The Lovejoy Trap: Fascism Masquerading As Care

The Lovejoy Trap: Fascism Masquerading As Care

Protecting children from danger: it’s one of the most virtuous aims we can think of. Children are seen as innocent, adorable, and helpless. Want to raise the stakes in your screenplay? Put a child in danger, maybe add in a runaway baby carriage sequence. Want to establish what a wonderful hero your protagonist is? Have them save a child. Need to show how truly evil your villain is? You know what to do.

I’m a parent to two young children, one of whom is still a baby. I’ve got a lot of feelings about babies and children, and I spend a not inconsiderable amount of energy avoiding media where I have to see children harmed. I know the intense, visceral feeling of not wanting children to suffer. 

But there’s a problem: if I know that concern for children can have this effect, then it’s safe to say that people who want to manipulate me know it, too. In White Tears/Brown Scars Ruby Hamad calls it “the Lovejoy Trap.” Named after a character from The Simpsons, a reverend’s wife named Helen Lovejoy, it refers to a common rhetorical distraction. In the episode, as the town of Springfield is debating whether to reinstate prohibition, Mrs. Lovejoy pleads repeatedly, the pitch of her voice rising ever higher: “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”

The Simpsons (Season 7, Episode 23: Much Apu About Nothing)

The Lovejoy Trap is a tool people use to construct their identities in a way that makes them appear morally virtuous. It’s also frighteningly effective at packaging extreme inhumanity as being necessary “for the children.” It creates a sense of deep-seated urgency in its listeners, inspiring a desire to rescue the innocent from danger. It leapfrogs right over any discussion of the facts because it feels like life or death.

It’s not hard to find cynical uses of the Lovejoy Trap. In her book, Hamad provides an early example from American history: Reverend Charles Loring Brace and his “orphan trains.” In 1853, Loring founded the Children’s Aid Society, a charitable group dedicated to separating poor Irish, German, and Italian children from their families to become live-in servants in wealthy rural homes. Despite the name “orphan train,” about half of those kids were stolen from a parent. Why did they have to be ripped from their families’ arms and consigned to forced child labor? Because, according to Brace, their parents were incurably “poisoned” by poverty. The only way to ensure the children would be saved was to place them among successful families. People objected to this, arguing that children needed most to stay with their loving families, particularly noting that the children’s outcomes were not improved by this separation. The answer was always the same: what kind of monster doesn’t want to save children from a life of poverty?

An “orphan train” carrying children from New York to Texas

The practice of justifying these atrocities as necessary “for the children” has continued long after the last orphan train stopped running. In Canadian residential schools, indigenous children were kidnapped and then neglected, abused, and disposed of in mass graves. Despite this nightmarish fact, some continue to justify their existence on the basis that they were thinking of the children. Former professor Frances Widdowson was recently criticized for claiming that residential schools were positive because they provided Indigenous children an education “they normally wouldn’t have received.” 

In 1940, SS commander Heinrich Himmler wrote a letter explaining his plan to kidnap Polish children with Aryan blood: “I believe that it is correct to deport racially pure Polish children while officially stating that the deportations take place as a sanitary measure for the good of these children.” He would tell the public that he was thinking of the children, but the purpose of these kidnappings was to reverse Germany’s falling Aryan birth rate and balance out their replacement by those perceived as sub-humans. 

During the campaign to integrate U.S. schools, a popular argument against the move was that there might be diseases that one population of children were immune to but would attack the other. The professor who invented that idea knew it was unlikely, but he called it “a fine idea that might be very useful,” especially if he made out that white children might be at risk of venereal disease. At the same time, UC Berkeley professor A. James Gregor claimed that forcing Black children to try and keep up and fit in with the white children would give them such intense psychological damage that they might even develop schizophrenia. Again, he knew it wasn’t true, but that it would provide a “morally attractive” option for people opposed to integration. Pamphlets even described integration as a Moscow plot to trick white Americans into miscegenation, which would be a crime against white children equal to “Hitler’s Germany.”  

