Homophobes have always been obsessed with the idea that LGBTQ people “turn” otherwise heterosexual people “gay.” The latest high profile case involves Florida State Rep. Charles Van Zant. In railing against the menace that is Common Core, Rep. Van Zant stated:
VAN ZANT: These people, that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida unless this is stopped, will promote double-mindedness in state education and attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can. I’m sorry to report that to you.
The idea that someone can tempt you into an attraction to someone you wouldn’t otherwise be attracted to is ripe for pop-psych analysis and betrays a misunderstanding of how attraction actually works.
While it’s fun to make fun of the Freudian implications of the argument, it’s important to recognize that assertions like Van Zant’s aren’t meant to explain how sexuality actually works but to provide a rationale for exerting a greater amount of control on the public lives of LGBTQ people. Instead of betraying an underlying homosexual desire, re-establishing retrograde social attitudes towards gay people is what’s really slipping here. In a nation where public displays of affection are fraught with danger for LGBTQ people we shouldn’t merely snark when our political officials are implicitly providing a justification for violence against gays.
While Van Zant’s rant strikes us as tone deaf, his fellow travelers hear it for what it is. It’s a dog whistle for all who would rather we return to the halcyon days when folks attracted to members of the same sex “knew their place”.