I was listening to the drag artist Sasha Velour being interviewed on the CBC radio show Q the other day, and I was struck by her reaction to one of the host, Tom Power’s questions. He had asked her about how these days, certain groups are accusing LGBTQIA+ individuals of “grooming” young people.
To clarify, “grooming” is a manipulative act of befriending a young person (or their caregiver) in order to eventually sexually exploit them. It is a classic technique used by pedophiles. It is not, however, something typically done by gay or transgender people.
To paraphrase Sasha’s response, she said, “this world is full of people who prey upon others and often, they’re deeply protected by our institutions.” She added that her community “is all about consent and encouraging everyone to be exactly who they are,” which is the opposite of what they’re being accused of.
We ignore the true predators and obsess over the illusory danger of the Drag Queen and LGBTQIA+ community
The same week that Sasha was interviewed, the local news was constantly reporting on the trial of former fashion designer Peter Nygard, who has been accused of using his position of power to perpetrate a decades-long pattern of sexually assaulting young women.
I’m assuming that if this is true, then the people around Mr. Nygard knew what was happening but said and did nothing about it. Which would be typical of the way sexual assault is handled by those associated with the perpetrators. Some of these individuals are too afraid to speak out; some simply don’t care, and some are happy to collude with the behaviour.
It’s fascinating that so many people are near-hysterical about the so-called risks of our youth being anywhere near a drag queen or a trans person, when our society has a long and shameful history of tolerating and often enabling the vast numbers of sexual predators in our midst.
Speaking of Q, Jian Ghomeshi, the former host of the show went on trial for allegedly engaging in a long pattern of sexual assault toward young women and frustratingly, he was acquitted. I believe that this was a miscarriage of justice, but sadly, that’s the norm as opposed to the exception in cases of sexual assault.
It’s exceedingly difficult to bring a case of sexual abuse to trial, near-impossible to get a conviction, and in the rare exception where it does happen, the sentence is usually absurdly short — almost always less than that of a someone convicted of destruction of property due to arson.
Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and Louis CK are all men in positions of power who got away with inappropriate (and sometimes criminal) behaviour for years. Some have never come to justice.
Powerful institutions have a reputation for enabling rampant sexual predation
Look at the scandals with the Catholic Church and with the Boy Scouts. These organizations are alleged to have ignored and enabled rampant sexual predation upon young people over many decades.
The church has a well-known policy of transferring a problematic priest to a different location — essentially allowing the perpetrator to continue their behaviour elsewhere.
Look at college campuses today. Rape culture is so prevalent that it’s almost remarkable if a young person makes it through their undergraduate education without having been sexually assaulted at least once.
And if a young college man is brought to trial for having raped a woman, or for having been part of a gang rape (which is far more common than university officials ever admit), his defense counsel will emphasize how leniency must be shown in order not to “ruin this promising young person’s career.” The destruction of their victim’s self-esteem, physical well-being, inner peace, career, and yes, entire life, is not at all considered.
Sexual predators are protected by our institutions
Sasha Velour is correct when she says that sexual predators are protected by our institutions. Decades and decades go by, and the abusers carry on without any obstacles.
Sports is a huge arena for child abuse. Over the last few years we have discovered how coaches and trainers have been molesting their young athletes for decades, and how sports organizations have been consistently turning a blind eye to this horror, because it’s not “convenient” for them to deal with what’s going on. We see it in gymnastics, in swimming, in skating; in both amateur and professional team sports.
People at the highest levels of sports are refusing to acknowledge or act upon the harm being caused to their young athletes. These leaders know what is happening but they’d rather shelter the high-profile perpetrators than protect the innocent victims.
How long was Harvey Weinstein engaging in his horrific predatory behaviour, including destroying the careers of the young women who refused his advances, before the MeToo movement put an end to his reign of terror? How many people around him knew exactly what he was doing and said nothing? He might have been the worst but he was only one among dozens of similar predators.
Schools are a regular site for child sexual abuse. From elementary school through to college and graduate school, teachers and professors have been preying upon young people forever.
