No, Steve Hofmeyr, LGBTQ+ inclusion is NOT sexualising children

Steve Hofmeyr believes that including LGBTQ+ characters in children's content aims to sexualise children

SA singer Steve Hofmeyr believes that including LGBTQ+ characters in Disney’s content aims to sexualise children

Despite a half-hearted apology for falsely claiming that the “plus” in the LGBTQ+ acronym includes bestiality, Steve Hofmeyr and his ilk continue to equate LGBTQ+ inclusion in Disney’s content with sexualising and “grooming” children.

Hofmeyr stirred up a hornet’s nest last week for making the ridiculous but dangerous bestiality claim in a since-removed video on Facebook. He did so while commenting on news that Disney intends to increase its on-screen representation of minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community.

Following a huge backlash, the right-wing singer has now offered a pseudo-apology in a new video, but takes no accountability for the damage he’s caused. “I have no problem at all apologising to the gay community and I do,” he offers in the clip.

“My data is somewhat dated. In fact, I’ve no fight with them and I’ve never had. I can’t find consensus though even amongst them themselves about who the plus in the LGBTQ+ includes and excludes. But I will take the word of my gay friends and colleagues that it does not include any illegal genders or preferences,” Hofmeyr says.

Ignoring his other nonsensical and Fox News-informed ramblings in the video (about which much more could be written), Hofmeyr goes on to restate that his primary concern is with Disney wanting to be more LGBTQ+ inclusive, which he describes as “utter madness.”

Hofmeyr claims that this means that “Disney [has] decided to sexualise our toddlers by sexualising the movie characters” and accuses the LGBTQ+ community of wanting to “sexualise our toddlers for your whims and enjoyment.”

His understanding reflects a deeply entrenched hetronormative perspective of life that Hofmeyr just cannot seem to break out of. His worldview instantly and unthinkingly equates any LGBTQ+ representation with sex. For him, and many others around the world, LGBTQ+ people are viewed one-dimensionally through this sexualised prism.

Open depictions and experiences of heterosexual love and relationships, however, are generally accepted as unthreatening and innocuous. They are all around us; in restaurants, in the street, in children’s movies, in advertising and in our homes; normalised to such an extent that they are simply understood as part of the tapestry of life.

So when a male character in an animated film is smitten by a female character, declares his love, embraces, or even shares a kiss, this is never seen as sexualising children. Think of the mermaid princess Ariel and Prince Eric or the love story in Beauty and the Beast. These cartoon romances are quite rightly not considered to be sexually inappropriate for children.

Yet, the same is not true when it comes to the possibility of similar LGBTQ+ romantic depictions in a Disney children’s film. This damning double-standard exposes the true bias and bigotry inherent in Hofmeyr’s narrow mindset.

Yes, LGBTQ+ people can be raunchy and sexually driven at times, but that’s true of all of humanity. Who we are is not defined by what we do in the bedroom. Just like the rest of society, it’s only one aspect of our multifaceted and complex lives. Being LGBTQ+ is about a complex mix of things; attraction, gender, identity, expression, safety, and community, among others.

History has shown us that there is no better way to whip up an outraged support base than by claiming that children are under threat from dangerous agendas and communities. And who wouldn’t be up in arms if vulnerable children are seen to be at risk? Unfortunately, the mere perception or claim of a threat often seems to overwhelm rational thinking.

Of course, parents do not want children to be exposed to inappropriate sexual content, but that’s true of all parents; both LGBTQ+ (yes, some of us are parents too) and cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) parents, like Hofmeyr.

So, we need to say it again: We, the LGBTQ+ community do not want to sexualise your (or our) children. We do not want toddlers to be taught how to have gay sex (or any kind of sex). We do not want to “make” – even if that were possible – anyone’s children transgender or gay.

After living in the shadows for so long, after being seen as ‘less than’ for much of modern history, we’re demanding to be visible in the world in all our diversity. What we want from Disney is to see funny, adorable, goofy, inspirational and brave LGBTQ+ characters who are like us on the screen: loving, adventuring, journeying, swashbuckling, forming bonds, learning, failing and succeeding.

Our demand is not a selfish one or a “whim”, as Hofmeyr cynically describes it, it’s driven by a deep concern for those who follow us, the new generations of LGBTQ+ children.

They deserve to live fully in the world; to not be scarred (like so many of us have been) by the terrible fear of being un-lovable outcasts. They deserve to not experience the very real devastation of bullying, mocking and belittling by other children who know no better.

LGBTQ+ children deserve to feel normal, to fall in love, dream, be included and feel the wonder of seeing themselves in the magical and transformative world of storytelling. And for that, Steve Hofmeyr, we make no apology.

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