Only by telling and retelling of stories can we raise the consciousness of others.  Thank you for your words Incessant Sentinel.

Surviving the Cult of Queer

The general concept of grooming is often too narrowly defined. While, yes, we usually see it used to reference paedophiles grooming young children, the word’s application has a much broader scope. The most common factor between all applications of this word is an individual or group of individuals slowly, methodically desensitising and preparing a person for an illegal activity, or an activity the person would not usually participate in (perhaps has even declined participating in already). Whether intentional or passive, the grooming individual will typically gently nudge and push boundaries of what their victim is comfortable with, but not so much the victim will immediately reject it. The idea is to then have a reference point: ‘If you were comfortable doing this thing then this next slightly further thing surely isn’t that big of a deal’, etc. This compounds and escalates until the victim has reached the desired final goal; usually a behaviour or specific act. Even if the groomer becomes more bold or escalates more rapidly, by this point the victim is usually inducted into a social circle where they feel they cannot air their grievances.

There is a lot of overlap here with the practices of cults. First a vulnerable or malleable target is a selected. Next, the target is love-bombed; inundated with acceptance, support, emotional-availability, and generally making the person feel special and unique. After this, the victim is encouraged to cut ties with friends and family who are not part of the “in crowd” – this is often both an emotional and physical isolation, designed to remove the victim’s exposure to naysayers and censor their media input. And finally is the control. When a victim has no other structure or framework available in their lives, a cult will threaten to revoke any and all love, support, etc. (and with it the victim’s only lifeline) if they do not comply with all they ask of them. A lot of groomers operate on this same emotionally manipulative level.

The biggest difference between grooming and friendly persuasion is consent. Friendly-persuasion seeks to have an individual state their views or practices, and reasons for having them, in the hope that by providing clarity they may encourage another person to come round to their view. Grooming is more subversive, and by definition more malicious – it is a conscious (though sometimes unintentional) practice in which someone seeks to mould and perhaps even force someone round to views that the perpetrator knows they would not normally be comfortable with. It is a process so slow, and so invasive, that while it is clear as glass to any outsider, few victims realise the true scope of what has happened to them until they are removed from the situation. Looking back on my own experience, I find it inconceivable that I was ignorant to what was happening for so long.

Parts of my pre-teen – early teenage years are a grey area for me; I have many clear memories of school and my small circle of friends, but the areas of my life referenced in this article are not so clear-cut in my mind. While I do not believe I experienced any event so traumatic as to erase all memory, said memory associated with this part of my life is not pleasant to think about – I believe it is less abject trauma, and more emotional discomfort. Whatever the cause, some isolated events are difficult to put into sequential order. While I remember the individual pockets clearly, I will admit I may make minor errors in terms of what order some occurred.

But to what exactly am I referring? Well, while I may make commentary at parts, I think it more pertinent and respectful to those reading to allow room for personal judgement. Baring in mind my introduction to this piece, I encourage you to read my experiences with a critical brain.

The Human Library
My pubescent period was a difficult time for me. I could write an entire article all about what an unequivocal wreck of a human being I was (in spite of my wonderfully supportive mother), but I will try and succinctly list my situation at the time:

  1. I was recovering from an intense period of physical and mental bullying from two previous schools (institutionally backed up by the headmasters’ “boys will be boys” attitude) that still leave scars to this day.
  2. I had undiagnosed mental health problems and learning difficulties. I’ve since learned I’m high functioning Aspergers/ASD which overlaps with Dyspraxia, a co-morbid symptom of both being depression and/or chronic anxiety. I have an exceptionally high IQ in some areas, followed by comically sharp dips into below-average struggling in others. This can affect my ability to make friends and perform socially.
  3. Puberty is a fucking nightmare. I was in a vulnerable and confused place about my sexuality, and where my attraction lay. It is only these years later that I have come to make a peace with my bisexuality. I was always an androgynous individual.
The Human Library is a world-over project in which pockets of the group organise public meets. The “books” are volunteers who feel their “title” is often misrepresented or misunderstood: homeless, OCD, single mother, fraud victim, etc. If it’s something worth talking about you can volunteer. A book is “rented” by a member of the public for a few minutes, and the two can sit down with the pretext of asking any awkward or burning questions you don’t normally get to ask. It is a wonderful concept. My mother was originally involved, talking about her experiences in mental health, though after a while she began to dip off due to other commitments. I was drawn to this project by a number of factors. They lacked any teenagers, and I’d been bullied for a myriad of reasons I knew other teens (particularly girls) felt unable to speak about – such innocuously subversive things it was hard to put into words. I initially had my title as ‘Tomboyish/Androgynous’, in the hope my personal perspective might make some sceptics realise the weight of the words they slung, or to make at least one person like myself not feel so alone and to offer them catharsis.
It is in the waiting area of these events that I first met someone that we’ll call “Rita“. The first time I met Rita, I assumed they were a man, right up until they told me their name. They looked, sounded, and behaved exactly like your typical “bloke”, complete with a fresh-shaved stubble and wide leg-spread sitting, and it was only when they took their coat off that I realised they had breast implants. I will not claim to know the ins and outs of Rita’s life, nor will I pass value judgements on it, but this was my initial impression of them. Later, at other events, there was also “June“, an older individual who fit in the same category appearance and situation-wise as Rita. Meeting June, I initially thought they were a 50/60 year old man with mid-length hair, until told otherwise. Whatever their individual tags or labels, it was clear these people were attempting to pass for female, or at the very least more feminine than they were. Given the environment we were in, I promised myself to keep an open mind. I didn’t even know them after all.
We talked aimlessly in classic British style, weather, the refreshment station lacking tea, etc. for some time, then chatted briefly about our “book titles” – this provided good way of practising our spiel for the public, so I was not opposed to it. I explained my title, my desire to remove the stigma in growing girls who were experiencing non-typical behaviour, and vaguely hashed out the idea of my own confusion in my appearance and attraction. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. With the benefit of it, I can pinpoint the exact first instance of “nudging” I experienced from this group. It was when Rita started talking with me, a girl under the age of 16 they barely knew, about their breasts and their implants.
And later, details on the surgery of sexual organs, particularly turning a penis into a vagina.
The topic of their breasts came up at least once every Human Library afternoon, like Rita couldn’t resist talking about it. If I looked uncomfortable, it was waved away as me being naive, uneducated on the subject, or even part of the “problem stigma”. It was framed in a way that insisted  ‘it’s ok, that’s why we’re at the human library, I’ll educate you‘. I felt unable to silence them when uncomfortable, given the conditions of the Library. When June was in attendance, they often corroborated Rita about how any hesitation to listen to them marked a form of ignorance or even bigotry. Despite my discomfort, I also found an odd acceptance within the group. These few members were proposing titles and labels to me in a way that made me feel normal and accepted. Terms like “genderqueer”, “genderfluid” or “transvestite/genderplay”. They said it with such authority, enthusiasm and kindness, that I felt comforted by the notion. I was gradually and consistently directed to stories and suggestions of transgender-ism, surgery options, and chest binding. Once again with the benefit of hindsight, these conversations often took place out of earshot of the other Library volunteers.
Some of the places I became directed to by this group were online communities. Many were men-turned-women like Rita and June, but others were teenagers or young adults. Here they discussed and actively encouraged drastic changes, via surgery or binding/stuffing, as if promising a final elixir to contentment and happiness. Via both the Human Library group and online, people constantly attempted to bait me into incrementally more intimate discussions, with limited or non-existent results due to my shyness. Rita had, however, made references to my own chest and cup-size in conversation at least twice. In this confusion of terminology and candour, I soon became fixated on the idea of being “gender-queer”.

Gender and Dyspraxia

Throughout all my multiple experiences and events I volunteered at, I now recognise a presiding theme of one-upmanship. Some of the regular volunteers, whether the problem groomer-types or not, often felt a need to be the “most special”. It was frankly exhausting to be around. The gentleman with chronic OCD, we’ll call him “Frank”, was initially endearing if eccentric, and I honestly saw a lot of myself in him and his social isolation. However, even he was not immune to this trait.

After one Library session of using the book title ‘Genderqueer’, something didn’t sit right with me. I was tomboyish, certainly, but to imply it as an accomplished identity felt uncomfortable to me. It just wasn’t a label that fit. I felt like a fraud, and like I’d been almost jimmied into it a little, then pressured to stay. Now, myself and my mum had always suspected me of having some kind of high-functioning ASD-type issues, and had begun more seriously digging into the prospects at the time, having read that this general uncertainty and confusion could be more physical than psychological. I was personally over the moon at the prospect. I was a textbook Dyspraxic, all bar a formal diagnosis, and the idea of having some diagnosis that finally explained and helped me rationalise one of the biggest set of problems in my life was invigorating. It didn’t fix the issues, but it gave me a firm foundation of understanding to work from.

