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As some conservative politicians seek to shield children from LGBTQ+ content in schools, now others want to keep them from accessing it on TV.
Five Republican U.S. senators, led by Roger Marshall of Kansas, sent a letter Wednesday to the TV Parental Guidelines Advisory Board asking it to update its rating system in light of "disturbing content" in children's shows.
"In recent years, concerning topics of a sexual nature have become aggressively politicized and promoted in children's programming, including irreversible and harmful experimental treatments for mental disorders like gender dysphoria," the letter says. It disregards the fact that treatments given to transgender youth are not experimental, irreversible, or harmful.
"Recently, a video emerged showing a prominent executive at children's entertainment giant Disney saying she supports having 'many, many, many LGBTQIA+ characters in our stories,'" the letter continues. "To the detriment of children, gender dysphoria has become sensationalized in the popular media and television with radical activists and entertainment companies. This radical and sexual sensation not only harms children, but also destabilizes and damages parental rights."
The senators also note Disney's opposition to Florida's recently enacted "don't say gay" law, restricting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. Many LGBTQ+ activists and allies, including Disney employees, found the company's opposition weak and belated, however.
A press release from Marshall's office says the letter is "in response to Disney's latest campaign to embed left-wing sexual politics in its children's programming."
The advisory board, created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, has a voluntary rating system for TV shows, noting if they contain content that might be inappropriate for children of various ages. The senators say anything addressing sexual orientation or gender identity is "wholly inappropriate" for shows with the TV-Y7 rating, meaning they're recommended for children age 7 and older.
Asked by The Kansas City Star for examples of kids' programs with such content, Marshall's staff mentioned Danger Force, The Loud House, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and the upcoming Dead End: Paranormal Park. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, for instance, was an animated series that included a nonbinary character, Double Trouble, voiced by nonbinary actor Jacob Tobia. New episodes are no longer being produced, but the show can still be viewed on Netflix and other services. Dead End, coming to Netflix in June, features a trans teen voiced by trans actor Zach Barack.
Marshall's staff also "cited a casting notice from Pixar seeking a voice actor for a transgender character and the fact that Disney is one of four companies airing a public service announcement featuring a family with a transgender child," the Star reports.
The senators ask for a response to the letter by May 18, plus an in-person meeting with members of the advisory board. In addition to Marshall, the signers are Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana, Steve Daines of Montana, and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.
LGBTQ+ activists and others are denouncing the senators' move. "We've seen enough of Kansas politicians beating up on trans kids and the LGBT community," Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, told the Star. "We certainly don't need Washington, D.C., senators joining in to use these kids as political punching bags."
The Indiana Democratic Party issued a statement on Braun's involvement, TV station WTHR reports: "There should be a warning label put up every time Mike Braun goes on TV because his antics are more about extreme partisanship and debunked conspiracies than actually creating a better future for all Hoosiers. Mike Braun sure seems to care a lot about other people's love lives -- from telling LGBTQ Hoosiers how they should act to believing that interracial marriages should be voided. Democrats join with the majority of Hoosiers and Americans in telling Mike Braun: get a life!"