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Missouri Republican candidate torches LGBTQ-inclusive books in viral video

A Republican candidate for Missouri secretary of state posted a viral campaign video Tuesday of herself lighting LGBTQ-inclusive books on fire with a flamethrower.

“This is what I will do to the grooming books when I become secretary of state,” Valentina Gomez, a 24-year-old St. Louis resident, said in the video on X, Facebook and Instagram, before lighting at least two books on fire. “These books come from a Missouri public library. When I’m in office, they will burn.”

Gomez added “MAGA” and “America First” in the text of her post on X. 

The video then abruptly cuts to an image of Gomez, whose campaign website describes her as a real estate investor and financier, holding a large gun. The two books that she set ablaze appear to be “Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens” and “Naked: Not Your Average Sex Encyclopedia.”

X restricted the post’s visibility, adding a note that it “may violate X’s rules against Hateful Conduct.”

Valentina Gomez, a Republican candidate for Missouri Secretary of State, can be seen using a flamethrower to burn two LGBTQ-inclusive books in a video shared on X.
Valentina Gomez, a Republican candidate for Missouri Secretary of State, can be seen using a flamethrower to burn two LGBTQ-inclusive books in a video shared on X.Valentina Gomez campaign via X

Gomez said in an emailed statement to NBC News that her “message is simple.” 

“You want to be gay? Fine be gay. Just don’t do it around children,” she said in the statement. “Stop putting books in libraries about sexualization, indoctrination and grooming of children. Children need to learn mathematics, science, developing their people skills, getting fit, while protecting their innocence. Not learning the ideologies that the radical left loves to push on children. I am against all drag shows around children, pride flags in classrooms, teachers with pronouns, people wanting to ‘change’ genders, and people that can’t even define what a woman is. If genitals don’t define gender, how does removing them affirm it. I only fear God.”

Kathy Belge, one of the authors of “Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens,” said Americans “should be concerned that a candidate for public office not only thinks book burning is acceptable, but that it is something that will help her get elected.”

“My book ‘Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Book for Teens’ was written to give teens accurate and helpful information about what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community,” Belge said in a statement to NBC News. “We discuss important issues that teens face, like coming out, bullying, dating and finding community and support. And yes, dealing with haters like this political candidate.” 

Belge added that LGBTQ teens are vulnerable, with 41% of them seriously considering suicide in the past year, according to a 2023 survey from The Trevor Project, a youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization. 

“I suggest this candidate leave queer kids alone and focuses instead on the real issues that will make lives of people in Missouri better,” Belge said.

Gomez’s video has garnered more than 800,000 views and thousands of comments, from both critics and supporters. 

“Excellent work, protect Children!” one commenter on Instagram wrote. “Adults can do what they want, but stop indoctrinating children with LGBTQ+ propaganda.”

However, others with varying political views disagreed with Gomez’s video.

“I’m republican. But burning books is not good,” another person wrote on Instagram. “Make them where you have to be 18 to check them out or look at them. Grooming is bad but burning books only makes people want them more.”

Some people compared Gomez’s actions to Nazi book-burning campaigns in the 1930s, when a student group burned tens of thousands of books in Germany and Austria that were considered “un-German.”

One Twitter user noted that there’s a memorial in Berlin known as the sunken or empty library that is dedicated to remembering the book burnings. A plaque outside of the memorial contains a quote from the German writer Heinrich Heine: “That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as well.” 

Gomez declined to respond to the criticism.  

Gomez’s website says she received her MBA in finance and strategy from Tulane University and lists “protecting children against the transgender agenda” and “protecting sports — there’s only 2 genders” among her key campaign issues. 

“Valentina vehemently opposes subjecting children under 18 to transgender-related medical procedures, therapies, treatments, prescriptions, and exposure,” her website states. “The physical and emotional scars endured by our young ones in the name of the transgender industry are unacceptable and must be halted.”

Gomez’s website echoes increasingly common inflammatory language used by conservatives in recent years to describe transition-related medical care for transgender minors. However, parental consent is required for minors to receive any care, and major medical associations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association — support minors’ access to such care and oppose laws restricting it.

In a video on Gomez’s Instagram account, she says she trusts three things: “The Bible, X — thank you, Elon Musk — and my AR-15.” 

In another, she said, over video of her shooting firearms: “The First Amendment lives on, and let me remind you that the Second one will make sure it does.”

Gomez’s book-burning video is part of a larger national trend of conservative candidates and lawmakers targeting books related to LGBTQ people and race for removal from public and school libraries, arguing that they are a form of “indoctrination” or are harmful for children.

Some, including Gomez, have even described LGBTQ-inclusive books and curricula as sexually grooming children, invoking a decades-old false moral panic about LGBTQ people

During the 2022-23 academic year, Missouri banned 333 books, according to a report from PEN America, a nonprofit group that advocates for free expression in literature. Nationwide, from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2023, a total of 1,915 unique titles were challenged, a 20% increase over the same period in the previous year, according to a report from the American Library Association. Many of the challenged books were titles related to LGBTQ people or race or written by LGBTQ authors or people of color.

Book challenges have surged alongside legislation targeting LGBTQ people and topics in schools. Sixteen states have laws that restrict how sexuality and gender identity can be discussed or taught in schools, with seven barring discussions of LGBTQ people or topics in some or all grade levels.

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