Media Negligence and Hate Costs LGBTQ Lives

by | Dec 2, 2022 | News

On Sunday, November 20, five people were killed and more than 20 injured in a shooting at the LGBTQ nightclub Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the club hosted a drag show and planned a drag brunch the following morning to honor Transgender Day of Remembrance. The attack came amid a right-wing media campaign against drag shows, framing them as a threat to children and civilization.

Media Matters documented months of content on social and news media smearing drag events with claims that they’re a plot to sexualize children, comparisons to cancer, and calls for an “aggressive” approach to “fighting it.” The anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok has been publicizing the locations and organizers of drag events alongside similar claims.

The media has normalized violent right-wing rhetoric such as this. Fox’s Tucker Carlson has been a particularly loud mouthpiece for spreading homophobic and transphobic hate, but other personalities have continued the fear campaign after the shooting.

Conservative activist Rob Smith warned on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. that the left would appropriate the shooting story to push gun control or “bully and shame the people that are speaking up against drag queen story hour.”

Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh denied that he promoted hatred against LGBTQ people, though he played a driving force in the campaign targeting children’s hospitals for providing gender-affirming care. Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro claimed that according to the left, “anyone who doesn’t support their radical social agenda is complicit.”

Baseless claims like LGBTQ people “grooming” children are a staple of rightwing media, but “liberal” and centrist media have amplified transphobia and placed blame on “both sides” of bigots and LGBTQ people. Some examples from recent years that FAIR collected include pieces from The New York Times and The Economist suggesting that allowing gender self-identification could impede efforts to “keep women and children safe.”

On the night of the shooting, patrons at Club Q subdued the killer, likely saving many more lives, but right-wing media have mocked attempts of armed LGBTQ people to secure their events, even while ignoring the presence of Proud Boys.

The lack of transgender youth represented in far-right and centrist media is exacerbating this slanted narrative. According to FAIR, “Right-wing efforts to demonize trans people (as well as others in the LGBTQ community) are that much more effective when the targets are denied the ability to speak for themselves.”

Appearing on MSNBC, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone explained the fear campaign that popularized the false notion that any exposure of LGBTQ issues to children amounts to “grooming.” Republican officials picked up the idea from Libs of TikTok and other far-right activists and solidified it into legislation like the Don’t Say Gay bill.

As Twitter regulations have laxed and extremists spread the details of LGBTQ events, Carusone said “we are in an environment now where it’s going to get a lot worse.”

Encapsulating the deadly effects of media negligence, FAIR’s Olivia Riggio said, “The risk of living as a transgender person is widely known, yet news outlets still treat their existence as something that’s up for debate. As we’ve seen time and again, transphobia costs lives.”


Image by Andrea Austria / Media Matters.


More from The Edge

The 10 Freeway Has Been Reopened but L.A.’s Transit Problem Remains

During the early hours of November 11, a fire erupted in a storage yard underneath the I-10 freeway near downtown Los Angeles, structurally compromising a large section of the road and resulting in, what was at the time, claimed to be an indefinite closure of the...

From My Body to Yours, and Gaza to the World

A Meditation on Death, Killing, and Possibility I knew my body was healing from the surgery when I found myself ready to engage with the world and posted on Facebook: I am always anti-zionist. And never an antisemite. And always an anti-racist feminist against...

On the Tragic Inevitability of Stacking Corpses

War. Genocide. Pandemics. Heat. Famine. Racism. Misogyny. Hunger. Violence. There are so many ways for mortal beings to die, especially the most vulnerable, and too often these deaths are state sponsored, sped by capitalism, and/or preventable. We — humans and...

“Barbie”: An Anti-Racist Socialist Feminist Meditation

I started writing this the day “Barbie” was opening in the theatres. I had not seen it yet, because I am writing less about the film and more about the cultural and political moment we inhabit as it opens. I went as soon as I finished an early draft, exactly one week...

Supreme Court Ruling in Stalking Case Hurts Victims

Stalking is a social and public health emergency. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Counterman v. Colorado makes things easier for abusers and harder for victims. A form of gender-based violence, stalking affects more than 13 million people annually in the...

The Rogue Court’s Reactionary Radicalism

This Is a Catastrophe. I am finishing the writing of this piece shortly after the July 4 holiday. This is significant — to wonder who this country is now, and before. I began writing it while riding the bus into NYC from Ithaca, NY, on Friday, June 30, while the last...

Held vs. Montana: The Future of the Climate Crisis Fight

As the courtroom seats began filling in the first judicial court in Helena, the capital city of Montana, local community members and officials prepared to hear the long-awaited testimonies from plaintiffs who allege state officials have violated their constitutional...