State Farm’s jingle is unmistakable: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Yet when it came to State Farm’s support of a program providing LGBTQ-themed children’s books to teachers and libraries, conservative groups and right-leaning media outlets derided the insurance company as “a creepy neighbor” and accused it of “targeting” children with books about gender identity.
State Farm, facing conservative uproar, drops support of LGBTQ children’s-book program GenderCool
“State Farm tells us they’re a good neighbor, but would a good neighbor target 5-year-olds for conversations about sexual identity?” the narrator says in a video posted Monday by the conservative group Consumers’ Research. “That’s what State Farm is doing.”
Hours after a report about the partnership prompted an online uproar from conservatives, State Farm announced that it was dropping its support of the GenderCool Project, aimed at helping raise awareness around what it means to be transgender, inclusive and nonbinary.
State Farm spokesman Roszell Gadson confirmed to The Washington Post on Tuesday that the insurance company had ended its support of GenderCool after it had “been the subject of news and customer inquiries.”
“Conversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents,” Gadson said in a statement. “We don’t support required curriculum in schools on this topic. We support organizations providing resources for parents to have these conversations. We no longer support the program allowing for distribution of books in schools.”
The company maintained that it would “continue to explore how we can support organizations that provide tools and resources that align with our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
The company’s decision was reported by the Washington Examiner on Monday night.
GenderCool founders Jennifer Grosshandler and Gearah Goldstein told The Post that State Farm informed them early Tuesday that their partnership of the last year had come to an end.
“They have concluded their partnership with us; it’s done,” Grosshandler said. “We did some cool things together, and I appreciate the work we did with them.”
The move from State Farm is the latest in an academic year that’s seen far more challenges to books in the United States than usual. In early May, Pen America, a nonprofit organization that advocates for freedom of expression, found that 1,586 books have been removed from libraries or classrooms in the nine months prior, with the majority disappearing secretly and outside proper procedures. By comparison, 2018, 2019 and 2020 each saw about 300 book challenges or bans, according to a tally from the American Library Association. Most of the books targeted feature LGBTQ or Black characters or address LGBTQ themes, race or racism.
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The recent pushback on LGBTQ books is part of how Republican-led states are reshaping public education. Seventeen states have passed laws restricting what teachers can say about race, racism and sexism, according to an Education Week tracker.
The mission of GenderCool, founded in 2018 in Chicago, is to “replace misinformed opinions with positive experiences meeting transgender and non-binary youth who are thriving,” according to its website. The organization, which describes itself as “an inspiring disrupter,” has partnered with some of the biggest companies in the world, including Bank of America, Dell, General Mills, NBCUniversal and Nike.
“The companies we work with are supportive of our mission to replace these misinformed opinions people might have about transgender and nonbinary people,” Goldstein said.
GenderCool’s partnership with State Farm drew attention Monday when Will Hild, executive director of Consumers’ Research, a conservative group that has targeted “woke capitalism,” tweeted an image of a January email from an employee. It shows a corporate responsibility analyst urging State Farm agents in Florida to volunteer and donate LGBTQ children’s books to libraries.
“State Farm is partnering with The GenderCool Project to help diversify classroom, community center and library bookshelves with a collection of books to help bring clarity and understanding to the national conversation about Being Transgender, Inclusive and nonbinary,” the official wrote in the email, according to Consumers’ Research. “The project’s goal is to increase representation of LGBTQ+ books and support our communities in having challenging, important and empowering conversations with children Age 5+.”
In a video posted to Twitter on Monday, Consumers’ Research accused State Farm of supporting “textbook indoctrination.”
“Like a creepy neighbor, State Farm is there,” the narrator says.
The video circulated among right-leaning media outlets and far-right Republican politicians such as Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who falsely accused State Farm of seeking to sexually groom children — a recent trend for GOP attacks on the LGBTQ community.
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State Farm also got the attention of Libs of TikTok, a Twitter account that has morphed into a social media phenomenon spreading anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
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As the backlash bubbled over Monday, a State Farm executive wrote an email to staffers, announcing that the insurance company would no longer support the GenderCool program, according to the Examiner.
The move from State Farm is a departure from its previous public support of the LGBTQ community. In 2019, State Farm was among the hundreds of companies and industry associations to sign an amicus brief supporting LGBTQ equality in the workplace before three cases involving LGBTQ discrimination were reviewed by the Supreme Court. The high court eventually ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees from workplace discrimination based on sex.
Steve McManus, general counsel and senior vice president at State Farm, said in a news release at the time that the insurance company believed “in a workplace free of discrimination, and we value and promote diversity, equality and inclusion.”
“As good neighbors, our long history and success story is built directly from committed, caring people helping other people,” State Farm wrote in 2019. “Sometimes how we help people involves supporting what we value and believe.”
On Tuesday, as critics and liberals on social media bashed State Farm for canceling the partnership to promote inclusivity, Gadson, the company spokesman, told The Post in a statement that State Farm still valued people in the LGBTQ community.
“We recognize and value the diversity of all people, and support a culture of respect and inclusion in the communities in which we live and work, as well as our workplace,” he said.
Despite the attention surrounding State Farm, Grosshandler and Goldstein said they’ve received an outpouring of support in the last 24 hours from those who want to help the organization and its mission. Grosshandler, who only described the online attention from conservatives as “noise,” said the support stemming from the State Farm fallout has been “invigorating.”
“We now have more attention and more interest and more appetite for folks to learn about who transgender and nonbinary kiddos are,” she said.
Goldstein noted that while the criticism of GenderCool intensified because of the State Farm partnership, she said the misinformed opinions surrounding transgender and nonbinary people are nothing new to them.
“For us and our families, it’s not just noise. It’s every day for us,” Goldstein said. “It happens every day.”
Hannah Natanson contributed to this report.