"Homosexual recruitment" and similar derogatory terms are used to describe the belief that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people engage in deliberate attempts to convert otherwise heterosexual people into adopting a "gay lifestyle". Allegations of such recruitment have been used in opposition to institutionalized HIV prevention programs, anti-bullying legislation, anti-discrimination laws, in-school discussions of feminism and LGBT rights, and against the establishment of Gay-Straight Alliance school programs. They are seen as part of a larger narrative by opponents of LGBT rights to further the myth of gay people being predators.
Meaning and connotation
"Homosexual recruitment" and similar terms refer to the allegation that LGBT people engage in a concerted effort to indoctrinate children into being LGBT as well, and becoming, according to some social conservatives and Christian right groups, part of a "lifestyle that can kill them". Supporters of recruitment allegations point at "deviant" and "prurient" sex education as evidence. They express concern that anti-bullying efforts teach that "homosexuality is normal, and that students shouldn't harass their classmates because they're gay", suggesting recruitment as the primary motivation.
In a 1990 New York Times piece, gay writer David Leavitt criticized the term stating, "Of course, to any gay person who, as a frightened and confused teenager, searched desperately for books or films or television shows that offered even a mention of homosexual experience to latch on to, the idea of gay 'recruitment' is laughable. It is also profoundly insulting."
Examples of the term's use
The term tends to be used in the context of opposition to LGBT rights, policies which present LGBT behaviour as acceptable, and any discussion (referred to as 'promotion') in schools and in sex education. Some examples:
- In 1977, Anita Bryant successfully campaigned to repeal an ordinance in Miami-Dade County that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Her campaign was based upon allegations of homosexual recruitment. Bryant said "As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children." Michael Boucai, in his Journal of Social History review of Fred Fejes' book on that campaign, describes Bryant's use of "recruitment" this way: "In 1977, singer and born-again Christian Anita Bryant successfully led a campaign in Dade County, Florida, to repeal an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of 'sexual preference'. Fixating on a single context--classrooms--Bryant's organization, Save Our Children, framed the law as an endorsement of immorality and a license for 'recruitment'."
- In 1992, U.S. writer Judith Reisman cited "a clear avenue for the recruitment of children" by gays and lesbians in her public support of Oregon Ballot Measure 9. In 1994, Reisman said at a conference of U.S. Christian right leaders in Colorado Springs that homosexual "recruitment is loud; it is clear; it is everywhere." She estimated the gay and lesbian population at the time to be 1–2% but predicted at least 20% (and possibly over 30%) "of the young population will be moving into homosexual activity" as a result of "recruitment". In her WorldNetDaily piece, "GLSEN and the Hitler Youth", Reisman also expresses concern that groups such as GLSEN are cover for recruitment of children, saying "Under color of a 'Safe Schools Movement' battling alleged 'bullying' of so-called 'gay' children (K-12), some see GLSEN as a modern version of the Hitler Youth and as preparing the ground for a larger, sweeping, schoolroom Youth Brigade."
- In 2004, the U.S. Traditional Values Coalition wrote: "The state-endorsed pro-homosexual teacher/teen 'Teach Out' held at Tufts University in Boston in March has outraged concerned citizens. There's growing concern among parents over the use of tax dollars to fund homosexual recruitment programs in the public schools. During the Teach Out, state HIV instructors taught teenagers how to engage in deviant sex acts and they also taught teachers how to indoctrinate children into accepting homosexuality as normal."
- The Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone made a number of statements about gays in 2010, including that schools had "been penetrated by gay activists to recruit kids." Those allegations were linked by The New York Times to the murder of gay-rights activist David Kato.
- "Section 28" of the UK's 1988 Local Government Act created significant public controversy in the United Kingdom relating to the public presentation of homosexuality. It stated that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". No prosecution was ever brought under this legislation, and following intense debate the section was repealed in 2003. Its enactment caused some schools in the United Kingdom to close, limit or self-censor discussion (or 'promotion') and acknowledgment of homosexual and bisexual relationships (and by relation transgender and sexual diversity issues) within classes, sex education and student activities, for fear of breaching the law.
- In 2002, Boston University Chancellor John Silber ordered that a B.U.-affiliated high-school academy disband its gay-straight alliance, a student club that staged demonstrations to publicize what in its view were the deleterious effects of homophobia. Silber dismissed the stated purpose of the club, that of serving as a support group for gay students that also sought to promote tolerance and understanding between gay and straight students, and accused it of being a vehicle for homosexual recruitment. Silber denounced the group for "evangelism" and "homosexual militancy" with the purpose of promoting gay sex. At the time, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts funded gay-straight student clubs in 156 schools.
In 1998, The Onion addressed the term with a satire entitled "'98 Homosexual-Recruitment Drive Nearing Goal", saying "Spokespersons for the National Gay & Lesbian Recruitment Task Force announced Monday that more than 288,000 straights have been converted to homosexuality since January 1, 1998, putting the group well on pace to reach its goal of 350,000 conversions by the end of the year." The Westboro Baptist Church and other groups, apparently believing it accurate, passed along the story as fact. The WBC cited the piece as evidence of a gay conspiracy.
- Homosexual agenda
- List of organizations designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-gay hate groups
- Societal attitudes toward homosexuality
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