“They’re drunk on our children’s blood, for God’s sake!”

In the United States today, concern for children is a centerpiece of some highly dangerous extremism. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones regularly whips his audience into a violent frenzy in the name of protecting children from “globalists,” “Satanists,” and “the New World Order.” In 2011, in a maelstrom of performative emotion, Jones cried out: “I can see what they’re doing and I have—we have a responsibility to stop these globalists. Where are the men in this country? Where are the men in this world? What the hell have we become? We just offer our children up to the system with the fluoride in the water and the GMO hurting ‘em. And we let fat perverts grab them at the airport to train them for the pedophile government.” It is a recurring theme that this fixation on children also lifts up masculinity and manly strength as the solution. In 2016, he claimed that Hillary Clinton “personally murdered and chopped up and raped” children. In 2018, he ranted through tears at a photo of CNN correspondent Brian Stelter: “Oh, God, they’re so evil. Just please God, free us from them. They’re drunk on our children’s blood, for God’s sake!” 

InfoWars January 5, 2018

This rhetoric can result in real, devastating violence. In 2017, a fan of Jones fired an automatic rifle inside D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong, reacting to a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chairman John Podesta were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of the basement. The QAnon constellation of conspiracy theories—which posits that Donald Trump is fighting a cabal of child sex trafficking Satan worshippers who are harvesting frightened children’s adrenalin-laced blood to achieve immortality—has inspired numerous violent incidents, including, at least partially, the January 6 insurrection. 

But QAnon is only a recent expression of a devastating pattern: unscrupulous media personalities and cultural leaders amplify the lies of individuals and direct people to rescue babies and children, a cause so just and urgent that they will do whatever it takes. In 2014 the Hampstead Hoax had people lunging and screaming at officials, that they are “baby eaters, who cut off children’s and babies’ heads!” and before that the Satanic Panic had mainstream media repeating false claims of child sacrifice. We can go back to the Salem Witch Trials and beyond to see people willing to do extreme violence to someone they think is harming a child, even if that person is a child herself.

Protests erupted across the country to raise “awareness” 

The idea that there is a Satanic child sex-trafficking epidemic may seem like a fringe belief, but a recent poll suggests that over a quarter of Americans believe that Satanic ritual abuse is widespread, and over a third believe that members of Satanic cults are secretly abusing thousands of children every day in underground networks run by government and Hollywood elites. Protests to “save the children” have been taking place across the U.S. to raise awareness of the conspiracy, which has actually directly impeded the work of legitimate anti-trafficking organizations.

The idea that the secret elites are drinking children’s blood might sound familiar if you know anything about antisemitism: that’s blood libel. It goes back centuries: in medieval Europe, people prayed to child martyrs like Simon of Trent, who were supposedly killed by Jews as ritual sacrifices.

A medieval German woodcut depicting blood libel / A page from a 1935 German children’s book. The caption reads “Here, little ones, have some candy! But for that you will both have to come with me…”

Blood libel has featured heavily in genocides against Jewish people since its inception. Concern for children is a powerful tool for those looking to spread the idea of a global conspiracy of Jews out to dominate the world. Those uncomfortable endorsing every element of that conspiracy theory can be brought on board piece by piece. Not everyone who uses the Lovejoy Trap is trying to move their audience to support a fascist regime, but movements that rely heavily on the idea that our children are in immediate mortal danger at the hands of evildoers do add momentum to such regimes. As we will see, the most popular peddlers of less explicit children-in-peril stories often direct their audiences to the work of people who aren’t afraid to go there.

“Where are the dads? Why are they not protecting their daughters?”

