BY BRANDI ENGEMAN
I’m writing this letter as a parent and member of the Los Alamos community and not in any official capacity.
Once again, hate has reared its head in Los Alamos, this time disguised as “concern” for our children. A local organization is hosting a creative writing class aimed at teens in the LGBTQ+ community who would like to learn how to talk about themselves and their experiences in a creative way. The class is free, thanks to donations from the Los Alamos Teen Center and hosted by the Los Alamos Arts Council.
In a recent letter, the groups hosting this class, as well as the teacher and other adults involved, were accused of promoting “child solicitation”. I won’t go into the leap that must have been needed in order to conflate a creative writing camp with the pimping and prostitution of children. What I will do is focus on the fact that this is not new and by no means isolated to our community.
There is a huge movement of politically “conservative” groups that are creating and distributing form letters to parents to send to school districts, school boards, papers and organizations. These letters are usually all about the same things: race, sexuality and gender identity, and how we teach accurate and culturally sensitive history. These topics are constantly under attack in public schools as somehow being inappropriate or social topics rather than curriculum students need to be well-rounded adults.
The hope seems to be that if these folks can use their scare tactics and buzzwords (groomer, predator, solicitation), they can scare the average citizen and parent away from engaging in these topics lest they be caught up in a net of being accused of being a child predator. For instance, in a Tweet defending the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, Governor DeSantis says to those against the law are: “You are a groomer, or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.” This is simple bigotry. The idea that the LGBTQ+ community has more adults looking to abuse children than any other community is simple hate-fueled ignorance and nothing more. So by saying that a class aimed at teens to teach them creative writing and celebrate who they are as individuals is somehow staffed and supported by child predators is also nothing less than hate-fueled ignorance and fear. Telling children that it is okay to be whoever they are and validating their experiences is not child predation.
We cannot let these folks have their way. Our youth deserve safe spaces to be themselves. Teaching kids how to talk about the universal experiences we all share is in no way grooming them or making them more vulnerable to predation; I would argue the opposite is true. When we validate youth where they are and who they are, we are giving them the tools to tell adults in their lives what they need and what they do not want and giving them tools to protect themselves from predators.
I believe the thing that these groups fear the most is educated youth. Educated youth become educated adults who advocate for other marginalized groups in turn. Additionally, when folks are educated on topics, it is much harder to win their votes with fear or misinformation.
We can combat this movement by recognizing it for what it is: A hate driven tactic on the part of politicians to win the votes of those who have had their fear politicized. It is a tactic used by those who fear anyone who is different or thinks differently than they do to silence those groups and scare them back into the closet as it were. Don’t think it isn’t happening here, because it is. And don’t remain silent, because that is when they win.
Thank you for supporting the youth in our community through your words and actions. And for more information on being a youth ally you can go visit here.
For more information on the scare tactics being used nationwide, see the following articles.