Republican-led, anti-LGBTQ hysteria is sweeping the nation. Conservative governments in multiple states are proposing and passing some of the most severe attacks on the LGBTQ community seen in years. Much of it targets transgender people and drag performances, ostensibly for the purpose of protecting children from sexual exploitation.
These bills, particularly the drag ban that recently passed in Tennessee, have inspired scores of people to post TikToks about a community they say is overwhelmingly more likely to prey on kids than drag queens: the clergy. Many of these TikToks include the hashtags #dragban and #pastor.
Some of the TikTokers share their own stories about ministers and youth pastors who they say groomed and molested them.
Others use news stories, memes, or songs to point to the fact that there are far more tales of clergy—such as Catholic priests—preying on children than drag queens doing the same. More than one used the wildly popular Pedro Pascal and Nicholas Cage meme to make their point.
@that_disney_mom Tennessee bans drag shows but creeps like these are still free to be around our kids!!! ##lgtbq##lgtbq🏳️🌈##dragshow##tennessee##bans##wtff##makeitmakesense ♬ original sound – NotTheRealTraceyDelaney
Several TikTokers referenced the Southern Baptist Convention’s list that came out last year of over 700 pastors accused of sexual misconduct and assault of children in the last 15 years.
“The largest Christian denominations suppressed, ignored, and stonewalled sexual abuse allegations for nearly two decades,” an anchor says in a TikTok that begins with a screenshot of a story about Tennessee’s drag ban. “A scathing new report commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention describes extensive coverups by senior leaders who were ‘singularly focused on avoiding liability.’”
Another TikToker posted clips of multiple stories about clergy sexually abusing children, and wrote, “Let’s attack drag shows when ALL THE EVIDENCE SHOWS IT’S PASTORS.”
Personal tales of being preyed upon by preachers and youth pastors seem to particularly resonate on the platform. Multiple TikToks by purported survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation by church leaders have gone viral in recent weeks.
In a TikTok with over 2 million views, a woman accused her female youth pastor of molesting her when she was a teen. “I grew up in Tennessee. Drag queens never preyed on me. You know who did?” the text onscreen reads. “My straight youth pastor. My straight married youth pastor.”
The TikTok is captioned, “Lemme know when the youth pastor ban hits.”
Another woman shared her story about being groomed by her youth pastor back when she was 14 years old. The man, she said, was in his 30s and married with a child. They started dating when she was 17. She said he also physically abused her. Her TikTok has nearly 6 million views.
TikToker @hoewhite93 stitched the video and wrote, “Never have I ever met someone groomed by a drag queen but this is an all too familiar story.”
Multiple posts referenced recent reports about Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) wearing drag in high school, which surfaced just before he signed the bill banning drag performances on public property or in front of minors. The bill has been highly criticized as an attack on both drag performers and the transgender community.
TikToker @amberlemaylive called Lee a “hypocrite” for wearing drag as a teen. Amber, whose bio describes her as “the Larry King of drag queens,” went on to point to the case of a Tennessee pastor who was recently sentenced to 45 years in prison for possessing child sexual abuse materials involving three minors and transporting a minor with the intent of sexually assaulting them.
@amberlemaylive Church leadership or drag queens? Who is the problem? #dragqueen #dragqueens #tennessee #tennesseedragbill #billlee #governorbilllee #tennesseedragban #tennesseedragqueens #dragbantennessee #dragqueenban #church #religion #banchurches #taxchurches ♬ original sound – Amber Live!
“There is no evidence of a drag performer being a danger to children, but they are forbidden to perform in public while every week we hear of multiple instances of abuse by members of the clergy,” Amber concluded.
“Would you rather your child attend a drag show or a church service?”
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*First Published: Mar 9, 2023, 3:39 pm CST
Claire Goforth is a staff writer at the Daily Dot covering all things politics and technology with a focus on the far right and conspiracy theories.