As more states move to ban LGBTQ content from schools in the name of parental rights, conservative proponents of such legislation have increasingly blamed opponents of the law — especially rights advocates. LGBTQ rights – from “groomers”.
The word “groomer” is a politically charged term, as it plays on age-old homophobic tropes that cast gay and LGBTQ people as pedophiles intent on sexually abusing children.
Proponents of legislation like Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill (dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics) argue that exposing minors to even the simple concept of sexual orientation or gender identity, even in history, biology, or sexuality education classes, is inappropriate and will encourage impressionable youth to come out as LGBTQ.
Conservatives have seized on parents’ angst over LGBTQ rights, sexually charged topics and alleged ‘indoctrination’ by teachers as corner issues ahead of this year’s midterm elections, seeking to rally voters to their cause by portraying their opponents as insufficiently concerned with the protection of children.
The narrative that schools pose a “danger” to children is tied to the current trend for parents – in hundreds of districts across the country – to argue with school administrators or school board members over the inclusion of sexually explicit or graphic novels or books in school libraries. , even if the books are not part of the official curriculum, or about LGBTQ-inclusive policies designed to protect LGBTQ children from discrimination and bullying or to avoid “showing” students to their parents against their will.
The “Protect the Children” rallying cry also appeals to a segment of the Republican base who had embraced part of the QAnon conspiracy, in which a cabal of globalists – all tied to the Democratic Party or Hollywood elites – ran a secret, the sex of children around the world – network of traffickers.
The ‘groomer’ label appears to have gained traction amid debate over the Florida bill, when Christina Pushaw, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ press secretary, tweeted that anyone who opposes the bill de loi “is probably a groomer or at least you don’t report him. the grooming of children from 4 to 8 years old.
She later clarified her remarks to say that bringing up the subject of sexuality-related topics with young children creates a general environment where those children are more likely to groom themselves.
Pushaw later spoke out against accusations that she defamed the LGBTQ community, writing in an email to Vice News that she “never singled out LGBTQ people.”
Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s Cyber Law Clinic and a transgender rights advocate, told NBC News that the use of the word ‘grooming’ is “an attempt to dehumanize and delegitimize the identity of homosexual people by associating them with pedophilia and childhood”. grooming.”
She noted that Twitter data shows that on March 29, the day after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill, the word “grooming” was mentioned on the social media platform 7,959 times, compared to just 40. times on January 1, 2022. .
She also warned that the inflammatory nature of the ‘grooming’ narrative – depicting LGBTQ people as a danger to children – could lead to violence. “I’m afraid we’ll end up with another Pulse,” she said.
Right-wing pundits have since embraced Pushaw’s narrative that the bill is key to preventing children from being ‘groomed’ to accept LGBTQ identity as ‘normal’, and have launched attacks on Disney for its opposition. to Bill, the left-leaning media watchdog. reports from the organization Media Matters for America.
A few days after Pushaw’s initial tweet, Fox News host Laura Ingraham asked her viewers, “When did our public schools, any schools, essentially become training centers for radicals of gender identity?
The flames of anger were further fanned by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who recently tweeted that “Democrats are the party of baby killing, child grooming and transitioning, and pro-pedophile politics.”
On the same day, conservative podcast host Jack Posobiec urged his 1.7 million subscribers to buy T-shirts, incorporating the Disney Castle logo and signature font saying “Boycott Groomers, Bring Ammo”.
The shirts were created as part of a backlash against The Walt Disney Company for speaking out – after initially remaining silent – against the Florida bill and choosing to suspend political donations in Florida at the request of the company LGBTQ employees.
The day after the Florida bill was enacted, The daily threadMatt Walsh said on his show that it used to be that kids of his generation had “the space” to go through puberty and figure out their identity. Now, he claimed, LGBTQ identity offers too simple a solution for people struggling with their feelings and insecurities.
“[Y]You have these predatory, evil, satanic, disgusting groomers who are waiting there to pounce as soon as a child starts to question themselves, starts to feel out of place at all, starts to question their body and the changes they’re going through,” Walsh said.
Likewise, Candace Owens of The daily thread, speaking on his eponymous show, accused Disney of defending “child caretakers” and “predators” in classrooms. Owens urged conservatives to fight back and boycott the company because “pedophilia is right around the corner.”
Right-wing talk show host Jesse Kelly claimed while his show aired on April 6 that the country is run by a cabal of “child caretakers” and “communists” who have taken control of ” all cultural institutions”.
He also defended the use of the word “groomer”, saying the label is accurate and people who object to being referred to as “groomer” are simply upset because the implications behind it are true.
Other right-wing hosts expressed similar sentiments, noting that part of the reason the right has doubled down on its use of the term is that they are tired of having their language controlled by the political left.
Meanwhile, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk claims during his April 8 podcast that gay people prey on kids.
Linking greater societal acceptance of LGBTQ people to the legalization of same-sex marriage in debates today, Kirk said, “We talk about gay things more than at any other time. Why? Because they are not happy to get married. Instead, they now want to corrupt your children.
Although most medical and child development experts reject the idea that young people who identify as LGBTQ have come to this conclusion through coercion or because of outside influences, the concept that people LGBTQ cannot reproduce naturally and therefore have to “recruit” followers going back decades.
The idea was central to singer and celebrity Anita Bryant’s ‘Save Our Children’ campaign, which portrayed LGBTQ people as a threat to children and was credited with overturning a pro-gay ordinance in Miami County. -Dade in 1977, and the Briggs Initiative, a California ballot measure that would have made it illegal for LGBTQ people to become or remain public school teachers – an idea that was ridiculed in 1978 and ultimately defeated by a margin nearly 3 to 2.
Michael Bronski, professor of women’s and gender studies at Harvard University and author of A queer history of the United States for young people Peopletold NBC News that labeling his political opponents as “groomers” has been common throughout American history.
“There is a long tradition of blaming a minority, potentially unpopular group, using the notion of violating the innocence of childhood, which is seen as the worst thing you can do – sexually abusing the child. “, did he declare. But, he noted, the accusations were “never about the children”, but about “the mobilization of power within the culture and the political organization around it”.
Asked about the resurgence of the homophobic trope of LGBTQ people as child molesters, Bronski cited the legalization of same-sex marriage, major court rulings in favor of LGBTQ complainants, and increased visibility, both in the media and in the the general public, where the percentage of the number of adults identifying as other than heterosexual has doubled over the past decade, according to a recent Gallup poll.
“If you have visibility for anything, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, whether it’s feminism, whether it’s LGBTQ identities, you’re actually creating a cultural space for people to learn about and think about it,” he said. . “Any form of social progress generates negative reactions.”