a supportive parent to an LGBTQ+ child. Perhaps you’re an LGBTQ+ teacher or an LGBTQ+ ally in the education system. Maybe you’re a healthcare worker determined to provide life-saving health care to trans youth. Even if you’re just an LGBTQ+ person that sometimes exists in the same space as children, Trump is talking about you.
“Federal, State, and local government should aggressively enforce existing statutes to stop the perverted sexualization of minor children,” said Trump. “You have the statutes.” For some time now, the U.S. has seen a sharp rise in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. From the Don’t Say Gay bill and its many lookalikes, to the 94+ anti-trans bills targeting trans kids’ access to sports and gender-affirming healthcare.
“The society that refuses to protect its children is a society that soon will not be able to protect anybody,” said Trump. “This is a hallmark of cultural and social decay against which we should fight back very hard and very soon, we don’t have time to wait years to do this.”
Calling LGBTQ+ People Sickos
Trump attacked LGBTQ-friendly teachers and healthcare providers directly, calling them “sickos.” While doing so, he made it abundantly clear that he has no idea what he was talking about. “The sickos who are pushing sexual content on kindergartens or providing puberty blockers to young children who have no idea what a puberty blocker is,” Trump said. “Neither do I, by the way,” he continued. “Neither do most of the people in the audience.”
You would think that openly admitting to being ignorant of what he’s talking about would delegitimize his take. Not to the swaths of Trump-supporting fans. Despite this, he felt fully qualified to suggest that these healthcare workers are “breaking the law” and “should be held fully accountable.”
It is important to mention that LGBTQ+ teachers and LGBTQ-friendly educators are by no means “pushing sexual content on kindergartens.” This is an anti-LGBTQ+ dog whistle that aims to misrepresent the truth in an attempt to demonize inclusive education.
Transphobia and Disinformation
It didn’t stop there. Trump then turned his sights on trans athletes, like Lia Thomas. “By the way, we should not allow men to play in women’s sports. So crazy,” said Trump. He then went on, in typical Trump fashion, to tell a bizarre story from the perspective of a nameless athlete. He deadnamed Lia, body-shamed her, and shared easily debunkable disinformation about her.
Trump claimed she won “female athlete of the year,” which she did not. Thomas was nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year but did not get the title. He claimed she broke a record with her recent win. She did not. He then went on to talk about a trans weightlifter named “Alice” who he also claimed broke the women’s world record in clean & jerk. It’s not clear who he is referring to, but the women’s world record holder in clean & jerk was set by Li Wenwen, a cis woman, in 2021.
The audience, by the way, was eating out of the palm of his hand. Trump fed them every morsel of fabricated queerphobia he had available to him, and he was met with cheers and praise.
The “Groomer” Discourse
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve likely noticed this talking point creep into far-right discourse recently. To be clear, this narrative is just a new iteration of a decades-old talking point. The words “groomer” and “sicko” harken back to the Lavender scare and “Boys Beware” era in the 1950s. They’re the same tactics Anita Bryant employed in the 1970s. The medium has changed, but the rule book is the same.
Equate LGBTQ+ Folks with Perversion
The first step is all about sexualizing LGBTQ+ lives. There are many ways you can go about this. You can suggest that being LGBTQ+ is “totally fine,” but not appropriate around children. Or you could suggest that our very existence is a perversion. How you frame it depends on the audience you’re speaking to, and how sympathetic they are to LGBTQ+ folks. It helps at this stage to cherry-pick examples that support your narrative while ignoring the many ways that cisgender, heterosexual folks sexualize children.
For this stage to make sense, it’s important to imply that there is no such thing as LGBTQ+ children. You must make it clear that either LGBTQ+ folks are “recruited,” or some trauma must happen to cause LGBTQ+ identities to form. A fun new tactic is to call it attention seeking since it makes straight people look humble, which is a bonus.
Somebody Think of the Children
It’s shocking that a tactic as cliché as this still feels legitimate to a significant segment of the population. The idea is simple. If anyone questions your motives, tell them it is for the sake of the children. If they probe for data, do what you have to. Lie, deflect, or call them groomers.
If they provide data, ignore it. Some people may point to the National School Climate Survey. They may say that just 8.2% of students said they received LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. Perhaps they will tell you that 25.7% of LGBTQ+ students were physically harassed at school. They could say that 59.1% of LGBTQ+ students reported personally experiencing any LGBTQ-related discriminatory policies or practices at school. They may use this data to question the validity of motives.
In response, we recommend making up an anecdotal scenario about something you saw online, revert to ‘whataboutisms,’ or say something about “woke” cancel culture.
Smoke Them Out
We target parents and the schools first. Find any place LGBTQ+ folks and children occupy the same space (remember, in our narrative LGBTQ+ children don’t exist) and vilify the adults in that space. That means supportive parents, LGBTQ+ teachers, and healthcare professionals trying to provide gender-affirming healthcare.
In response, they may cite research from the Family Acceptance Project. They may try to tell you that parent and family rejection is strongly associated with mental health problems, substance use, and sexual risk. They may say that LGBTQ+ young adults with high levels of family support are nearly half as likely to report suicide attempts. Don’t panic — you know what to do. Lie, deflect, and change the subject. Don’t stop until they lose their cool on camera. Clip that out of context online, and you’ve won by default.
And there you have it. In three easy steps, you have demonized an entire community, without so much as breaking a sweat. All there is to do now is sit back, watch the votes roll in, and pray that your child doesn’t grow up to resent you.
Who The Real Sickos Are…
The above attacks I laid out are mindless. Our relationships, how we express our gender, our families, the media we create, and our health needs are no more or less sexual than those of cisgender heterosexual folks. They are no more or less political either.
LGBTQ+ folks, including children, are indeed being politicized and sexualized, but not by us. It’s by sickos like Donald Trump.
Watch the speech below, but be warned, it is horrifying.