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Yes, we're coming for your children!
We're saving queer children, and we're educating all children to keep them from embracing the hate. Don't let the extremists own the narrative.
photo: risenesistnyc via Instagram
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This month marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of my first book, “Queer in America: Sex, the Media, and the Closets of Power,” which ruffled some feathers at the time.
It’s hard for me to believe—where does the time go?—and I only just realized it was the anniversary after reading about the Drag Queen March in New York City over the weekend and a chant that has been seized upon by anti-LGBTQ hatemongers, including crackpot Republicans in Congress like Marjorie Taylor Greene.
"We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re coming for your children!", some marchers chanted, in addition to other chants, many of them humorous and fun—chants that LGBTQ people have been chanting at marches for decades. As you can imagine, Fox News whirled itself into a mega-outrage frenzy, as did the New York Post and other right-wing outlets, following up on vicious smears by MAGA extremists on social media, who sent around videos of the chant.
The incident brought me back to the epilogue of my book, "A Queer Manifesto." In that manifesto, I direct messages to various groups: "To All Queer Activists"; "To Sympathetic Straights”; and so on.
In the section, "To the Religious Right," here’s a relevant passage:
You say we’re coming for your children, and you’re right.
We’re coming for your queer children. We are your queer children.
God—your God, our God—made us that way. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
So now we have to be saved—from you—because you do nothing but warp innocent minds.
I thought back to that, something I published in 1993, as I read about the attacks in 2023 on queer marchers celebrating who they are and sending a tongue-in-cheek message that nonetheless has a point: "We’re not going to let you frame us as child molesters, and in fact you are the ones who are poisoning children’s minds."
It also made me realize how much ground we’ve ceded by allowing the Christian nationalists to get this far. A lot of LGBTQ activists and supporters are on the defensive rather than on the offensive.
Some people commenting on social media and elsewhere, for example, thought the drag queens—who’ve been under assault by the haters and tarred as "groomers"—were not prudent in chanting, "We’re coming for your children!" They saw it as bad PR feeding into the narrative the right has created, giving Greene and her cult the opportunity to tweet out messages like this:
Writing in Metro Weekly, a DC LGBTQ paper, Oliver Bates called the chant, “one of the most tone-deaf attempts at tongue-in-cheek humor,” in a piece whose sub tittle claimed, “activists offended some onlookers, and appeared to affirm stereotypes that LGBTQ people pose a danger to children.”
First off, we’re talking about drag queens here—entertainers who use humor and are over-the-top because that’s what drag is about, and thank you very much for it! But I also think that this kind of defensive posture expressed by Bates allows the right to win. We need to lean into the message—and reverse it, pointing out that they are ones who are trying to corrupt and harm children. We need to be on the offensive every single day, and not flinch one bit.
The veteran activist Karla Jay, the first female chair of New York’s Gay Liberation Front, founded in 1969, told NBC News in its coverage of the controversy that chants like this are a strategy to “take the sting out” of accusations against LGBTQ people. And she added:
The person who said this in a march isn’t the person who came up with this idea — the person in the march is saying, ‘Go ahead, call me this; why do I care?’ The person is trying to destigmatize this and claim their own power. You can’t blame the victims here, and that’s what the right wing is doing.
As other examples, NBC referred to some other messages within the march, including signs reading “Groom Cisies” and “Trans, Your greatest fear, your biggest fantasy.”
I agree completely with Jay that it’s about taking ownership of these terms and also celebrating and being proud, not letting the nutbags ruin the day. But I also believe we have to speak about it seriously, in the battles in the media and on the school boards, and be honest about the fact that this is definitely about educating children and positively influence their thinking by explaining truths.
We need to get off the kinds of messages that laws like “don’t say gay” have backed too many of us into embracing, that we’re not trying to influence kids in any way. We must of course stress that no one can make kids gay or bi or trans, but we need to point out that children most certainly can be and are indoctrinated into hate, taught prejudice at a young age. And we must be clear that of course we’re trying to have an impact on their thinking, so that many feel comfortable and safe about who they are—or who their parents and teachers are—and so that others are not promoting hate.
The best response to “they’re coming for your children” is to say, “Absolutely correct,” and explain it. Trying to control or apologize for the spontaneity and jubilation at a Pride march is futile. And it gives the haters a victory. A better strategy is to jump off from it, and go on the offensive, using it it to hit back and to educate.