[Quick personal note: my kind and patient speaking agent wants me to remind you that Pride Month is a week away. If you’re looking for a speaker for your company, conference, college or some related Pride event, I’m available. Just click that link.]
You may have been doom-scrolling yesterday and caught the latest hysteria of anti-LGBTQ extremists in the conservative movement.
State Farm—the insurance company whose commercials you’ve definitely seen everywhere in the past 15 years—had a really cool idea: partnering with The GenderCool Project to provide LGBTQ-themed books to schools and communities throughout the country, including Florida, where the infamous “Don’t Say Gay, Don’t Say Trans” bill recently signed by Ron DeSantis is set to take effect on July 1st.
It’s a private program in which schools and communities can proactively participate but, of course, doesn’t require anyone else to participate or contribute their dollars toward that participation.
In January, a State Farm employee sent an email announcement to Florida colleagues asking for volunteers to coordinate with interested schools and communities. It noted that the company would be enlisting the help of 550 volunteers nationwide—presumably State Farm agents—to gift a three-book bundle to participating recipients, noting:
"The project’s goal is to increase representation of LGBTQ+ books and support out communities in having challenging, important and empowering conversations with children Age 5+.”
Recently, that email was forwarded to Consumers’ Research, an anti-LGBTQ extremist organization (which will I not link to), who then sent it to far-right “news” outlets and anti-LGBTQ influencer Libs of TikTok, all of whom gleefully spent yesterday pushing content that claimed State Farm is indoctrinating five-year olds to become transgender.
Because hateful online campaigns of this variety have become commonplace, lately, and I was working quite a bit all afternoon, I didn’t take much notice when State Farm starting trending on Twitter from the relentless propaganda and shit-posting by anti-LGBTQ extremists.
Then came news early that evening of an emergency email sent by State Farm’s Chief Diversity Officer to all employees announcing the company would no longer support the program. Here’s a screenshot of that email:
This wasn’t in support of required curriculum. It was a program using State Farm’s own money to buy 1,650 LGBTQ-themed books to be distributed to interested schools and communities across the country.
In fact, given the total number of books being gifted, it would be damn near impossible to have anything approaching a large-scale awareness campaign. If anything, I see it as a very nice gesture and nod toward the importance of educating about LGBTQ families.
But State Farm, being the cowards they are, instead of aggressively pushing back against the hateful censorship of anti-LGBTQ extremists, chose to humor the premise that anyone in this situation, any parent or child, was being required to do something they didn’t want to do.
No one was. It was intended to be all-privately-funded, all-volunteer, and all strictly based on recipients choosing to be part of the program.
But State Farm pulled the plug because they got scared and decided it’s more important to placate anti-LGBTQ extremists than stand beside the LGBTQ community in a moment of horrific uncertainty.
Of course, given State Farm’s political donations in the last cycle, this shouldn’t come as a huge shock. According to Open Secrets, a majority of the company’s political contributions for the 2020 elections went to Republican/conservative federal candidates, all of them opposing basic LGBTQ rights.
Those of us who are active in LGBTQ politics have been bracing for what this year’s Pride Month—starting in a week—will reveal about the strength of support so many companies have expressed for LGBTQ rights in recent years.
Companies tossing up a rainbow logo on June 1st whilst contributing to anti-LGBTQ politicians has long been a problem—referred to as “rainbow washing”—but this year is different.
This year, even the performative emptiness of a company’s vague statement of support for LGBTQ people seems to be vulnerable to a massive and expensive effort by the Republican Party and conservative movement to erase LGBTQ people from the public square and deem anyone who fights back, including allies, as “groomers”.
Pride Month this year will be less of a celebration and more of a grim acknowledgement that the GOP is clearly coming after us and have no empathy or nuance or basic sense of humanity in how they do it.
When attempting to erase a minority group, it’s essential to anesthetize public support for their humanity. The GOP has spent a long time attempting to do this in the broad public square. Recently, the bulk of that focus turned specifically to schools and fear-mongering over LGBTQ families, teachers, and students.
Now, the GOP and anti-LGBTQ extremists are focusing their hateful rage on private companies who supposedly support LGBTQ people in the communities in which they do business.
Last night, State Farm caved and gave up on being a good neighbor.
I wish I could say I wasn’t worried more companies aren’t set to do the same.
Hi, I’m Charlotte Clymer, and this is Charlotte’s Web Thoughts, my Substack. It’s completely free to access and read, but if you feel so moved to support my writing, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription: just $7/month or save money with the $70/annual sub. You can also go way above and beyond by becoming a Founding Member at $210.