Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Source: Boys Beware (1961)
The word “Groomer” is trending on Canadian social media today, as more people reshare and echo recent anti-trans statements from a variety of prominent American conservative figures. Hardly a new phenomenon, accusations of grooming children for sexual exploitation and pedophilia have been a cudgel used against the 2SLGBTQ+ community for decades.
In 1961 the PSA film “Boys Beware” portrayed homosexual men as pedophiles who groom young boys, and homosexuality as a mental illness. Today, the far-right and their fellow travellers in the so-called Gender Critical or Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist movements use the exact same tropes in a bid to deny equal rights to trans persons.
CAWSBAR, a prominent Canadian anti-trans hate group, deploys both tropes.
They retweet comments like: “They turned a mental illness into a civil rights movement, and made failure to validate the sufferer's delusion a hate crime. As a result, children are being sterilized, and young people are having healthy body parts chopped off. If you speak out against this, you are a bigot.”
And, in the context of education about trans identities in schools: “Groomers never admit that they’re grooming.”
The “groomer” narrative is trending right now thanks to the recent passing of the Parental Rights in Education Act in Florida, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics. According to documents filed with the Florida House of Representatives, the bill prohibits a “school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels.”
Parents of a student may also bring action against school districts to “obtain a declaratory judgment” against schools found violating the Act, and the court may order damages and attorney fees to be paid by the districts.
Similar legislation is now being proposed in other states, with Ohio’s legislation being reportedly specifically modelled after Florida.
Billed as a means of giving parents greater control over their children’s education while also affirming their “parental authority” the bill has been broadly criticized as silencing 2SLGBTQ+ educators and stigmatizing discussion around these issues in early childhood education.
Supporters of the bill are also now labelling their opponents as “Groomers,” proposing that anyone arguing against it is pro-pedophilia.
Christina Pushaw, a media strategist and spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, describes it as an “Anti-Grooming” bill on Twitter.
“If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer,” writes Pushaw, “or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.”
Accusations of “child grooming” were historically used to keep members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community out of professions like teaching. These accusations, however, never abated within the far-right, which has long cast their ideological and political enemies as pedophiles.
DeSantis made sure to insert transgender people specifically into the public conversation when he stated during a rally that he was not “going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten.”
He went on to say he would not be bowing to “false media narratives” or pressure from “woke corporations.”
Many saw this as a particular slight against the Disney corporation, which announced its opposition to the Act.
“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” the company said in a statement after the law had been passed.
Disney has a shaky history with 2SLGBTQ+ representation and rights, even donating in the past to politicians that are now supporting the law. Despite this, the company now finds itself in the crosshairs of the American far-right.
“We’re seeing Republicans and anti-trans groups insinuating that trans people and trans inclusion is grooming; that it’s child abuse,” said Fae Johnstone, executive director of Wisdom2Action, a consulting firm specializing in anti-oppression and inclusion. “The worst kind of bigots from across racist, sexist, transphobic and homophobic groups are pushing this horribly dishonest and hateful rhetoric.”
Far-right pundit Jack Posobiec put out a tweet of a t-shirt available for purchase with the word “Groomers” stylized to match the Disney logo. Below the graphic is also the words “Bring Ammo,” the name of the company that produced the shirt.
Ian Miles Cheong, who has penned several news stories on the subject for Rebel News, adds that “DeSantis put the media in its place for promoting woke ‘sexual identity and gender orientation’ to kids aged five through seven.”
On the far-right, where accusations of pedophilia are as common as gators in an Orlando swimming pool, the term groomer is being enthusiastically adopted. The white supremacist Red Ice podcast was quick to declare “Ok, Groomer,” as the heir apparent to “Ok, Boomer.”
Meanwhile in Canada, the anti-abortion, anti-2SLGBTQ+ publication LifeSite News published a story blaming Planned Parenthood, saying opposition to the law is part of a broader plot for the organization to profit off the sale of hormones.
Discussions and blog posts referring to the “Groomer” narrative have also become prominent in Canadian Telegram channels. It’s a natural fit - conspiracies about large pedophilic cabals of cannibal elites have long been a feature in Canadian covid conspiracy spaces, as is transphobia.
Now, it is being discussed in the 50,000 follower strong “official” freedom convoy chat.
Trans people are consistently under attack by the far-right in part because anti-trans narratives are in the news. Whether it is pronouns, bathroom bills, or teaching about gender in schools, you can count on far-right pundits to be scaremongering about trans folks on a daily basis. In far-right chatrooms you’ll very commonly see them denigrating trans folks appearances, labelling them sexual predators or pedophiles, and claiming there is a 2SLGBTQ+ agenda to forcibly convert children who would otherwise be “normal.”
“Anti-trans groups have recently started calling trans activists ‘groomers,’ alleging that trans people are pushing an ideology that puts children at risk,” Johnstone told the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “That’s straight out of 80’s anti-gay rhetoric, and it shows just how much the anti-trans agenda is a homophobic agenda too.”