Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s officials discreetly removed an entire Health Department web page listing resources for LGBTQ kids after Ben Shapiro’s media outlet inquired about a couple of items listed on the site.
In May, right-wing outlet The Daily Wire, which Shapiro co-founded, had inquired about two websites linked on the state Health Department page, reports The Virginia Mercury.
One site, Queer Kid Stuff, describes itself as “an edutainment company on a mission to spread queer joy to LGBTQ+ kids, parents, caregivers, educators, their loved ones, and allies.” The other, Q Chat Space, offers “live, chat-based discussion groups for LGBTQ+ and questioning teens ages 13 to 19 … facilitated by experienced staff and volunteers from youth programs at LGBTQ+ centers across the United States.”
Daily Wire reporter Spencer Lindquist sent an inquiry on May 31, asking about the sites. “How are resources selected by the Virginia Department of Health?” Lindquist wrote in his email at 9:12 a.m. “Queer Kid Stuff has previously promoted child transgenderism. Does the Virginia Department of Health take a stance on the medical transitioning of minors? Is the Virginia Department of Health aware that the QChat Space, which is marketed to those as young as 13 who identify as LGBT, has a special quick escape feature that allows users to swiftly exit the site?”
He had given a two-hour window for response, which apparently set off a frenzy within the state government to remove the entire LGBTQ Resources for Youth page instead.
Emily Yeatts, a supervisor for the Health Department’s Division of Child and Family Health, and Rachel Brown, the Health Department’s adolescent health coordinator, drafted a response to Lindquist’s questions, detailing their goals “to be a trusted source of public health information for all Virginians” and adding that all “Virginians includes people of all ages, races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and ability statuses.”
“VDH does not have a ‘stance’ on medical transition; as a state agency, VDH provides information, and the administration takes a position on issues.… QChat Space is not managed by VDH, but we can share that ‘quick escape’ features are typical for a variety of websites, particularly websites that could put a person at risk for violence from others. Intimate partner violence/sexual violence/domestic violence webpages often have this feature. LGBT people are at increased risk for violence,” the officials also wrote.
But the detailed statement was never used; instead Director of Communications Maria Reppas told staff she was “working with leadership on this one.” While officials never responded with comment to Lindquist’s questions about the two specific resources, it seemed that the intention of “leadership” was indeed just to quietly get rid of the entire web page.
“Did someone request this?” asked Yeatts in an email to other staff members after the web page was removed. “This request did not come from the program.”
Vanessa Walker Harris, director for the Office of Family Health Services (which manages content on the Health Department web page) expressed similar concern in a separate, concurrent email.
“I’m noticing that the referenced webpage is no longer accessible and I’m having a bad case of deja vu,” Walker Harris wrote. “What am I missing? I’m very concerned that staff were directed to remove the webpage without engaging [subject matter experts] in response to a politically motivated inquiry, yet again.”
Indeed, the Mercury revealed that the office of John Littel, the secretary of health and human resources, ordered the removal of the whole site—with little concern to inform any other relevant parties.
Youngkin’s administration has removed information from the government health website without consulting any subject-matter experts at least three times in the past year and a half, The Washington Post reports. Information on abortions, sexual health, and pregnancy, and more, all unilaterally removed at the behest of far-right interests opposed to people’s civil rights and bodily autonomy.
In this way, Youngkin—whom, like Ron DeSantis, portions of the mainstream press have professed to be a moderate vessel of the Republican Party—is in fact just a friendly Americana face masking the far-right agenda to vilify LGBTQ people and kids and make them feel as isolated and desperate as possible.