The Lovejoy Trap is everywhere. It’s in anti-CRT panic, anti-vaccine and COVID-19 conspiracy rhetoric, anti-immigration propaganda, and more. Exploring all these in detail would fill a book. This article is restricted to exploring use of the Lovejoy Trap in the anti-trans movement. Anti-trans activism functions on two fronts: the political right wing and so-called “gender critical” activists, a movement ostensibly about protecting women’s rights. 

The Lovejoy Trap frequently asks us to take the perspective of a parent, even if the person speaking is not the parent of anyone involved. Some subfields of linguistics analyze how we take on different social roles by choosing different ways of speaking, writing, or signing.  And the roles people build for themselves in a given utterance don’t have to correspond to any real world “objective” demographic category. You can speak “parentally” no matter who you are. A popular point of attack against trans acceptance is the idea that trans girls might be welcome in spaces designated for girls, because it necessarily entails talking about children’s safety. When you look at the next few images, pay close attention to how they talk about cis children as opposed to trans children:

Tweet by Caitlyn Jenner / Tweet by Fair Cop founder
Excerpt from

The way anti-trans commentators take on parental identities and the words they choose to identify other people shows how the Lovejoy Trap allows them to construct the worldview they want us to adopt. Conversations about allowing trans children to participate in school activities that correspond to their gender tend to focus exclusively on girls, because it is easier to invent a narrative in which girls are being victimized by “males” than the other way around. In these statements, cisgender girls are described as “our daughters” and “adolescent girls,” while trans girls are described as “biological boys with penises,” “men,”  and “males.” The attitude that it is all parents’ business if trans children’s gender identities are affirmed has been enshrined in public policy: in Florida, a “parental rights” policy requires schools to alert all parents at a public school if there is a trans child who is allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender.  

Trans girls are also treated as a danger to children when they play sports with other girls:

Tweet by conservative blogger Rod Dreher / Article from the Education First Alliance

Statements about trans girls in sports tend to generalize all cis girls as “daughters,” thereby reinforcing the sense that adults should be exercising protective control over them. Rod Dreher’s mention of “dads” is telling—he is advocating for a patriarchal system that protects and controls children. The image in the Education First Alliance article shows anti-trans campaigners’ bias as well: a silhouette of a massive grown man leaping into the air, looming over a tiny feminine figure. In reality, the only reason anyone believes that a trans girl is responsible is that a parent on the opposing team speculated about it. 

In the original story, the board members acknowledge that they “‘didn’t do too much digging on those things,’ and likely could not have obtained such information even if members tried.” Even if she had been trans, this injury is extremely common in junior girls’ volleyball. In spite of these facts, there has been a flood of stories uncritically reproducing the idea that trans girls should be excluded from girls’ sports.

“She’s Coming For Your Kids!” 

Patriarchal control over children, particularly female children, typifies the use of the Lovejoy Trap  as a rhetorical tool against LGBTQ+ acceptance. Whether it’s a concern for “our daughters” or a conspiracy that the left is trying to feminize boys by letting them dress up, children must be protected from the imagined dangers of gender variance.

An article from the Heritage Foundation

People seem very worried that children are being indoctrinated into accepting the idea of queer people existing around them. About a third of Americans think there is a secret gay agenda to turn children gay and/or trans. To try to stop this, astroturfed “parent groups” have been trying to get books banned from libraries and schools in record numbers.

At the same time, large social media accounts have taken to publicizing the faces, names, and workplaces of teachers who are publicly queer or are queer allies.

In October 2022, an email was sent to parents at a preschool announcing that a male teacher was going on parental leave and supplying options for parents to explain to their children what it means that he is a pregnant trans man. Conservative activist Phil Kerpen tweeted a screenshot, which Ted Cruz also distributed with the mocking caption “not satire.” In the comments, people called for the whole staff to be locked up immediately, berating trans people who spoke up with comments like, “Bigotry isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it protects children from freaks like you.” One commenter lamented that the man’s baby is “being brought into this world to intentionally be deprived of one or both of its biological parents (and hence, be scarred for the rest of their natural life) all for the pleasure of adults.” The use of the word “pleasure” here is telling. It is a common throughline in these discussions that anything a trans person does, no matter how innocent, is actually done for sexual gratification. 

