In light of the anti-trans bills state lawmakers are pushing across the country, a lot of queerphobia pales in comparison and isn’t worth the air time. There’s something to be said, too, for simply choosing not to amplify the harm and hate speech uttered by some on the right. One example: On Tuesday night, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield launched into a queerphobic rant about the LGBTQ community and—get this—cereal, as reported by the New Civil Rights Movement. Why does this matter? The more people feel comfortable spewing out transphobia, and the more people see people in positions of power give it a national platform, the more we should all be worried about how our LGBTQ youth are faring under the exposure.
In fact, as Daily Kos covered recently, we know based on a recent Trevor Project national report that LGBTQ young people are struggling in terms of mental health amid the pandemic. We also know that acceptance and affirmation—including using the correct name and pronouns—can be huge in terms of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation. But first, the “woke” cereal debacle.
Kellog’s announced a Pride Month cereal called Together With Pride. The cereal is in collaboration with GLAAD. There is much to be said about corporations throwing rainbows on items and branding to the LGBTQ community, but generally, these acts are positive in that they show people—and especially young people—that support is out there and helps normalize being LGBTQ in the mainstream.
Stinchfield, however, asserted Kellog’s collaboration forces “our kids to be confused about their gender first thing in the morning.” Of course he had a particular issue with the pronouns aspect, saying, “Here’s the worst part: The cereal slogan, ‘too amazing to put into a box,’ and then lists a space for kids to write in their own pronouns.”
He also went after the Lucky Charms mascot (yes, really), saying, “Anyway, isn’t Kellogg’s a little late to this woke game by the way? General Mills has … I think General Mills has a gay leprechaun, right?” Stinchfield claimed his producer asked him if the Lucky Charms leprechaun was “really gay,” to which the host said he replied and said, “I don’t know, maybe. He wears high-heeled shoes, prances around in tights, leads me to believe, probably … That little Lucky Charm leprechaun might be gay.”
“Switch your kids to granola,” Stinchfield told parents watching his segment. “It’s healthier anyway. You cut the sugar, okay … And then you don’t have to buy products from woke companies.”
Here’s that clip.
Now, why is this hateful speech particularly damaging? Based on The Trevor Project report, we know that more than 80% of LGBTQ youth reported that the pandemic made home life more stressful. Of those surveyed, 70% said their mental health was “poor” either most or all of the time as the pandemic has gone on. Only 1 out of 3 respondents said they felt their home was affirming of their LGBTQ identity, and close to 60% of trans and nonbinary respondents said COVID-19 impacted their ability to express their gender identity. More than 70% of trans and nonbinary respondents said they felt affirmed online, but only half said they felt validated while at school. This is on top of the reality that we already know trans youth are more likely to be homeless, more likely to be bullied or harassed at school, and even more likely to leave school without a diploma.
Even efforts to discuss the barriers transgender folks face when it comes to health and medical care can feel disappointing and feed into harmful narratives; say, for example, the recent 60 Minutes segment that promised to be specifically about trans folks being able to access care safely and accessibly, but ended up being mostly about detransitioning, a complex, nuanced topic that transphobes are quick to latch onto.
All of that to say: Does a ridiculous rant from a conservative host really matter? I’d like to say no, but when people in the middle—and even some on the left—are struggling with trans equality and affirming actions, it’s important that we confront transphobia every chance we get.