Content Warning: This blog discusses sexual assault & It focuses on anti-lgbtq+ behavior. 

Reading Time: 5-10 Mins
Category: Blog
Author: Oscar Hoyle
Ok gays, girlies, and thembos; it is time to clutch your pearls and sport your best prince albert coat because today we’re talking about moral panic! Gasp! Perhaps one of the most overused, and yet somehow, most effective tool in the far-right conspiracy theorists toolbox is using fake news and misinformation to cook up a moral panic of all proportions. For years those of us more politically involved (otherwise known as just trans people & queer people of colour trying to live their lives) have had to watch as moral panic on a global scale repeatedly demeans trans identities. Unsurprisingly, this trans focused moral panic has spread like wildfire before jumping into the forest of CIS people.

You might have seen the headlines from across the pond as countless American states try to force through anti-drag legislation that prohibits the performance of drag art. If you have been awake for the last few years, you will know that geographical distance does nothing to curb hatred, after all, some of the most powerful anti-trans voices in the UK are bankrolled by American funders. Nonetheless as echoes of anti-drag conversations, which sound almost identical to the attacks focused on trans people, have quickly been heard across British “news” sources such as GB news & the daily mail there’s a small part of my huge ego that is just burning to let out a massive “we told you so” but it’s better to shelve my ego and focus on what’s more important; what we can do.

SO you’re asking yourself, what can I do?

Firstly, it is important to understand what the apparent concerns are. Almost every single anti-lgbtq+ voice has stated that this is a matter of protecting the children. This is the same narrative Margaret Thatcher used to pass section 28 which is now a widely rejected piece of legislation that banned the “promotion” of LGBTQ+ identities in schools & media. But what exactly are we protecting the children from? Well… None of these so-called child advocates are willing to explicitly say what we are protecting them from. This is a classic dog whistle, infer the most damaging possibilities and play to society’s biggest concerns (the abuse of children) but do not explicitly say as such so that you can paint LGBTQ+ people defending themselves as being hysterical. This isn’t really a new thing, it’s probably one of the oldest anti-lgbtq+ narratives and very easily put to rest when you compare the headlines of drag queens arrested for assault vs the headlines around non-lgbtq+ people.

The second argument that I have heard quite a lot is that drag is adult entertainment and should be restricted in the same way as other forms of erotic entertainment. Now sure, whilst it can be, so can any other form of performance art. I can almost guarantee you a huge percentage of the British population have grown up watching a child focused form of drag, the pantomime dame, Mrs. Doubtfire, or Big Momma’s house. Now, with less than 5% of the population Identifying as LGBTQ, it is safe to say that watching Mrs. Doubtfire didn’t convert the majority of the British public to being LGBTQ+… but I suppose that panto style drag isn’t being spoken about here. I find myself wondering why not. Perhaps, the reason pantomime drag is safe is because pantomime drag does not have focus on particular (LGBTQ+) demographics, if that’s the reason, could this debate actually be rooted in homophobia rather than concern for children? I personally believe so and if that is the case then we are back to our earlier mentioned inferred inaccurate concerns around the harm of children.

Now I realistically could be here all day debating the tens of generic & paraphrased arguments that anti-lgbtq+ campaigners could be using to try and argue that this attack on drag is not really an attack on LGBTQ+ people but it would get old quite quickly. It is more important that LGBTQ+ people and our allies understand how they can tackle these conversations, and similar ones, in their day-to-day life.

Firstly: Learn! It is all our duties to learn the information, statistics, and history behind the common anti-lgbtq+ narratives that we hear. It really is true that history repeats itself and a phrase I have heard a lot in my circles is it feels like we have gone “two steps forwards and one step back” but it is important we now do not forget what we learnt from both the steps forwards and the steps backwards. If we understand how we have defeated bigotry in the past, we can use that to our advantage, and if we understand how bigotry has evolved today then we can focus on how we rise above it.

Once you have that information to hand it is important you learn how to have a challenging conversation. I know most of us HATE those. That feeling of your gut bubbling, the anger that is pulling at your sides, and the wobble of your voice – It can feel uncomfortable. Those same emotions are a fantastic display of your passion for the topic you are talking about, you just need to be able to harness them. (Was that a bit too superhero-ey?). One of the best tools that I have picked up is how to bridge within debate. The bridging technique is effective when someone poses a question (possibly with an inferred meaning) which you can use to focus a conversation back into reality. It is handy and a fantastic way to acknowledge and address those earlier mentioned dog whistles. Check out some more info here.

A final piece of advice I have is to listen to other LGBTQ+ change makers! Listen to how they talk, how they address concerns, and how they INSPIRE other people. One of the LGBTQ+ community’s biggest strengths are our community leaders; it is vital we learn from them.

I feel an important way to end this rambling blog post is to remind you that above everything else, your wellbeing and safety should always be your number one focus. Not everyone is ready or able to make change, and that is ok! Everyone contributes to change in their own small ways. For some of us it is being out there with a megaphone, for some of us it is being a good friend, and for others it is making sure that they are still here tomorrow. Whatever you feel your calling is, it is important you do it in a way that protects your health and wellbeing.

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