Anti-trans figure appears on GB News / Tweet by author Paul Embery

People often ask why drag queens, trans people, and other LGBTQ+ people would even want to work with children, as if that is inherently suspicious. Nobody ever asked this of women who dress up in fairy princess costumes to read to children. Most of the teachers I’ve worked with have been cis, straight white ladies, and nobody ever questioned their desire to work with children. The word “groomer,” once a rare sight, is now one of the most common epithets hurled at LGBTQ+ people and anyone who speaks up for them. It refers to a type of child sexual abuse in which adults insinuate themselves into the lives of children and manipulate them to be receptive to a sexual relationship later. On Twitter, the phrase “OK groomer” surged by almost 2,500% in the first half of 2022.

James Lindsay interview with Heritage Foundation’s news organization /  “OK Groomer” on Twitter

Because it has been pointed out that being queer does not make someone more likely to commit sexual abuse, people driving this rhetoric have had to justify their use of the groomer epithet. In articles and Twitter threads, they explain that “grooming” is just how they refer to changing a child’s attitudes. Republican tastemaker Chris Rufo and his colleague Michael Young contend that teaching children about LGBTQ+ people sexualizes children, so “groomer” is apt even if sexual abuse is never involved. James Lindsay, a vocal critic of social justice in academia, links the “grooming” narrative to broader attempts to subvert Western values and undermine the nuclear family. He accuses them of being inspired by Queer Theory, which comes from the Frankfurt School, postmodernism and “cultural Marxism.” (These are well-known antisemitic dogwhistles.)

Tweets by two right-wing activist colleagues / Tweet by YouTuber and podcaster Tim Pool
James Lindsay’s blog and podcast blaming “cultural marxism”

This attitude, too, is now part of Florida Board of Education official policy: in a recent board meeting, a policy supposedly forbidding K-3 teachers from sharing “sexual content” actually allows the board to revoke a teacher’s license if they teach about gender at all, including but not limited to the fact that trans and nonbinary people exist. Chris Rufo has also been spotlighting Portland Public Schools, which has a curriculum specifically designed to help children communicate the names of their intimate body parts regardless of gender and learn how to seek help in the case that someone subjects them to “unsafe touches.” From a practical perspective, it makes sense to divorce anatomy lessons from gender identity. If a trans girl needs to explain that someone has touched her inappropriately, she should be able to say what happened using the right terms, which she will have learned through this lesson plan as independent from the fact that she’s a girl. If she had learned that all girls have a vulva, she wouldn’t be able to report it accurately. As it so often does, the purported concern for children has now made it more difficult for children to advocate for their own safety. This is no coincidence: the religious right has a long history of fear mongering about children being exposed to facts about sexuality outside their communities while subjecting women and children to vicious abuse as part of a system of patriarchal, coercive control, partly to ensure high birth rates within their own population. If children learned how to identify and report abuse, a valuable tool would be lost.

The same people using the Lovejoy Trap to agitate for the removal of LGBTQ+ educators and curricula have also been organizing the coordinated harassment of families and performers at child-friendly events featuring drag queens. The anti-drag protesters who gather in front of the venues have been getting more violent as well. After people like Chris Rufo and Chaya Raichik tweet the time and place, armed protesters sporting white supremacist symbols and uniforms descend on these events, some becoming violent and even storming (or attempting to storm) the premises to prevent the children from being entertained by drag queens. 

Tweet by Chaya Raichik

Child-friendly drag involves dressing up in makeup and costumes, and the activities include things like reading children’s stories, singing and dancing, or runway walking. No nudity or stripping is involved, but anti-drag social media accounts will often share images or videos from adults-only shows and say children were present in order to inspire disgust. Rufo has written that he wants people to call drag queens “trans strippers,” in a move to make all drag seem lurid and sexual. 

