Language of hate

This article comes with a content warning. I’m going to be discussing some of the vilest verbal attacks currently being directed at trans people and their allies. If reading this may be harmful to you, you may wish to look away now.

In my last article, I wrote about the war being waged against trans children. This is always justified in terms of protecting kids, even though the kids in question have no wish to be “protected” by being denied access to healthcare. Well, there’s an attack line that often goes with this. If you’re someone who argues that trans kids exist, should be listened to, and should be allowed to socially transition, then you risk being labelled a groomer.

If you see anyone using this term on social media, block them, don’t engage with them. It’s intended as an insult. It’s akin to calling someone a paedophile (and the two words are sometimes used interchangeably). If it’s specifically directed against an individual, and has attracted enough attention, then that person could have a claim for defamation.

Groomers exist. According to the NSPCC, “Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Children and young people who are groomed can be sexually abused, exploited or trafficked.” Linking this in any way or form to giving sympathy and support to young trans people is disgusting, offensive, and baseless. The urge to transition invariably comes from the young person themselves, and not because any adult has been encouraging them or coaching them to do it. And there’s no evidence to suggest that anyone who supports them in their journey is motivated by wanting to abuse or exploit them.

The history of a slur

Moral panics around LGBT people are nothing new. In the 1980s, gay men were portrayed as dangerous and predatory, and gay-inclusive sex education in schools as a corrupting influence, by a Thatcher government that introduced Section 28, prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Myths and tropes from back then are being repackaged and wheeled out as part of the attack on trans people.

In a chilling echo of Section 28, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has just brought in a Parental Rights in Education Bill, otherwise known as “Don’t Say Gay”. The bill targets teaching in schools on subjects of sexual orientation or gender identity, and like Section 28, is introducing a climate of fear. For a flavour of the debate around the bill, I refer you to this tweet by DeSantis’s Press Secretary Christina Pushaw.

“If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer 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.”

The Bill places DeSantis in the camp of the far right leader of Hungary Viktor Orbán, who successfully passed legislation last year banning any depictions or promotion of homosexuality to anyone under the age of 18.

Cheering DeSantis on are Fox News presenters such as Laura Ingraham – “When did our public schools, any schools, become what are essentially grooming centres for gender identity radicals? As a mom, I think it’s appalling, it’s frightening, it’s disgusting, it’s despicable. Florida just passed a bill to keep this type of sexual brainwashing out of schools.”

You may have heard of the QAnon conspiracy. QAnon followers believe that global elites belong to a vast paedophile ring which involves the trafficking and sexual abuse of children. QAnon gained a lot of traction in Trump’s Republican Party. In 2020, an open QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene was elected to Congress in Georgia on a Republican ticket. She is one of those pushing the groomer slur. During the recent confirmation hearings for new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson she tweeted “Any Senator voting to confirm #KJB is pro-pedophile just like she is.” The next day, she was back at it again: “Either you are Pro-pedophile and Pro-transgender biological men or you defend children and women. Period. There is no other option.”

Brutal language like this has consequences. There is no viler insult. It pains me to imagine the effect on people’s mental health on seeing such accusations hurled at them. Luckily, Michigan state Senator Mallory McMorrow is made of strong stuff:

Some neo-fascist groups, including the ironically named Proud Boys, have been taking the slur literally by targeting Pride events across the US in June 2022. The violent mobs aren’t discriminatory: they tar the entire LGBT community with the same brush.

Back to the UK

Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) is full of praise for the odious Marjorie Taylor Greene – “[she says that] the LGBT community is attempting to indoctrinate or groom children. 100% we agree with you, thank you very much for saying so!” Unsurprisingly, Graham Linehan is also far from reticent on the subject – “I’ve been calling gender ideology/queer theory a form of grooming for a number of years, but Twitter deleted my account so you’ll have to take my word for it.”

These are two of the attack dogs of the gender critical community in Britain, by which I mean that they give voice to thoughts and language which more respectable GCs with careers and reputations to protect would shy away from. But make no mistake: there are no voices in the GC community speaking out against this kind of rhetoric, and the reason for this is simple. They all subscribe to the idea that transgenderism poses a threat, and that you’re contributing to corrupting children if you so much as acknowledge that the stated feelings of trans kids may be genuine.

Stephanie Davies-Arai is the founder of Transgender Trend, which despite its name is an anti-trans pressure group. They don’t want schools to raise awareness of trans people, to be in any way trans inclusive, or to enable kids to socially transition. Despite the fact that Davies-Arai has no professional expertise whatever to talk about trans kids, she obviously manages to get her literature into many schools, she’s quoted all the time in the national media, and she has the ear of the Tory government. She’s just been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours.

Davies-Arai’s basic premise is that “gender ideology” as she calls it is harmful to children, and that children need to be insulated from any voices that give credence to the notion that gender identity exists. In her pamphlet Inclusive Relationships and Sex Education in Schools, she describes gender identity teaching as “a form of societal grooming”. While this isn’t quite the same thing as accusing named individuals of being groomers, it’s the same logic, and it’s equally repugnant. The implication is that teachers, the NHS, the LGBT community, voluntary organisations, politicians and others are all complicit in abusing children.

When Davies-Arai was awarded her British Empire Medal, every prominent GC in Britain took to social media to express their delight at this “well-deserved” recognition. Meanwhile, the abuse and the slurs continued.

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