LGBT grooming conspiracy theory

The LGBT grooming conspiracy theory is a far-right conspiracy theory pushed by a growing number of mainstream conservatives that falsely accuses LGBT people and their allies of child grooming and enabling pedophilia. Gaining prominence in the early 2020s, the theory purports that LGBT people are systematically using LGBT sex education and campaigns for LGBT rights as a method of normalizing pedophilia and indoctrinating children. Transgender people in particular have received targeted attacks. These accusations and conspiracy theories are characterized by experts as baseless, relying on homophobic and transphobic notions, and also as examples of a moral panic. The origins of the "groomer" conspiracy theory can be traced to American singer Anita Bryant and her "Save Our Children" coalition founded in 1977.

While the belief that LGBT individuals are more likely to molest children or otherwise abuse minors than others has no basis in fact, this assertion has existed for multiple decades in the U.S. going back to the times before World War II. At the beginning of the Cold War, the U.S. government sought to remove homosexuals from positions of importance during the Lavender scare.[1] As a matter of ideological faith, these talking points became more widespread for the use of partisan political campaigning when the 2020s began. Advocates for children's rights have protested that the conspiracy theories frustrate proper support for abuse survivors, and LGBT rights organizations have condemned the use of such notions as encouraging discrimination in the United States.

One survey by a left-leaning think tank found that around 29 percent of likely American voters believe the conspiracy theory. Results were divided greatly on the basis of political party.


The term groomer is derived from the practice of child grooming.[2] As described by U.S. public interest publication Vox in an April 2022 report, "Conservatives use it to imply that the LGBTQ community, their allies, and liberals more generally are pedophiles or pedophile-enablers".[3] The terminology around groomer first came about in the 1980s and became popularized through abuse survivor advocacy, initially applying to actual criminal behavior without reference to U.S. politics.[4]

Scientific research has shown that LGBT people do not molest children at higher rates than people who are not LGBT.[5][6][7][8] Despite this reality, American conservatives have pushed the purported link in popular culture over multiple decades going back to the times before World War II. The allegation that having a LGBT identity causes or otherwise contributes to pedophilia has continued as a matter of ideological faith into the 21st century.[4]



Writing in New York, James Kirchick argues that the grooming conspiracy theory grew out of more generalized homophobic conspiracy theories which originated in Germany in the early 20th century and that, in particular, it grew out of the Eulenburg affair.[1]

In 1977, Anita Bryant and the Save Our Children coalition often described homosexuality as allegedly being harmful to children, while they were attempting to repeal an ordinance that partly banned discrimination based on sexuality. Bryant claimed "homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit ... the youth of America".[9]

The term "OK groomer" originated in 2020 as a play on the "OK boomer" meme.[10] In the United Kingdom, the conspiracy theory began to be popularized within the gender-critical movement around 2020. That year, anti-transgender activist Graham Linehan was banned from Twitter after he began to use "OK groomer" as a term of abuse against those who criticized his activism.[10][11] The term was also borrowed by the pressure group Transgender Trend, which used it in material that it sent to schools in order to oppose the advice which was given to them by LGBT+ charities such as Stonewall.[11] In March 2020, The Times columnist Janice Turner accused the charity Mermaids, which offers support for trans youth, of grooming for introducing an exit button on their website in response to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.[12] The conspiracy has also been used by the far-right in the UK, including Tommy Robinson according to Hope not Hate.[13]


Far-right anti-LGBT Twitter account Libs of TikTok slurs LGBT people as "groomers".

In the United States, the popularization of the term has been linked to Christopher Rufo, who tweeted about "winning the language war", and James A. Lindsay in August 2021.[14][15] Following the Wi Spa controversy in July 2021, Julia Serano noted a rise in false accusations of grooming directed towards transgender people, saying that it appeared as if there was a movement to "lay the foundation for just smearing all trans people as child sexual predators".[16] Libs of TikTok (LoTT) also slurs LGBT people, supporters of LGBT youth,[17][18] and those who teach about sexuality as "groomers."[19] In 2021, LoTT made false claims that the Trevor Project was a "grooming organization" and that Chasten Buttigieg was "grooming kids".[17] LoTT creator Chaya Raichik said on the Tucker Carlson Today show that LGBT people "Want to groom kids. They're recruiting."[20]

