A gay, out California state senator attended Folsom Street Fair this weekend, and conservatives are melting down over a photo he took at the event.
State Sen. Scott Wiener tweeted a photograph of himself shirtless with a group of men in various leather gear with the caption, "Happy Folsom Street Fair." Almost immediately, right-wing Twitter took notice and took exception to the elected official's participation.
Mixed martial artist Jake Shields tweeted, "The same politician who kept your kid out of school for two years because covid is attending gay orgies during monkeypox. Feel free to Google Folsom street fair and see the wonderful delights he’s enjoying."
Wiener tells The Advocate that he had an excellent time at Folsom and that the attacks on him as a gay man, while not new, have gotten more extreme recently because society has given a particular element permission to spew its bigotry in public.
"This has been going on for me for years," he says. "There are a number of pictures of me shirtless from as far back as 2016 that they'll recycle all the time. It's just straight-up homophobia."
He says that although there are straight people who attend the Folsom Street Fair, "they're attacking a gay man for being a gay man who is participating in a heavily LGBTQ+ event."
He adds that the discomfort and antipathy toward queer male sexuality also stem from homophobia. Wiener explains that there's a mindset of '"I'm okay with gay men existing, they just can't actually be gay men."
It is opportunistic Republicans who are driving a narrative that is at the expense of the LGBTQ+ community, he says.
"They're being empowered on social media by sociopath elected officials like Ron DeSantis and others who have normalized attacking and degrading LGBTQ+ people," Wiener says.
"I will add that I've been called pedophile tens of thousands of times," he continues. "It's rare that a day goes by that somebody doesn't call me a pedophile on social media."
Earlier this year, an anti-vaxxer threatened Wiener over a bill that would've let teens receive vaccinations without parental consent. The man was convicted of seven felonies two weeks ago.
He was found guilty of threatening the senator's life, two counts of assault weapons possession, two counts of manufacturing unregistered firearms, and two counts of concealment of firearms in a vehicle.
Wiener says that people need to remain vigilant to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people in the United States.
"We've had a lot of progress the last few decades, but we need to be clear that there's still a massive undercurrent of homophobia and transphobia in this country."
He says, "They want us to disappear. They hate us. They're trying to bring this country back to the 1950s. They're doing it around women and abortion, around race, and for queer people. And if we have to exist, they want us to be very quiet about it and not be in any way public or celebrate our community."
And for those who are upset about a photo of him shirtless at a public event, he doesn't have much time.
"I'm a gay man. I'm a single gay man," he says."I enjoy life, and sexuality is part of human existence. If they have a problem, that's their issue, not mine, and they need to get a life."