Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is no laughing matter — even if the bigots are buffoons
The mug shots, all lined up in neat rows, create an absurd tableau.
These 31 young white men — all in their 20s and 30s, some mean-mugging, others smirking or slack-jawed — allegedly crammed into a U-Haul wearing riot gear in the mid-June heat as part of a white supremacist plan to target an Idaho LGBTQ Pride event.
Looking at the photos, it's easy to crack jokes — many have — because these bigots appear to fall into familiar tropes: the burnouts, the slackers, the angry young men spouting vitriol from their mothers' basements.
But we're not laughing and neither should you.
The same impulse that led these wannabe militiamen to pack themselves into a U-Haul is alive and well in York County.
And our bigots aren't always so comically buffoonish.
York County Pride, which took place over the same weekend, faced similar vitriol as a contingent of local bigots tried to convince Manchester Township to revoke the festival's permit at Cousler Park.
The actual threats were vague but real enough for the event to hire additional security and to work with township officials to change the lineup.
"We do know there is specific members in the community that are against diversity, against inclusion and are against equity,” said Tesla Taliaferro, president of the Rainbow Rose Center, which organized the event.
Meanwhile, students at Northeastern High School faced bullying and harassment — some of it from parents, no less — in the wake of a Diversity Day event that was intended to teach them to embrace the things that make us different.
It all came to a head at a recent school board meeting where it became apparent that some of the school's own elected officials themselves have a lot of work to do when it comes to supporting their students.
“The message being received is that LGBTQ students should be invisible, go back in the closet," said Lori Riddle, a mother of recent Northeastern graduates.
In January, Chambersburg became the first municipality in Pennsylvania to repeal its local anti-discrimination ordinance — after a contingent of bigots were elected to the borough council.
Meanwhile, our elected officials in Harrisburg are preoccupied with stirring anti-queer sentiment, with GOP Rep. Dawn Keefer and state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill railing against trans student athletes.
Republican state Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin, of Lancaster, are pitching a bill that bears marked similarities to Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill. Their legislation would, among other things, forbid teachers from teaching anything about gender or sexual orientation through the fifth grade.
The rising tide of anti-LGBTQ bigotry isn't simply a matter of extremists packed into U-Hauls like sardines.
There's a confederacy of dunces, some of them with real power, who'd happily live in a world without gay people. It's difficult to interpret any of their actions any other way — and their rhetoric is being picked up by hateful young men and women across this country, much like the 31 white supremacists in Idaho.
But there's one inescapable fact: LGBTQ people exist and they're entitled to the same rights as any other American.
Instead of trying to bully your neighbors out of existence, try loving them instead.