Anti-Walt Disney protest campaign by CitizenGo (2019)

The conspiracy theory then moved into the American conservative mainstream, with a number of high-profile cases of its use in Spring 2022, including its use by members of the Republican Party.[3] On February 24, the right-wing The Heritage Foundation issued a tweet stating that the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act "protects young children from sexual grooming".[21] During the debate over the act, Christina Pushaw, press secretary to the state's governor Ron DeSantis, tweeted that anyone who opposes the act was "probably a groomer". In April 2022, Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to the Democratic Party as "the party of killing babies, grooming and transitioning children, and pro-pedophile politics". Also that month, a group of far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists held a demonstration at Disney World in which they accused Disney of grooming.[22] Disney has been the focus of several other uses of the conspiracy – Jim Banks and 19 other members of the Republican Study Committee published a letter to Disney accusing the corporation of "purposefully influencing small children with its political and sexual agenda".[23] Gays Against Groomers (GAG) formed in June 2022.[24] They are an American anti-LGBT organization with a large presence on social media platforms and frequent promotion on right-wing media networks. The Anti-Defamation League stated that "GAG peddles dangerous and misleading narratives about the LGBTQ+ community, focusing on false allegations of 'grooming' by drag performers".[25]

Since then, numerous right wing pundits have described the behavior of parents and teachers who support minors in their transgender identities as grooming, and the term "groomer" has widely been used by conservative media and politicians who want to denounce the LGBT community and its allies by implying that they are pedophiles or pedophile-enablers.[3][26] Slate Magazine later described the word "grooming" as "the buzzword of the season".[21] In March 2022, Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed that schools were becoming "grooming centers for gender identity radicals", dedicating an entire segment of her show to the topic a couple of weeks later.[23] In April 2022, the left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters published a study stating that within a three-week period spanning from March 17 to April 6, Fox News ran 170 segments on trans people, throughout which the network "repeatedly invoked the long-debunked myth that trans people pose a threat to minors and seek to groom them".[27]

Since 2019, protesters have targeted Drag Queen Story Hour events at public facilities and private venues. Also in June, members of the far-right group Proud Boys disrupted a Drag Queen Story Hour at San Lorenzo Library in California, shouting insults like "groomer".[28]

In August 2022, a joint report which was published by the American Human Rights Campaign and the British Center for Countering Digital Hate revealed that the 500 most influential hateful "grooming" tweets were seen 72 million times, and it also stated that "grooming" tweets from just ten influential sources were seen 48 million times. It also revealed that Meta, formerly known as Facebook, had accepted up to $24,987 for advertisements which pushed the grooming conspiracy theory, the advertisements had been served to users over 2.1 million times, and Twitter, despite saying that groomer slurs were violations of its hate speech policy, failed to act on 99% of tweets which were reported as such.[29] The report also recorded a 406% increase in the use of tweets associating members of the LGBT community with being "groomers", "pedophiles", and "predators" following the passage of Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act, called the "Don't Say Gay Law" by its critics.[30]

Also in August 2022, Jamestown, Michigan voted to defund Patmos Library, the town's only public library, over accusations of "grooming" children and promoting an "LGBTQ ideology".[31]

In March 2023, three protesters disrupted drag performer Medulla Oblongata's storytime reading session at the Avondale Library in Auckland, New Zealand. The reading session was part of "Pride Fest Out West", which involved dancing, songs, and stories told by a drag performer. In response, Police trespassed the protesters.[32][33] Auckland Council official Darryl Soljan linked the protest to international media coverage of anti-LGBT opponents in the United States accusing drag performers and the LGBT community of grooming children and pedophilia.[33]

Also in March, a show called CabaBabaRave for mothers and infants was forced to be canceled after footage of performers was shared on social media by conservative pages. CabaBabaRave's website, Instagram, and Facebook pages were also forced to be made private. Organizers claimed that the footage was being shared out of context and infants are unable to comprehend the performances and the shows are not different from other R-rated movie shows.[34][35]

A March 2023 report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that tweets on Twitter linking LGBT people to "grooming" have increased by 119 percent since Elon Musk purchased the social media platform in October 2022.[36]