If you want to talk about grooming, just consider how often a supposedly hip, sympathetic teacher takes a “special interest” in a vulnerable young person, and manipulates them into believing that they are in a consensual sexual relationship when in fact, this is something that the young person is not capable of understanding or agreeing to.
And by the way, these teachers and professors are employed in their positions for decades, which means that they are likely to be repeating the behaviour year after year, with successive classes of students. One perpetrator can have dozens, if not hundreds of victims, over the course of their entire career.
Many workplaces deny the sexual misbehaviour that’s happening in plain sight
Sexual harassment and assault is woven into the fabric of every workplace. Women and LGBTQIA+ individuals are constantly being harassed and abused by (usually) men in positions of power.
Their livelihoods (i.e., their survival, and their ability to care for their children) are constantly being threatened. The perpetrators could have the victims of this harassment fired or demoted for refusing their advances or for speaking up about what’s happening.
Often, when someone does speak out about sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace, it’s the victim who gets moved to a different department or demoted or told to seek alternative employment. Often they are strongly encouraged to take a payoff and sign a non-disclosure agreement. What doesn’t usually happen is justice for the victim.
Scapegoating LGBTQIA+ people while allowing the real predators to continue their abuse
The fact is that LGBTQIA+ people are not assaulting people. They are not grooming children. They are not a community of perverts and pedophiles. In fact, gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexual minority people in Canada were almost three times more likely than heterosexual Canadians to report that they had been physically or sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months in 2018.
If you want to find perverts and pedophiles, you have no further to look than at our most powerful and well-regarded institutions, the same institutions that are often persecuting the LGBTQIA+ and Drag community.
The hypocrisy is appalling. Sexual abuse is embedded in the fabric of our society and there is so little incentive to actually address the issue. It’s easier to scapegoat the Queer community than to root out the problem.
Even post-MeToo, many of the organizations that promised systemic change have either done nothing to begin with or have reverted back to ignoring and enabling the sexual abuse that’s happening within their walls. Powerful men protect other powerful men. That’s just the way things are.
Collective guilt being projected onto the entire LGBTQIA+ community
It’s obvious that the fear-mongering around the LGBTQIA+ community has nothing to do with any legitimate concerns about the potential victims of “grooming” or sexual assault. It’s simply a way to demonize an entire community and to deflect attention from where the real abuses are being perpetrated.
Scapegoating LGBTQIA+ people for the problem of sexual violence in our society only serves to vilify an entire community and it heaps additional harm onto those who have already been marginalized, hounded, harassed, and deprived of many of their human rights.
It also side-steps the issue of who, in fact, is doing all the grooming and abusing, and thereby perpetuates this age-old problem.
How nice for the individuals and institutions who accuse LGBTQIA+ people of predatory behaviour. They get to label an entire community as “perverts” when they’re merely projecting their own guilt and culpability onto others.
The concept of “projection” can be explained like this: it’s when a guilty person or group denies responsibility for their actions and blames others for their own, unacknowledged, bad behaviour.
The real sexual predators are not wearing false eyelashes and fake boobs
The perverts and pedophiles that we hear some people shouting about aren’t wearing wigs and false eyelashes and fake boobs. They’re not hanging out at gay bars and drag brunches. They’re wearing clerical collars and Scout leader uniforms; sports jerseys and bespoke three-piece suits. They’re running fashion empires and governments; they’re heading up film companies and major corporations.
The rapists we’re shouting about are populating our college campuses, our workplaces, our communities. They’re not drag queens or trans people. They look and act like “regular” guys. They’re our teachers, our coaches, our classmates, our politicians, our bosses, and our priests.
The more we allow this deflection of collective guilt to continue, the more we end up punishing the innocent and abandoning the victims.
If we truly care about grooming of young people and sexual abuse in general, we need to turn our attention away from the fake news and toward the real perpetrators and enablers — to the institutions that ignore, tolerate, and perpetuate this abuse. Only then will real change be possible.
Sign up here for my free bi-weekly wellness newsletter that brings you fresh, thought-provoking content.
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel where you’ll learn simple tips for taking the best care of yourself and your loved ones.
Tune in to my Ruthless Compassion Podcast where I go in-depth about topics like mental health, trauma, and loneliness.
Complete our Audience Listening Survey here.