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An Expert on Extremism Explains Why Anti-LGBTQ Bigots Use ‘Groomer’ Rhetoric

People protest Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill at a rally

The Club Q shooting has brought the prejudice and violence that many LGBTQ+ people in America and around the world face into a sharper focus. The tragic events received a lot of attention on social media from LGBTQ+ people, allies, and anti-LGBTQ+ extremists.

Predictably, anti-LGBT campaigners have used the shooting to both blame the victims of the shooting and make sweeping statements about the community as a whole. While it’s not a new phenomenon, there has been a rise in the rhetoric around LGBTQ+ people being ‘groomers’ and associating queer sexualities and identities with child abuse.

Whether it’s accusing lesbian or gay people of grooming children or equating puberty blockers to child abuse, there is a long history of such a practice, seen recently in the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill. The underlying message here was that ‘exposing’ young people to queer stories and personalities would in some way ‘recruit’ them to the LGBTQ+ community.

This is, naturally, nonsense, but has an extra insidious reason behind it. Senior research manager on US hate and extremism at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Jared Holt, laid out those reasons on Twitter in the aftermath of the Club Q shooting.

“If you tell people there are child molesters after their kids and they believe it of course they will be violent,” he wrote. “Child sex abusers are brutalized in prison bc even mega murderers see them as unforgivably evil.”

“Everything is on the table as a justified response if you can convince people someone is abusing children,” Jared continued in a second tweet. “The flippant dispensing of “groomer” and “pedo” on the right is inherently dangerous.”

In light of the recent violence against LGBTQ+ people in a supposedly safe space within the community, the repercussions of such language are clear. When you can encourage extremists and members of the public to see LGBTQ+ people, or indeed any marginalized communities, as dangerous, it creates a scenario where violence against them seems justified.

Posing queer people as threats to children, a defenseless group in our society, incites a desire to protect—often with violence. Equating LGBTQ+ people to ‘groomers’ or ‘pedos’ isn’t just insulting and false; it’s downright dangerous.

(featured image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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