A May 2023 poll by Gallup found that only 41 percent of Republicans think that same-sex relations are morally acceptable, a 15 percent drop from 2022, while Democratic approval of same-sex relations also fell from 85 percent in 2022 to 79 percent in 2023. Independent voters, on the other hand, have remained steady in their approval of same-sex relations. Business Insider noted that "The sharp drop in support among some Americans follows an especially aggressive year of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and politics.", including false allegations of "grooming".[37]


Reddit, TikTok, Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) and formerly Twitter (prior to Elon Musk's buyout of the company) have said that using "groomer" as a slur against LGBT people violates their policies.[38]

Vox argued that the rhetoric which is used by proponents of the grooming conspiracy theory is similar to the rhetoric which was used by proponents of older conspiracy theories like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and QAnon: "grooming accusations aren't concerned with making sense; they're about stirring up fear, anger, and hysteria — which is why they sound exactly like the kinds of fringe conspiracy theories that have been around for centuries. The new pedophile conspiracy rhetoric is essentially the same as all the old pedophile conspiracy rhetoric."[3]

Kristen Mark of the University of Minnesota Medical School has described the conspiracy as "a tool to create hysteria and to create a social panic", calling it "frankly inaccurate".[39] Emily Johnson of Ball State University has also described it as a moral panic, saying that there is "no better moral panic than a moral panic centered on potential harm to children".[40] Alejandra Caraballo of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society has described it as "an attempt at the dehumanization and delegitimization of queer people's identities by associating them with pedophilia", adding that "when you start labeling groups with that, the calls for violence are inevitable."[41] Jenifer McGuire, a professor in the department of family social science at the University of Minnesota, said that the grooming conspiracy theory comes "from an underlying desire to separate people who are different and to characterize them as less than or as evil. So it's a new form of homophobia and transphobia — or it's maybe the same old form but with new language."[5] R.G. Cravens of California Polytechnic State University has described the conspiracy as "completely, patently false".[4]

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has stated that trans people are "slandered the same way homosexual men were slandered in the 70s, and for the same reason: to deny them safety and equal rights", adding that "the far-right and their fellow travellers in the so-called Gender Critical or Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist movements use the exact same tropes in a bid to deny equal rights to trans persons."[42] Florence Ashley, a professor at the University of Toronto, has stated that the conspiracy theory's focus on LGBT people in general and its focus on trans people in particular is being used to radicalize public opinion towards the far-right, comparing it to the great replacement conspiracy theory.[43]

The Associated Press described the conspiracy theory as "another volley in the [United States'] ongoing culture wars, during which conservative lawmakers have also opposed the teaching of 'critical race theory' and proposed bills requiring schools to post all course materials online so parents can review them."[44] In 2022, its stylebook stated: "Some people use the word groom or variants of it to falsely liken LGBTQ people's interactions with children, or education about LGBTQ issues, to the actions of child molesters. Do not quote people using the term in this context without clearly stating it is untrue."[45][46]

Charles T. Moran, President of the Log Cabin Republicans, called the conspiracy theory a "subtle subterfuge that gays are pedophiles", adding that "I will take flak from people that this is reinforcing a trope that is not beneficial for anybody who's gay in public life. Pedophiles exist at a much higher proportion in the straight community than the gay community, but it is always a shtick our critics will go back to."[47]

A school librarian in Louisiana has filed a lawsuit alleging defamation by Facebook pages that falsely accused her of pedophilia.[48]

Public opinion

An April 2022 survey by left-wing think tank Data for Progress discovered that 45 percent of likely Republican voters believe that "teachers and parents that support discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in school are groomers". American Jewish community related publication The Forward criticized the implications of this finding, noting the interconnected histories between hatred against Jews and against LGBT people due to the groups' shared labeling as supposedly corrupting children.[49] In contrast, 15 percent of likely Democratic Party voters think the same about the aforementioned assertion, which means that in overall terms approximately 29% of likely voters support the conspiracy theory.[50]

Harm done to children through conspiracy theories

Civil society organizations fighting on behalf of children's rights in the U.S. have expressed alarm over how right-wing efforts to use the physical and psychological abuse of minors as a partisan political matter damages efforts against child maltreatment, particularly regarding victims of sexual abuse as minors.[citation needed]

