A group of U.S. politicians are pushing for restrictions on children’s programming that could lead to censorship of LGBTQ2S+ content.
On May 4, five Republican senators sent a letter to the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, claiming that “concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children’s programming” in recent years. The signatories took issue with what they alleged were the promotion of “irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria.”
“The motivations of hyper-sexualized entertainment producers striving to push this content on young audiences are suspect at best and predatory at worst,” reads the letter, which was addressed to board chairman Charles Rivkin.
Spearheaded by Sen. Roger Marshall, the two-page plea urges the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board to revisit its rating system, which was established in 1997 as a guide for parents and families to determine what content is appropriate for their children. Ratings include “TV-G” for shows that are deemed suitable for all ages and graduate to “TV-MA” for programs with sexually explicit material or adult language.
“In light of parents raising legitimate concerns on sexual orientation and gender identity content on their children’s TV shows, we expect the Board to fulfill its responsibility in updating the TV Parental Guidelines to reflect these concerns,” the letter read.
In response to a request from The Kansas City Star regarding children’s content the senators found objectionable, Marshall’s office cited Nickelodeon’s Danger Force and The Loud House, and Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Dead End: Paranormal Park. Representatives for the Kansas senator did not specify what they found offensive about these particular programs.
The other lawmakers who signed the letter were Sens. Mike Lee, Mike Braun, Kevin Cramer and Steve Daines, all of whom have vocally opposed LGBTQ2S+ equality in the past. Daines, who has represented Montana in the U.S. Senate since 2014, also co-sponsored a bill that would allow states to deny marriage benefits to same-sex couples. Lee, who has held one of Utah’s two senate seats since 2011, is a key supporter of legislation that would allow businesses to refuse services to LGBTQ2S+ people.
Both Lee and Marshall pushed a federal bill banning trans student athletes from playing sports in alignment with their lived gender.
All five senators, meanwhile, have zero scores on the annual congressional equality scorecard from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which rates federal lawmakers on their LGBTQ2S+ rights records.
The letter represents the latest attempt by U.S. conservatives to clamp down on LGBTQ2S+ content, whether on television or in schools. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is currently facing a lawsuit against his state after lawmakers voted to strip special tax status away from Disney World for speaking out against the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill in March. Reports have estimated that stripping Disney’s self-governing status could cost taxpayers $1 billion.
More than a dozen other U.S. states have pushed legislation targeting LGBTQ2S+ education, including Georgia, Ohio and Louisiana. In April, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill banning teachers from discussing topics related to sexual orientation or gender identity in K-5 classrooms.
LGBTQ2S+ advocates have been extremely critical of these proposals, which they say stigmatize queer and trans youth and spread harmful, dangerous myths about the community.
“LGBTQ people are in every family, workplace, school and neighbourhood. Media is simply reflecting and representing this reality and growing acceptance of LGBTQ people across the board,” the queer media watchdog group GLAAD said in a statement. “An overwhelming majority of Americans reject efforts to ban books and censor conversation.”
The Indiana Democratic Party was particularly pointed in its response, taking aim at Braun’s decision to sign the letter.
“There should be a warning label put up every time Mike Braun goes on TV, because his antics are more about extreme partisanship and debunked conspiracies than actually creating a better future for all Hoosiers,” the group said in a statement. “Mike Braun sure seems to care a lot about other people’s love lives—from telling LGBTQ Hoosiers how they should act, to believing that interracial marriages should be voided.”
“Democrats join with the majority of Hoosiers and Americans in telling Mike Braun: get a life!” a representative for the state Democratic organization added.
While GOP senators requested a response to their letter by May 18, their campaign to censor LGBTQ2S+ representation on TV is not the only brewing attack on the community in Congress. Last week, U.S. House Representative Jeff Van Drew introduced legislation that would force teachers to request consent from parents before “lessons specifically related to gender identity, sexual orientation or transgender studies” are addressed in elementary school classrooms.
“These children are young,” the New Jersey lawmaker said in a statement. “They are concerned with improving their reading and writing. Not learning about gender identity and sexual orientation.”