Christian nationalist congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is spreading an insidious lie about monkeypox. On Saturday, she Tweeted this:
The clear implication: that gay “groomers” are giving the disease to children via sexual abuse.
Others on the right have started asking the same (misguided) question and reaching the same (wrong) conclusion.
The problem here, besides the obvious homophobia, is that the central premise of this question is false: Monkeypox is NOT a sexually transmitted disease.
Monkeypox is spread in several ways, as the CDC notes. One of them is direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected area. It can also can spread though “respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex.”
It can also — shades of smallpox — be spread by “touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids.”
In other words: It can spread through sex, which generally involves a lot of skin-to-skin contact. But contact DOES NOT have to be sexual to spread the disease. You can get it by hugging. And you can also get it from a blanket.
Right now, in the US, the disease has apparently spread the most in communities of men who have sex with men. We don’t know how prevalent the virus is among straight people because we’ve pretty much only been testing gay men. But it’s abundantly clear that it’s not a “gay disease,” or one always associated with sex.
Of course the people who like to accuse their political enemies of being “groomers” aren’t interested in the subtleties or, really, in the truth at all. And if tweets like Marjorie Taylor Greene’s are any indication, the already poisonous rhetoric is likely to get worse, especially after schools open and children start giving the disease to one another. It’s going to get really ugly, as some on Twitter are warning.
The only way to control monkeypox? By acknowledging it as the disease it is, and taking the proper precautions against it. Turning it into an excuse for anti-gay hate won’t save lives; it will only make life worse for gay men (and LGBTQ+ people more generally). With a lot of right-wingers, unfortunately, that’s the goal, not just a side effect. We need to call out their bullshit as the clear and present danger it is.
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