Rufo tweeted about a child-friendly drag queen story time scheduled for October 23, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. He chose to include video from a late-night, adults-only goth punk show from several months earlier at a completely different venue a mile away, misleadingly insinuating that Satanic references and nudity would be involved in the children’s event. The wife of a Proud Boy doxxed the eleven-year-old headliner and spread lies about his association with someone accused of owning child pornography. Patriot Prayer associate Andy Ngo amplified the claims, which prompted white supremacists and neo-nazis to travel to Eugene and mount a violent protest. According to a photojounralist, when they arrived, they threw nazi signs and threatened counter-protesters. They were outnumbered, however, and as they left they launched mace, paintballs and smoke bombs indiscriminately. Even though the outrage was built on lies, the protests it inspired were led by self-declared Nazis, and the child who performed was traumatized by the violent hatred directed at him, everyone involved continues to claim that they are acting in defense of children.

Conspiracy theories about drag queen story hours and LGBTQ+ indoctrination in schools being related to Satanic blood sacrifice are also easy to find. Recently, a group of adults ganged up on a middle school girl at a school board meeting to berate her to the point of tears for supposedly hiding Satanic and pro-LGBTQ+ imagery in her mural. On social media posts about drag shows, it is not uncommon to find references to Satanism, including accusations that all trans people worship Satan. 

A tweet by the Salt Lake Tribune / memes posted to Twitter

“The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters”

The Lovejoy Trap extends to scaremongering about a conspiracy to turn cis children trans. Children’s hospitals and charities for LGBTQ+ youth have had to reduce services in the face of violent harassment. Thanks to the sustained campaign by 1.4 million follower Twitter account called Libs of Tiktok, run by Chaya Raichik, multiple hospitals have been targeted with bomb threats. And she has vowed to continue. Raichik publicizes names and contact information of people who provide emotional, therapeutic and medical support to LGBTQ+ youths, often relying on misleading images, rumor and innuendo to make them seem sinister. Mainstream journalists and politicians are not innocent of this child-focused fear mongering, either.

Cover of the Atlantic from 2018 / Cover of Shrier’s book, debunked here / Graphic from an anti-trans zine

These claims all seem to assume that there is an epidemic of children being rushed into irreversible drugs and surgery without making sure it’s the right path first. It’s actually a tiny number. In the U.S. in 2020, 0.002% of youths aged 6-17 were put on puberty blockers and 0.006% have gone on hormones. Many of these pieces refer to the youths in question as “your child” and “our daughters,” asking us to join the writers in worrying about vulnerable children. The tendency to force the conversation about gender-affirming care to be hyper-focused on children enables a sidestep away from medical expertise by riding on the psychological shortcut of parental concern. It uplifts the voice of the parental figure above everyone else’s, even if the person speaking is not actually a parent. 

Speaking from a parental identity also facilitates the next implication we are expected to accept: that trans youths are clamoring for hormones and surgery out of a childish urge to get the cool new toy everyone is talking about. They argue that children are getting procedures done without proper evaluation, that it’s happening immediately after they express interest in a gender other than the one that corresponds to their sex assigned at birth, that they’re being pushed to transition instead of being a tomboy or a feminine boy first. But that’s all a myth. Experts regularly agree that the bar for medical intervention is extremely high. Anti-trans activists and journalists say that 98% of people undergoing medical transition don’t need it. But a recent study by van der Loos et al., published in the Lancet, shows that’s not true either. None of this fact-checking matters in this sociocultural context, though, since we’re all supposed to be playing the part of “concerned parental figure” to all of these trans people, children and adults alike. 

