Warning: This story describes anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and ideas that some readers may find offensive.
Earlier this fall, a billboard stood tall above the highway right outside downtown Fort Worth.
Alongside a photo of Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor, the billboard said: “STOP GROOMING OUR CHILDREN. VOTE NO TO BETO!”
The word “grooming” is used to describe the manipulation process a sexual abuser uses to coerce young victims. More recently, some conservatives have equated LGBTQ+ people, as well as conversations about gender and sexuality, with grooming. Those false narratives have permeated Texas elections and the political process nationwide.
The grooming accusations are a new way of packaging an old tale, said Johnathan Gooch, the communications director for the statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Texas: that LGBTQ+ people are sexual predators.
“It was popular in the ’90s when people were trying to prevent lesbian and gay couples from adopting children,” Gooch said. “And here we are, 30 years later.”