Gay and trans people deserve to live without persecution in the US. Why is that so hard? | Margaret Sullivan

Pride Month is here, and this year it’s happening in a tough environment.

American corporations – although eager to declare their support for LGBTQ+ people in order to better market their products – are often quick to retreat when protests follow.

Far worse is the onslaught of discriminatory legislation, and accompanying hateful rhetoric, in a growing number of states. These new laws and regulations are particularly aimed at transgender individuals, who are continually portrayed – including too often in the media — as some sort of dreaded societal problem about which something must be done.

And, of course, this is all part of a broad and determined effort to go after these communities as part of what some glibly term “the culture wars,” but which often amounts to the politics of cruelty.

There’s an ugly strategy here.

“Here’s what we should do,” instructed the right-wing pundit Matt Walsh recently. “Pick a victim, gang up on it, and make an example of it. We can’t boycott every woke company or even most of them. But we can pick one, it hardly matters which, and target it with a ruthless boycott campaign. Claim one scalp and then move on to the next.”

You heard him: “It hardly matters which.” It’s not so much, in other words, that Anheuser-Busch should get pounded for the supposed sin against decency of working with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney through a Bud Light sponsorship, or that Target stocks a modicum of merchandise that recognizes the gay and trans communities as human beings.

Rather, this crusade is a way to persecute an already vulnerable population. Doubt it? Simply recall Michael Knowles’s infamous pronouncement just months ago at CPAC in which the Daily Wire writer opined that “transgenderism must be eradicated entirely from public life.”

In recent days, one right-wing pundit – apparently following the Walsh playbook – began revving up his followers on social media because (ready for this hideous misdeed?) Chick-Fil-A had hired a vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“Let’s see how PROUD these brands are after 30 STRAIGHT days of consistent business losses,” Joey Mannarino tweeted, listing 10 companies, and dubiously positing that “this is not homophobia.” Rather, he insisted, “we like natural men and women and don’t want to be forced into your world of liberal depravity.”

The mainstream news media, far too often, plays along – running wide-eyed stories that fail to identify what’s really happening here.

And even when discussing the trend, they don’t include diverse voices, noted Ari Drennen of left-leaning media-watchdog nonprofit Media Matters. One recent MSNBC panel discussing the Target boycott was composed, she observed, “of four white cis-gender men.”

“Audiences don’t get to see trans people as experts, even as human,” she told me; only rarely do trans writers get a platform in major publications.

Meanwhile, the right-wing media “villifies trans people, reducing us to caricatures, and allowing the propaganda to take root,” Drennen said. More than mean-spirited, that is downright dangerous.

A few media people get it.

NBC News reporter Ben Collins pointed out last month that news consumers who take these attacks and boycotts at face value need to wise up.

“You are falling for a far-right harassment campaign that is being laundered by the mainstream media,” said Collins, who covers “the dystopia beat,” focusing on the spread of disinformation in the hell holes of social media.

All of this paves the way for a much more damaging trend – laws and regulations that seek to punish LGBTQ+ people for trying to live their lives in peace, play sports, use bathrooms consistent with their gender identities, and get appropriate medical care, including as adults.

“Trans people have a right to exist and participate in society. This shouldn’t be controversial,” noted Parker Malloy, who writes The Present Age newsletter on Substack.

As Pride Month continues – with its rainbow-hued displays of fair-weather corporate friendship set against a background of politically driven cruelty – that’s a point worth heeding.

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