Tweet by activist and moderator of r/detrans Ritchie Herron

Why is it so dangerous to constantly be expressing vague worry about the personal choices of other people like this? We know that evangelicals and other devoted defenders of patriarchal rule are an enormous and powerful political bloc, and that the GOP sees trans panic as a way to mobilize evangelical voters. One reliable tool for this purpose is to use the Lovejoy Trap to infantilize everyone authoritarians want to subjugate, to justify taking control of all aspects of our lives. Trans and other LGBTQ+ people, women, non-white people, communists, socialists and disabled people cannot be left to their own devices; autonomy for them would just lead to degradation of the populace. Right-thinking people have to stop them from making choices that would jeopardize the ultimate good, which is the reproduction of good genetic stock. In fact, the Lovejoy Trap is frequently paired with a disturbing preoccupation with the sex lives and fertility of the children in question.

This kind of language takes the side effects of taking hormones and surgery, which patients are required to consider and agree to, and places them in a position of higher importance than the main effect, which is getting their bodies to better match their gender. The idea that gender affirming care damages their sexual satisfaction is also just not true. That’s just a bunch of adults inventing a sad story about teens not having orgasms and getting upset about it. These statements also conflate social transition, puberty blockers, hormones, replacement therapy, top surgery, and bottom surgery, often taking numbers from studies about social transition (just changing their name, clothes, and pronouns) and pretending they reflect the numbers of children getting surgery. All of the medical procedures available have very different side effects and are accessed at very different rates. Very few people actually have surgery (certainly far fewer people than want it), but its impact on their fertility and sexual satisfaction is something they have all been asked to consider before consenting.

Tweets by anti-trans activist Allison Bailey

Another trick frequently found alongside the Lovejoy Trap: adopting an extremely negative affective stance. In linguistics, “affective stance” means the ways you communicate your opinion about the topic under discussion. In the case of fearmongering about trans children, we get words like “mutilation,” “child abuse,” and “experimentation” to describe well-researched, responsibly prescribed treatments that have a well-documented high success rate.

Tweet by Tulsi Gabbard promoting “The Rally to End Child Mutilation” / Video by photojournalist Nicole Hester at the rally / Truck seen at the rally

Not everyone stops at the already outrageous idea that children are being preyed on and mutilated in the name of transgender acceptance. Perhaps because the far right shares common cause with anyone who wants to put a stop to trans acceptance, the white supremacist logic that guides their ideology can sometimes find its way into the rhetoric of people who do not consider themselves far-right. That includes the conspiracy theory that Jewish elites are manipulating the rest of us into destroying ourselves.

Two posts (1) and (2) by Jennifer Bilek referencing a transhumanist conspiracy to make children trans.

One person supplying this theory to anti-trans campaigners is Jennifer Bilek, who runs the blog “the 11th Hour.” Bilek compares trans healthcare to Nazi eugenics, calling them “experiments on children’s healthy bodies and sex organs.” She contends that trans acceptance is actually a conspiracy by transhumanists to get us to disassociate from our bodies and consent to body modification. Her work is shared by anti-trans figures with enormous mainstream audiences: major activist organizations, journalists and media figures have praised her blog, which she uses to platform extremists including David Icke, who believes that the world is run by lizard people in human costumes, and neo-nazi Keith Woods, who responded to her Federalist article accusing wealthy white men of driving trans acceptance by convincing her that it Jewish people, not white men, at fault.

Tweet by Jennifer Bilek advocating the “Jewish aspect” of the conspiracy

Other venues have also published Bilek’s claims that the Pritzkers are trying to make more people adopt “synthetic sex identities” so that they can become even wealthier while distorting the “natural” gender order. Naming the Pritzkers, Martine Rothblatt, George Soros and other wealthy people who donate to LGBTQ+ causes is a way of pointing out Jewish or Jewish-sounding names in relation to their conspiracy without explicitly saying that they believe in a Jewish conspiracy for world domination.

