Conservatives take aim at The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention helpline for LGBT+ youth, accusing it of ‘grooming children online’.
Ahead of the article, and again at the bottom, we’re using this as an opportunity to encourage donations to The Trevor Project, a vital organisation for LGBT+ youth, by clicking here.
The recent resurgence of politicians and the religious right using the word ‘groomer’ in application to LGBT+ people only seems to be intensifying and the result will undoubtedly be felt devastatingly with the unnecessary loss of more innocent lives.
Religious groups and politicians using ‘groomer’, short for ‘child groomer’ – meaning to psychologically brainwash children with the objective abusing them, usually sexually – is no new thing.
It was a big thing in the 70s for example, back then mostly applied homophobically to gay men, as a way of fearmongering prejudice and demonising homosexuals as predatory or unsafe, particularly around children. Cut a long story short, the ripple effects of such monstrous brandings have been felt, and still are felt, decades later.
Conflating being gay or queer with being a paedophile or child groomer is not only farcically untrue, it’s also inhuman and potentially life-threatening for the groups it is levelled towards.
In recent months particularly, the ‘groomer’ slur being used as a linguistical tactic has come around again. The old trope that “gay men are pedophiles and predators” is back with a vengeance in 2022, only this time, as the spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities have become more visible in society, it’s being applied to all of us and even to our heterosexual allies. That means me writing this, and you reading it.
Recently, as a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been passed in the US, and with the ‘trans debate’ around bathroom access, sports participation and access to healthcare stimulating global conversation on the matter, incidents of words like ‘groomer’ and ‘paedophile’ being indiscriminately swung at anyone identifying within the LGBT+ spectrum have become a daily occurrence.
Only now, unlike the 70s, we have social media that anyone can access, enabling them to broadcast their hateful rhetoric on a larger-scale, into the homes and minds of people, including children, all around the world.
Enter ‘Libs of Tiktok‘, an account which started on Tiktok, initially downplaying the severity of COVID-19 and promoting the conspiracy theory that the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump through election fraud, but has now spawned audiences across most social platforms.
Chaya Raichik, its creator, reposts social media content from “liberals”, often teachers and LGBT+ people, framed in such a way to provoke anger from right-wing conservatives.
Typically the material posted is shared with a view to enrage GOP voters, often inciting social media ‘pile-ons’ and torrents of online abuse and bullying levelled towards those it targets.
Although a pre-existing connection to big-name conservative US politicians has already been established, Libs of TikTok has also become a major branding weapon in the GOP arsenal (along with TERFs and ‘gender critical’ transphobes in the UK and around the world).
Subsequently, LoT also appears to have, in part, inspired the “grooming” rhetoric among Republicans in relation to Florida’s crackdown on LGBT-inclusive education, such as the much-discussed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
In 2021, in a since deleted tweet, Libs of Tiktok posted: “The Trevor Project is a grooming organization”
The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization and the worlds largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention service, providing a safe and confidential hotline along with other resources, to vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth, since 1998.
Studies show LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to seriously consider suicide than straight kids.
The Trevor Project estimates that at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13–24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S.
Of course, LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society. See above point about social media ‘pile-ons’, for just one digital example.
Colin Wright, who works as a contributing editor of anti-LGBTQ website Quillette, shared to social media (26 April) a Trevor Project comic strip, which explains how young folk who are concerned about, or at risk of, violence or abuse from family members are able to erase browser history.
The feature, a life-saving measure implemented by the majority of crisis hotlines and used in domestic violence prevention sites, is a necessary component in enabling a young person at real risk of abuse, neglect, or harm from people they live with to feel able to communicate safely and without fear.
As one user pointed out in a Tweet: “Because my parents told me they’d rather have a dead kid than a gay one when I was 13. THAT’S why these features exist.”
In case of any confusion at this point, Trevor Project is a charity that is saving lives. LGBT+ youth who may not still be around to tell their story today but for the help this organisation.
However, using language like “to keep parents in the dark” provoked a volatile reaction from Wright’s followers. But, of course, he knew it would. That’s why he used it.
The original tweet was accelerated by a repost from another far-right group, Moms for Liberty. A radical network of Mom’s, founded in Florida, who have since expanded across the country tackling culture wars-inspired issues like removing COVID-19 restrictions, bans on teaching of critical race theory, and banning LGBT education in schools.
The group, who regularly boast about close their ties with members of the Republican Party, tweeted:
“Why is the @TrevorProject encouraging children to keep secrets from their parents?”
What followed was a swarm of anti-LGBT+ social media users falling for the baited language of both tweets, replying comments like, “Groomer Project posing as suicide prevention”, or “They’re trying to break your children,” from conservative audio host Jesse Kelly, and “Leftwing activists are predatory groomers. If you sit around designing and promoting ways to get in touch with kids so you can discuss sexuality and keep it from their parents, you are a groomer” from conservative pundit Lauren Chen. (see tweets below)
These blatant attempts to discredit both LGBTQ+ organisations and individuals, the reckless linguistical tactics like ‘groomer’ and ‘peado’, will undoubtedly have lasting and impactful consequences for all LGBTQ+ people.
As an intersectional LGBTQ+ community, our commonality is and has always been imperative to our freedoms and our survival – a struggle which, as we have seen, still hangs in the balance today.
This sudden acceleration of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric online, along with the very real ramifications of multiple anti-LGBTQ+ laws coming into effect, makes for a truly frightening outlook… unless we are united.
All of us, against hate. L G B with the T and beyond.
Some social media users have taken this as an opportunity to promote the great work done by The Trevor Project and we would like to do the same. Click here for donations link.
Leftwing activists are predatory groomers.
If you sit around designing and promoting ways to get in touch with kids so you can discuss sexuality and keep it from their parents, you are a groomer.
Period. Full stop. https://t.co/HIoVIyL9jB
— Lauren Chen (@TheLaurenChen) April 27, 2022
They’re trying to break your children. https://t.co/IkJXIop6Gt
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) April 27, 2022
Only a matter of time until solid evidence of serious wrongdoing emerges regarding the Trevor Project. They don’t mobilize to protect anything unless there’s something really bad going on there that they don’t want anyone to find out. Mark my words.
— James Lindsay, champion manspreader (@ConceptualJames) April 28, 2022
— Kahwen (@zysets) April 28, 2022
There’s a special place in hell for the people who go after crisis hotlines like Trevor Project. This organization literally saves lives by assisting LGBTQ youth in crisis.
— Alejandra Caraballo 🏳️⚧️🇵🇷 (@Esqueer_) April 28, 2022
several attacks on Trevor Project in the last few days — between this and broadly putting kids’ safety in danger by harassing supportive teachers & schools, and taking away access to resources & supportive adults, it seems like the right really does just want to kill LGBTQ kids pic.twitter.com/DyT2vVqxPy
— Brennan Suen (@brennansuen) April 28, 2022
This is of course going around TERFy circles and it’s basically a screed about how bad the Trevor Project apparently is. But never notes that what this mom did was fake being a teen to call a suicide hotline. It’s not therapy. pic.twitter.com/T9ESZ9gynk
— Mx. D. E. Anderson (@diannaeanderson) April 28, 2022
For readers looking for UK-based charities to donate to..
Gallop work with and for LGBT+ victims and survivors of interpersonal abuse and violence.
Switchboard provide telephone and online support and information to LGBT+ people in need.
LGBT Foundation is a national UK charity delivering advice, support and information to LGBT+ communities.
Mermaids is a UK charity that helps transgender children and young people, as well as their families.