Pennsylvania Gay Business, House Graffitied With the Word "Groomers"
The vandalism echoes the recent use of the term by Republicans to describe LGBTQ+ people.
Police have been investigating a series of anti-LGBTQ+ harassment incidents taking place over the past month in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and they now seem to believe that it may be the work of one bigot, according to reporting in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania newspaper LNP.
On May 7, a queer couple living in the southwest area of the city says their Pride flag was stolen from its stand on their porch. Two lesbian partners living elsewhere in the city report that someone wrote the epithet “groomers,” which is quickly becoming an anti-LGBTQ+ dog whistle , in chalk on the sidewalk outside their home, while the same word in matching handwriting was found scrawled outside a local gay-owned business.
Police spokesman Lt. Glenn Stoltzfus told the paper that although the department was investigating the theft of the flag, the chalk harassment was not being pursued, as there was no damage to property — because that’s the thing we’re all concerned about here.
Charlie Ballard and Rob Gay, the couple whose flag was stolen, say they confronted a man who may have been the thief this past Saturday as he passed by their porch once again. Recognizing the man’s backpack from security camera footage, Gay asked him why he had taken their flag, and says the man “gave an ‘oh, crap’ look” before denying any involvement and leaving.
“These petty and hateful messages are not welcome in our community,” said Lancaster city council President Izzy Smith-Wade-El, who is queer, in a statement Tuesday, adding that at least one other Pride flag had been stolen from an unidentified person.
The harassment comes as GOP pundits and politicians alike cast LGBTQ+ people as “groomers” seeking to “indoctrinate” children into being queer, shoring up support from the radical right wing as the 2022 midterm elections draw closer. PA state legislators are currently considering HB 972, a bill that would prohibit young trans girls from competing in girls’ sports competitions.
It’s sadly unsurprising to see conservative rhetoric inspire individual bigots to take matters into their own hands — and those targeted by those intimidation tactics are concerned for their own kids (who are turning out just fine, by the way).
“It was really unsettling at first. We were like, was someone stalking us?” wondered one of the women whose sidewalk was defaced. “We have two children so that also put us on edge.”