At their root, the “groomer” panic and the “transgender craze” are intertwined with the white supremacist policies of Heinrich Himmler and far-right American conspiracy theorists, and ultimately any fascist ideology. They consider capitalism and individualism to be proper, pure, and masculine, and accuse the conspirators of trying to weaken and destroy the white race through miscegenation, outstripping white birth rates, and injecting degenerate values like communism, femininity and queerness. It is a belief system that has inspired multiple mass murders in the last few years, and it ties together seemingly contradictory ideas: acceptance, nurturing, and care must be destroyed wherever it is found, but also this must be done as a gesture of care for women and children. The motivating slogan for several white supremacist militias in the United States is the 14 words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”

Some conservatives are ready to say the quiet part out loud: America has been stolen by bogeymen like Jews, sexual deviants, foreigners, and their liberal abettors; and it needs to be “recovered” by force. What they want is for a violent revolution that reconstitutes the government into a force that controls Americans’ lives and legislates them into having no choice but to form racially segregated, heterosexual nuclear families with rigid gender roles (“Authentic Americans are men”). A country that looks on anyone who deviates from this model (or supports anyone who deviates) as degenerate and a danger to children, someone who “should be arrested and charged with child abuse.” The solution is both cultural and economic: “To stop universities from spreading poisonous ideologies will require state legislatures to starve them of public funds.” 

The strategy is to use cultural topics to generate intense fear on behalf of the helpless, channel that fear into violent rage against the supposed villains, and then ride that wave of violence to a revolution that will facilitate the dismantling of public goods and leave us with a state that only provides services and protection to the worthy, an authoritarian state where marginalized groups, consumers, and workers are plunged into destitution and subjugation.

The Children Can Think For Themselves

Something the Lovejoy Trap does very effectively is to make the conversation about children, without including them in the conversation. Kids don’t need the likes of Matt Walsh calling for drag queens to be thrown behind bars. They certainly don’t need him renting out a basement in Loudoun County, Virginia just so he can grab the mic at a school board meeting and pontificate about whether children he will never meet should be allowed to use the facilities that correspond to their gender. They don’t need bills like the ones being introduced in Idaho and Tennessee that would ban drag performances from anywhere kids might be present. When kids are given the chance to weigh in on their own needs, they’re very clear. As one cisgender Kansas teen put it: “I have used these bathrooms repeatedly alongside trans people and have never once felt threatened. You know who I have felt threatened by? The actions of this school board.” Patients at the hospitals that are being targeted have been on a long path to finally get their treatments and they are expressing frustration that people who don’t know how it works are so determined to keep them away.

Dealing with this rhetorical trap can be frustrating. You can’t fact-check people who are using the Lovejoy Trap because it’s not actually a set of propositions. It’s a stance that brings with it a sense of ownership and control over others in the guise of loving concern. You can’t fact check your way out of that. You have to resist it in other ways. 

We can learn to notice in ourselves when we are frightened by the Lovejoy Trap and choose not to obey that fear. We can recognize the intersectional nature of its use: you may have noticed through these examples that race, gender, sexuality and the urban/suburban/rural divide are all working together to draw a bright line around good, pure, sturdy, simple families who should be protected from the threat of dark, sexually insatiable, fluid, organized conspirators. We can lend our support to organizations who amplify the voices of those directly impacted by hate, like the Trans Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, or the ACLU, which is currently representing Arkansas families in federal court to stop a bill that takes treatment away from trans kids that they allow for cis kids. We can fund organizations that give counseling to LGBTQ+ youths, like the Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline. We can make ourselves into safe adults for queer kids to rely on, by lending our voices and bodies when they are attacked by violent extremists within and without the government. 

It is important to recognize the insidious nature of the Lovejoy Trap as we work to create an egalitarian society. It treats some people as unworthy of trust, care, and respect, under the pretense of irreproachable morality. It casts innocent people as so irredeemably evil that their imagined cruelty to children justifies swift and decisive violence. It typifies countless reactionary and fascist movements across history because it is so effective. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

This article has been updated to note that the Charles Loring Brace example was drawn from Ruby Hamad’s White Tears/Brown Scars.