During our lunch break during a Library session, I quite rightly sought to share this newfound insight with what I believed to be some of my most open minded and accepting of friends/acquaintances. The reception was a mixture of ambivalent and unempathic results. I was either actively steered away from this path, with insistences that others were just trying to suppress my gender identity and attempts to blame my problems on something else, or was met with people competitively throwing out gems like: ‘Oh, well, I’ve got dyspraxia too. And depression. And OCD and anxiety and aspergers, sooo-‘ and then bizarrely proud, smug shrugging, as they’d somehow “won” the conversation by out-pathologising me. This particular example came from Frank.

The next time we had a public session, I used the title “Dyspraxia / ASD”. I came at it from an honest and open position of being new to the concept of it, yet being a possessor of it, and how I now realised it affected my life. That day, my title was hands-down one of the most demanded talks in the Library, and I was enthused with the progress that was made, along with the fantastic conversations I had with individuals just like myself. To accomplish my original goal, of making gas-lit, jaded victims of bullying and cruelty feel vindicated and justified almost drove me to tears. Rita and some of the inner-circle seemed displeased and did not share my newfound happiness, often passive-aggressively trying to put down my success whenever I returned to the waiting area. I was becoming less dependent, less enamoured with them and the concept of cross-dressing or gender-play, and their attempts to label the ones I now reached out to as the enemy only succeeded in me severing ties with them and the Human Library altogether.

Follow Ups

Our area is small, and as such the political circles are smaller still. I have encountered Rita at various discussions or debates, mostly gender related, and more or less ignore their work now. I find myself unable to objectively listen to their stances, given the inappropriate references to gynaecological surgery and my breasts I encountered when underage, no matter how well-intentioned they thought it was – I will not degrade anyone involved by pretending to listen to someone I can no longer respect.

Frank continued to Facebook message me once, maybe twice a year up until 2018 – I’d originally friended him so I could like/share the posts about the junior football team he coached, and help support them. The messages were mostly harmless, if exceptionally overly-familiar – he often acted as if we were close friends. Some details were a little too intimate, but nothing rude or crass, simply overtly-emotional. Until, after having not spoken to him more than 7 times in my life (3 of which were online), he randomly messaged me with: ‘I think I’m transgender.’ followed by something along the lines of ‘I paint fingernails. I need advice’. It is worth noting that Frank is younger than Rita, but still a good chunk older than myself. I had no response, and it was quite frankly the final nail in a coffin of over familiarity and oppressively non-appropriate behaviour. I did not really know this man, yet had been asked on many separate instances by him to answer unusual and intimate questions for his own benefit. I doubt maleficence in his case, but over-exposure to a cult of over-sharing, to the point where I think he genuinely believed this was normal, everyday behaviour between near-strangers. I politely, but firmly, explained I no longer believed any further communication was appropriate, that I was not the one to discuss these issues with (nor was I qualified to), and have not heard from him since.


I bring us to the end of this tale with the unfortunate reflection that there is no one message to glean from it. This article is different to my usual, in that it is more a telling of facts and experience than introspection. But I would like it to serve a purpose.

If it were to find any such purpose, let it be the knowledge that my story is not unique. Indeed, it is also one that has a significantly happier ending than most who also tell it. The subversive behaviour is often hard to describe – when we victims attempt to cite it we are often dismissed or ignored. Grooming, cultish behaviour, stamps a lasting impression on our lives, and yet I still find myself struggling to formulate a description of the seditious nature of many involved. Even now, I find myself simultaneously appalled to remember all that occurred, yet not feeling my article has done justice to the constant chipping and nudging I was bombarded with for so long.

These individuals were given unprecedented access to myself, and other vulnerable persons. Laughably, persons with direct labels on themselves as to how they may be manipulated, literally like a book on the shelf to be perused and selected. It doesn’t matter if the intention is malicious or ignorant, there are increasing pockets of sub-cultures in which this damaging behaviour is encouraged, overlooked, excused, and even hidden. Children are having normal, sometimes transient, issues and parts of maturation pathologised into immediate, permanent, life-changing surgery. Pre-teens who have not fully developed their sexuality are having said sexuality scrutinised and laid-bare by grown men and women who have no rights to it, nor qualifications beyond ‘I think it’. And we have grown women regretting their transitions as the freedom of their adult lives finally allows escape and outside perspective on these sub-cultures.

I cannot force judgement or groom any who reads the stories of myself or others, but I can hope for friendly persuasion. I can hope for mindfulness and scrutiny to the damage being done by unqualified, emotionally stunted individuals with no medical credentials. I escaped the “Cult of the Queer”, yet others are still firmly at the mercy of these people, the whims of the incapable, and many vulnerable books still sit on the shelves unaware they’re being selected.