How age-old homophobic language is being used to miseducate voters


Lawmakers across dozens of mostly Republican-led states have passed or introduced a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills this year, per a CNN analysis of data gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union, and this legislative assault has been attended by discourse on the political right denigrating LGBTQ people.

In June, for instance, members of the extremist group the Proud Boys barged into the San Lorenzo Library in California and interrupted Drag Queen Story Hour. One of the insults they reportedly tossed: “groomer” – a term that maligns LGBTQ people as child predators.

Mere days later, Christopher Rufo, the activist who powered the “critical race theory” panic, invited his fellow conservatives to “start using the phrase ‘trans stripper’ in lieu of ‘drag queen’” because the former “has a more lurid set of connotations and shifts the debate to sexualization,” and “‘trans strippers in schools’ anchors an unstoppable argument.”

The following month, Florida Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini declared menacingly, “Florida to Groomers: your days are numbered.” This perversion of the term “grooming” can draw attention away from the real scourge of child abuse often enabled by predatory adults who groom child victims. Notably, Sabatini also said over the summer that he intends to propose legislation targeting parents who bring their children to drag shows.

Together, these examples snap into focus the prevalence of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in our present day. As the midterm elections approach and political leaders test out their values, it’s worth looking a little bit more closely at the issue:

‘Gender ideology’

Last week, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana introduced a measure, which was co-sponsored by dozens of other Republicans, that some describe as a national version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as critics call it.