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Ruben Navarrette commentary: LGBTQ Americans are under attack, and this cannot be tolerated

Summary: Some in our society — including friends and family members — are being attacked in a manner that is profoundly un-American. We must come to their aid and beat back those who torment them.

Ruben Navarrete column logo
Protesters flying the transgender flag gather at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center following changes to the Genecis program for trans youth on March 31, 2022, in Dallas.
(Juan Figueroa/Dallas Morning News/TNS)
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SAN DIEGO — In mid-June, my brother — who is gay and a marketing inclusion strategist for an entertainment company — chided me to write something about Pride Month.

"Don't be a hater," he teased.

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For the record, I don't "hate" anyone who isn't in politics. And with respect to that bunch, I tend to rely more on words like "disdain" or even "loathe." You know who you are, folks.

Still, I don't like being pressured. So I let the month pass me by like a bandwagon I had no desire to jump on.

These designated celebratory months have become trite and commercialized, which dilutes their purpose. These events started with the simple but noble intention of getting the nation to focus on the contributions of often overlooked communities.

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Now that Pride Month is over, I can say my piece. Not because I'm virtue signaling, but I love my country and cherish the ideals it stands for — like justice, equality, tolerance, diversity and acceptance.

In America, we're not afraid to celebrate differences. I'll see your St. Patrick's Day and Lunar New Year, and I'll raise you an Oktoberfest.

America needs to do right by the LGBTQ community and not take a single step backward. The need is especially great in these perilous times, where many Americans have no qualms about stripping away human rights and turning back the clock.

We should all be vigilant now that the Supreme Court is pushing the absurd notion that the only rights and privileges that exist are the ones spelled out in a document that was written by and for the White men who ran the country when the Constitution was ratified in 1788 — as opposed to the White men who run the country today.

Even if older generations (baby boomers, Generation X) are uneasy or uncomfortable with a concept like transgender youth, it doesn't matter. The younger generations (millennials, Generation Z) will settle the matter for us. They appear to be much more accepting of how Americans choose to identify, perhaps because so many in their cohort consider themselves to be part of the LGBTQ community.

In a 2021 Gallup poll, more than a fifth of Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010) — 20.8% — self-identified as LGBTQ.

Some politicians are not equipped to deal with that reality. Republicans like the GOP's lead culture warrior — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — ought to be ashamed. DeSantis is willing to marginalize LGBTQ youth to fuel his 2024 presidential ambitions.

In Florida, Republican lawmakers passed a bill this spring restricting lessons about gender identity and sexuality. When DeSantis signed into law the Parental Rights in Education Act — better known as the "don't say gay" bill — he intended to send a message.

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Message received: DeSantis, and the rest of the Florida Republican Party, care more about winning elections by crusading against what the governor calls "woke gender ideology" than they do about preserving decades' worth of reforms intended to make LGBTQ youth feel seen, safe and supported in public schools.

The Sunshine State won't be lonely as it retreats into the Dark Ages. GOP lawmakers in more than a dozen states introduced bills to stop class discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign, legislators across the country have introduced more than 300 bills targeting LGBTQ Americans. Many of them seek to deny transgender youth access to medical care, school bathrooms, and sports teams. Other proposals would ban books that "normalize" LGBTQ Americans or require parental permission for kids to choose their pronouns.

On July 1, six states — including Florida — enacted anti-LGBTQ laws affecting young people.

All this fuss because Republicans are worried that the public schools are "grooming" kids to join the LGBTQ world — a world which, ironically, those same Republicans seem intent on making so dark, dreary, depressing and dangerous that no one in his or her right mind would volunteer to be part of it.

The picture is even bleaker for people of color. A recent survey by The Trevor Project revealed that — among LGBTQ youth who responded — 21% of African Americans, 31% of Native Americans and 18% of Latinos admitted they had attempted suicide in the past year.

Some in our society — including friends and family members — are being attacked in a manner that is profoundly un-American. We must come to their aid and beat back those who torment them.

That's what we should be talking about — and for more than one month out of the year.

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Ruben Navarrette can be reached at ruben@wctrib.com.
© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group

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