Election Day in the United States is only days away, and it’s a midterm with major consequences. From my previous writings, I think it’s clear that I have fairly progressive and left-leaning politics, and in this case, I am concerned that Republican wins will harm the US in numerous ways. From the environmental crisis, to the right to abortion, to gun deaths, to bad economic policies, to public safety in the face of an ongoing pandemic, to the undermining of democracy itself through election denial. But another topic has concerned me lately, and while it’s a bit small potatoes compared to the above-mentioned subjects, I think it ties into the generally fascistic threats that are happening: the attack on fandom.
Recently, right-wing media has been spreading a false story about a student supposedly identifying as a cat and receiving a very public litter box at school. It plays on the fear that accommodating trans people will lead to a slippery slope of moral degradation, and this tactic also attacks teachers and public education. It also clearly puts a target on the backs of furries. To see such vitriolic rumor-mongering about that group on primetime cable TV in 2022 (instead of 2002 on Something Awful) is disconcerting because I think it‘s part of a larger effort to remove spaces for inner exploration through fandom.
Even for a cisgender, heterosexual person like myself, being in fandoms has helped me learn about myself and to broaden my perspectives on various topics, including but not limited to gender and sexuality. Using fandom to find out what you like and don’t like, and then deciding whether or not to interact with others through a shared media experience, can be a very rich and rewarding experience that helps one grow emotionally. Over the years, it’s become increasingly obvious that fandom can help people to realize their identities, be it LGBT+ or otherwise. My fear is that right-wing politics seeks to remove all spaces, online and offline, where people who do not conform to their narrow values can be themselves.
I’m well aware that the description of fandom I just gave is a bit rosy, and that there are toxic elements to fandom that don’t originate with right-wing politics. But I think the general threat of disinformation and using false morality as a tool to leverage power is far greater from the right wing.
Scaring parents by showing freaky fandoms goes hand-in-hand with banning gender-affirming care, and it altogether might drive enough ill-informed people to the polls who mistakenly believe they’re saving America. Trans people, furries, and so many other marginalized groups have been used as scapegoats to distract voters from bigger problems. It’s the Satanic Panic. It’s violent video games. It’s every other fear-mongering propaganda about hobbies meant to scare people into voting against their best interests. I hope we don’t let the same mistake happen.