In an interview with, Laura Palumbo, communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), commented "[m]any survivors may not even have disclosed (their experience) to their own friends, family and loved ones because of the shame and stigma that they face. And then to see that their stories are being tossed around by others to make a point about an unrelated issue does have a harmful impact".[4] Jenny Coleman, director of Stop It Now!, remarked "It feels like child sex abuse prevention is being hijacked by people to fit an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with preventing child sexual abuse."[4]

See also


  1. ^ a b Kirchick, James (May 31, 2022). "The Long, Sordid History of the Gay Conspiracy Theory". Intelligencer. New York. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  2. ^ Walker, Jesse (February 2023). "A Modern History of 'Groomer' Politics".
  3. ^ a b c d Romano, Aja (April 21, 2022). "The right's moral panic over "grooming" invokes age-old homophobia". Vox. Vox Media. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e Keveney, Bill (May 2, 2022). "Weaponized grooming rhetoric is taking a toll on LGBTQ community and child sex abuse survivors". Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Czopek, Madison (May 11, 2022). "Why it's not 'grooming': What research says about gender and sexuality in schools". Politifact. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  6. ^ "Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation". Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  7. ^ "Sexual Orientation, Parents, & Children". August 2, 2017. Archived from the original on August 2, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  8. ^ Jenny, C.; Roesler, T. A.; Poyer, K. L. (July 1994). "Are children at risk for sexual abuse by homosexuals?". Pediatrics. 94 (1): 41–44. doi:10.1542/peds.94.1.41. ISSN 0031-4005. PMID 8008535. S2CID 33124736.
  9. ^ "How 1970s Christian crusader Anita Bryant helped spawn Florida's LGBTQ culture war". NBC News. April 14, 2022. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Dodds, Io; Woodward, Alex (April 14, 2022). "GOP 'groomer' smears are sparking a new wave of anti-LGBT+ violence: 'This is going to lead to tragedy'". The Independent. Retrieved May 27, 2022. ...  trolls called on Twitter users to disrupt conversations among LGBT+ people with the phrase "OK groomer", a play on the Generation Z meme "OK boomer" ...
  11. ^ a b Strudwick, Patrick (April 13, 2022). "How 'groomer', the dangerous new anti-LGBT slur from America, is taking hold in Britain". i. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  12. ^ "The anti-trans brigade is attacking children's charity Mermaids for helping its users protect their identity. Yes, really". PinkNews. March 26, 2020.
  13. ^ "Transphobia and the Far Right". Hope not Hate. March 16, 2022.
  14. ^ Donald Moynihan (April 7, 2022) [2022-04-05]. "The QAnon catchphrases that took over the Jackson hearings". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. ISSN 0190-8286. OCLC 1330888409.[please check these dates]
  15. ^ "How the Intellectual Dark Web Spawned 'Groomer' Panic". The Daily Beast. April 27, 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  16. ^ "'A nightmare scenario': How an anti-trans Instagram post led to violence in the streets". July 28, 2021.
  17. ^ a b Stahl, Jeremy (April 27, 2022). "The Hate-Fueled and Hugely Influential World of Libs of TikTok". Slate Magazine. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  18. ^ Persaud, Chris. "Babylon Bee CEO of Juno Beach backs Twitter firebrand who calls LGBTQ people pedophiles". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  19. ^ "The Twitter activist behind the far-right 'Libs of TikTok' is an Orthodox Jew. Does that matter?". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. April 19, 2022. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  20. ^ Levesque, Brody (December 28, 2022). "Libs of TikTok tells Tucker Carlson: LGBTQ+ are a poisonous cult". Los Angeles Blade. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  21. ^ a b Mathis-Lilley, Ben (April 21, 2022). "How One Florida Woman With Twitter Problems Plunged Us Into a Nightmarish National Conversation About "Grooming"". Slate.
  22. ^ Alfonseca, Kiara. "Some Republicans use false 'pedophilia' claims to attack Democrats, LGBTQ people". ABC News. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  23. ^ a b "'Groomer' debate inflames GOP fight over Florida law". The Hill. April 8, 2022.
