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Local View: Violence targeting LGBTQ reflects self-hatred, self-loathing

From the column: "Banning conversation about sexuality and gender identity erases LGBTQ+ identity, history and culture; more than that, it erases the students themselves. In effect, these young people are canceled. They are seen as disposable."

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Joe Heller
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Men with big guns afraid of people being themselves in a world where it’s not OK to be oneself unless you’re like me. In cases of violence against people identifying themselves as queer, I wonder if something deep and dark might be going on inside the perpetrator, a jealousy turned vicious against those brave enough, bold enough, vulnerable enough to openly and freely express their society-forbidden identities, a jealousy betraying inner struggles long denied.

Violence against queer people is, then, an expression of self-hatred, self-loathing, and profound cowardice. Men kill what they hate, because they see in those they hate something of themselves.

Anti-queer rhetoric seems to be on the rise, fueled by high-profile politicians who revel in spewing misinformation and blatant hatred, desperate to appeal to our worst instincts.

Colorado State Rep. Brianna Titone, a transgender woman, in the wake of the Club Q massacre, said, “When politicians and pundits keep perpetuating tropes, insults, and misinformation about the trans and LGBTQ community, this is a result.”

Such misinformation is demonstrated by Colorado U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who, even after the massacre, defended her open criticism of “men dressing up as caricatures of women.”

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Alarmingly, 344 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in legislatures and statehouses across the country this past year, and 25 have been signed into law.

In March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law “Parental Rights in Education,” a bill dubbed, “Don’t Say Gay,” banning public school teachers in his state from holding classroom instruction about gender identity or sexual orientation. The bill reads, in part, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

What are the “state standards?” Are they educationally and psychologically sound? We know children as young as preschool begin to realize sexuality and gender identity. Is the fear rooted in the misguided notion that talking about sexuality and gender identity can “groom” (Rep. Boebert’s term) children and turn them gay?

LGBTQ+ youth across the country face higher health and suicide risks than their cisgender or straight peers, and it has been demonstrated that the number of suicide attempts decreases when young people experience spaces and conversations that express and affirm gender identity.

I know a sweet first-grader who occasionally likes to wear a dress. What if he were to go to school in Florida? He would be reviled and marginalized. His teacher would not be allowed to turn such a scenario into a “teachable moment,” a safe space for conversation.

Banning conversation about sexuality and gender identity erases LGBTQ+ identity, history and culture; more than that, it erases the students themselves. In effect, these young people are canceled. They are seen as disposable, dispensable, and therefore easy targets for pathetic people.

My life has been immeasurably enriched through my many relationships with queer friends who have opened for me new and exciting ways to view life and the world, with multicolored rainbows of beauty, self-awareness, pride, and deeply textured and loving community. I am grateful to them and stand in solidarity with them.

We have all been diminished by the tragic and senseless loss of life in the massacre at Club Q. And all of us who have stood by without challenging misinformed and hateful comments about our queer brothers, sisters, and nonbinary folks, are culpable.

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It is not the job of our queer friends to teach us empathy; it’s our job to love.

The Rev. David Tryggestad of Duluth is a retired pastor and a contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.

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The Rev. David Tryggestad

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