Resolute Square

The Right Is Playing A Dangerous Game With Our Children

Trans children are the preferred target of the far right and Christo fascists today, but the othering of vulnerable groups in society – those with the least social, political, and financial power – is nothing new in America or around the globe, writes Lisa Senecal.
Published:June 15, 2023

By Lisa Senecal
Children should be protected. It is as basic and primal as any instinct. It’s an immutable law of nature. So how in our upside-down and inside-out world of America in 2023 have we managed to make protecting children controversial? It’s simple: Politics and power.
The “newspeak” of George Orwell’s novel, "1984," is having a moment in the language the Right is using to disguise the dangerous games that they are playing with our children’s lives and safety. “Parental rights in education” means one parental complaint about a book can get it banned from public schools in Florida. This feels like some odd expansion of the imaginary powers of mental declassification claimed by Florida’s resident ex-president. You see, in Florida, to request that children be protected from a book by having it removed from public school libraries, you don’t even need to read it. Some Floridians can just feel the danger by looking at the cover or learning that it’s written by a black, Jewish, or LGBTQ author.
These efforts on the Right to “protect children” and “parental rights” aren’t limited to Florida or to book bans. Across the country, the Right is working hard to “protect children” from learning about subjects like gender discrimination, racism, antisemitism, and sexual harassment and violence. In many cases, this “protection” extends through the 12th grade. Take a moment and ask yourself how many middle and high school students aren’t aware of and cannot benefit from open, age-appropriate conversations on these topics. I challenge you to find a girl or a Black or Jewish child over the age of 12 who is not aware these things exist – most will have direct experience.
So why are so many on the Right jumping on the book and conversation-banning bandwagon? Because it’s good politics, and never let it be said that politicians with authoritarian ambitions let something like the safety or education of children get in the way of a good boogeyman narrative. This brings us to the Right’s main target – the greatest threat to the well-being of American children today – the very existence of LGBTQ people. And who among them poses the greatest danger? Well, trans kids, of course.
The choice by adults on the Right to target trans children is well-reasoned in a Machiavellian sort of way. Why trans kids? Because most people don’t know a trans child or a family with a trans child, so these children and their families are painfully easy to “other” as strange, aberrant, and, yes, dangerous. It is also easy for those targeting trans children and their families to portray these kids as being manipulated by the adults in their lives and outside influences. This simplifies the challenge of vilifying both trans kids as bad influences and transforming the adults who love and support them into dangerous groomers and manipulators. Even the medical professionals who provide their care are demonized (seriously, they get called demons) as mad scientists and monsters with medical licenses looking for opportunities to cut parts off unsuspecting children. Note: surgery on children for gender transitioning – it’s not happening. It is a lie told to scare people and justify both the “protection” and vilification.
Trans children are the preferred target of the far right and Christo fascists today, but the othering of vulnerable groups in society – those with the least social, political, and financial power – is nothing new in America or around the globe.
When being gay was less accepted, and more people believed they didn’t know anyone who was gay, it was easier for the Right to other gay people. The same vicious, dangerous, and disgusting tropes were marched out against gay people as the Trans community now faces; they were frequently vilified as predators – primarily predators of children. Fortunately, we have evolved enough as a society that the othering of gay folks has become far more difficult because most of us now understand that we have gay friends, relatives, community members, coworkers, etc. We are far from leaving the hate and prejudice against the gay community behind, and there are those who constantly try to fan the flames, but we have made progress.
Most Americans no longer fear that openly gay people in general society will lead to the end of modern, “moral” civilization. But that had been a destructively effective deterrent for people living as their true selves for centuries. As more and more gay people lived their lives openly, the argument that it would lead to moral collapse became increasingly difficult to sustain. So, the focus shifted to gays in the military; They were going to make America unsafe, destroy unit cohesion, and make same-sex living situations impossible. And that didn’t happen. And then came the fearmongering over gay marriage – if we legalized it, the straights would stop getting married, and the ones already married would have their marriages fall apart. After all, one leading argument reasoned, if the gays were allowed to marry, how would the straights know that the institution of marriage had any value?
This way of thinking makes perfect sense if you live in a world where you measure the value of a right or privilege that you have by those who aren’t allowed that same access. This is the weapon that the Right is wielding. Their focus is not on who should be included in a free, open, democratic society but on whom society should exclude - or even deny exist. Othering, diminishing, vilifying, and excluding our fellow citizens has never been about keeping society or our children safe; these tactics have always been about keeping power safely in the hands of those who have always had it and intend to keep it – at any cost, including the lives and wellbeing of our children. Do not allow hate another inch. Stand up, speak out, and show up and, as has been the case many times before, progress and love will win.