  24. ^ Hansford, Amelia (July 31, 2023). "Armed neo-Nazi group joins Gays Against Groomers at Wisconsin Pride protest". PinkNews. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  25. ^ "Online Amplifiers of Anti-LGBTQ+ Extremism". Anti-Defamation League. January 24, 2023. Archived from the original on February 7, 2023. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  26. ^ Cameron, Joseph (April 5, 2022). "Conservatives Are Smearing 'Don't Say Gay' Opponents as Pedophile 'Groomers'". Vice.
  27. ^ Paterson, Alex (April 8, 2022). ""Doom & Groom": Fox News has aired 170 segments discussing trans people in the past three weeks". Media Matters for America.
  28. ^ "Proud Boys crashed Drag Queen Story Hour at a local library. It was part of a wider movement". CNN. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  29. ^ "Digital Hate: Social Media's Role in Amplifying Dangerous Lies About LGBTQ+ people" (PDF). Center for Countering Digital Hate.
  30. ^ "After ' Don't Say Gay' bill passed, LGBTQ online hate surged 400%". NBC News. August 12, 2022. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  31. ^ Paquette, Danielle (August 24, 2022). "A Mich. library refused to remove an LGBTQ book. The town defunded it". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  32. ^ Macfarlane, Andrew (March 1, 2023). "Auckland library closes after drag queen storytime protest". 1 News. TVNZ. Archived from the original on March 1, 2023. Retrieved March 4, 2023.
  33. ^ a b Harris, Katie (March 1, 2023). "Police intervene as queer community targeted by protest at Avondale, Auckland, library drag reading". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on March 2, 2023. Retrieved March 4, 2023.
  34. ^ Ellery, Ben; Beal, James; Tomlinson, Hugh. "Drag is new front in culture wars". Retrieved March 4, 2023.
  35. ^ "'Baby drag act' cancels sold-out show blaming 'trolling and unfair media coverage' following furious online backlash". LBC.
  36. ^ Muldowney, Decca (March 28, 2023). "Elon Musk's Twitter Makes Millions Off Anti-LGBT 'Groomer' Tweets: Report". The Daily Beast. Retrieved July 16, 2023.
  37. ^ Davis, Charles R. (June 21, 2023). "A majority of Republicans now say same-sex relations are immoral after a year of 'groomer' attacks on LGBTQ people, poll finds". Business Insider. Retrieved July 16, 2023.
  38. ^ Drennen, Ari (July 23, 2022). "Twitter says slandering LGBTQ+ people as "groomers" violates its rules". Los Angeles Blade. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  39. ^ Clift, Eleanor (July 22, 2022). "Republicans Went From Pushing a 'Groomer' Panic to Forcing Kids to Give Birth". The Daily Beast. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  40. ^ Rodgers, Kaleigh (April 13, 2022). "Why So Many Conservatives Are Talking About 'Grooming' All Of A Sudden". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  41. ^ Lavieties, Matt (April 12, 2022). "'Groomer,' 'pro-pedophile': Old tropes find new life in anti-LGBTQ movement". NBC News. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  42. ^ "Trans People Are Being Slandered As Groomers And Pedophiles By The Far-Right". Canadian Anti-Hate Network. April 7, 2022. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  43. ^ Logan, Nick (July 2, 2022). "Transphobia is gaining ground in the U.S. Gender-diverse people in Canada worry it could happen here". CBC. Retrieved August 27, 2022.
  44. ^ "'Grooming': The ubiquitous buzzword in LGBTQ school debate". AP NEWS. March 29, 2022. Retrieved August 19, 2022.
  45. ^ "Transgender Coverage Topical Guide". AP Stylebook. Archived from the original on August 29, 2022. Retrieved August 26, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  46. ^ Ennis, Dawn. "New From AP: Use 'Accurate, Sensitive, Unbiased Language' To Cover Trans People". Forbes. Retrieved May 17, 2023.
  47. ^ "False online accusations of 'grooming' against LGBTQ people are spiking, experts say". NBC News. April 19, 2022. Retrieved September 16, 2022.
  48. ^ "In rare move, school librarian fights back in court against conservative activists". NBC News. August 13, 2022.
  49. ^ Berman, Nora (August 29, 2022). "Libs of Tiktok is fueling a pogrom against trans youth". The Forward. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  50. ^ "EXCLUSIVE POLL: Americans Oppose the GOP's Anti-LGBTQ Rhetoric and Policies - UpNorthNews | Wisconsin News For You". April 19, 2022. Retrieved August 27, 2023.