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The words we use matter

Arizona Daily Star Pima County Supervisor Matt Heinz Special

Here are my opinions and analysis:

Recently, Pima County Board of Supervisors legal counsel took the unusual and unusual step of barring the public from attending board meetings for three months. It was caused by an individual who repeatedly called me, an elected member of the board, a “pedophile” during calls to the public section of our conference over the course of several weeks.

As a gay man, I know what the word codes for.

Over the last few years, I have watched with horror as state legislatures across the country, and here in Arizona, pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Research by the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Countering Digital Hate found social media content using the terms “groomers” and “pedophiles” after Florida adopted its disgraceful “Don’t Say Gay” law surged over 400%.

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As a country, we are living through an extraordinary moment of hatred and demonization of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a throughline connecting members of the Pima County community who are throwing slurs at me at online hate speech against homophobic and transphobic bills passed by state legislature-elected leaders. .

Let’s be clear. Stories about me as a gay man being a pedophile, or people wearing drugs, or librarians being groomers are right-wing narratives intended to escalate the culture wars that drive a wedge in our society. It’s a lie spun to the extreme. And obviously it works. (See Pima County Supervisory Board Public Calls for Specific Meetings.)

This harmful lie affects reality. As my colleague on the Board, District 1 Supervisor Rex Scott, has emphasized, brandishing the term pedophile has a traumatic effect on actual survivors of child abuse. “If you whiffly throw out defamatory remarks in public like this voter, you not only violate board rules, but you’re probably making children in our community into actual child abusers and actual pedophiles.” As supervisor Scott said at a recent board meeting:

And as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I would like to say that this hateful language is actually endangering the mental and physical health of young and vulnerable members of our community.

The massacre of five people at Club Q in Colorado Springs last November is just one of the harrowing and horrific examples of what hate speech can do in practice. According to Human Rights’ campaign, nearly one-fifth of his hate crimes are motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias. The past two years have been the deadliest for transgender people since the organization began tracking such attacks. It became clear.

This is not happening in a vacuum.

I firmly believe that our voters should speak out during the public calls for biweekly meetings. I strongly believe in following the rules and, just as importantly, the norms of civic participation. Supporters of voters who received a three-month ban denounced her actions as an infringement on her freedom of speech, which is hate speech, not freedom of speech. The words we use matter.

You can easily send a letter to the editor or a guest comment to the Arizona Daily Star by following these steps:

Arizona Daily Star


Dr. Matt Heinz is a Tucson Hospitalist and represents District 2 on the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

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