How the ‘Grooming’ Smear Hurts Abuse Survivors
The GOP is labeling every queer or trans person a ‘groomer’ — and childhood sexual abuse survivors will pay the price
For the past week, I’ve been watching as the entire GOP strategy for the midterms slowly consolidates around the claim that existing as a trans or queer person makes one a danger to children; a sexual threat; a pedophile; a “groomer.”
The first hints of this strategy began with Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which Ron DeSantis’ spokesperson Christina Pushaw tried to rebrand as an “Anti-Grooming Bill.” Its roots, obviously, go much deeper — from the far-right “pedophile” fixations of QAnon to the obsessive concern-trolling about youth transition led by TERFs like Abigail Shrier.
However it started, it’s here now. It’s been frightening for me to watch this as a parent, and as a trans person. Above all, though, it’s been frightening to watch as someone who really has experienced violence and sexual assault, much of it in childhood. The language abused children need to describe their experience is being taken away from them, and corrupted, by people who want to do them harm.
Most conservatives understand that the “grooming” they accuse queer and trans people of doing is not the same as the “grooming” that happens in childhood sexual abuse. That “grooming” is psychological abuse, in which a predator isolates a child, breaks down their boundaries, and makes them feel complicit or to blame for the molestation (“your parents might be mad if they found out what we did”). “Grooming” as defined by, say, Rod Dreher is very different:
About the term “groomers”: it’s usually used to describe pedophiles who are preparing innocent kids for sexual exploitation. I think it is coming to have a somewhat broader meaning: an adult who wants to separate children from a normative sexual and gender identity, to inspire confusion in them, and to turn them against their parents and all the normative traditions and institutions in society. It may not specifically be to groom them for sexual activity, but it is certainly to groom them to take on a sexual/gender identity at odds with the norm.