Rainbow Alliance Dryden et al. v. Webster

On December 14, 2023, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decided in Rainbow Alliance Dryden et al. v. Webster to allow a defamation suit by a drag performer and a 2SLGBTQI community organization against an individual who publicly called them “groomers” to continue to trial.

In doing so, the court initially ruled that there is no public interest in protecting baseless accusations of child sexual abuse against 2SLGBTQI people.
The court then relied on Egale Canada’s intervention to affirm the exact opposite: Because false accusations of pedophilia have been weaponized against 2SLGBTQI people to deny members of our communities equal rights and opportunities for decades, the law must allow people being targeted by these homophobic and transphobic myths to pursue defamation claims.

In recent years, drag performers putting on family-friendly shows have been increasingly targeted with the baseless accusation that they are grooming children for sexual abuse. The correct use of the word “grooming” refers to practices by which sexual abusers gain access to victims, usually children and youth, and coerce and manipulate them to facilitate sexual abuse. 

Drag performances are a form of cultural expression and the equation of drag performances to child grooming is based on the homophobic and transphobic belief that gender diversity is inherently dangerous to children. The court accepted that the term “groomer” has come to function as a slur against drag performers and 2SLGBTQI people more broadly.

The court’s decision finds the use of the “groomer” slur against drag performers to be rhetoric based on hurtful and hateful myths and stereotypes

This is an important decision for 2SLGBTQI communities that comes at a time when we are facing unprecedented levels of hate, harassment, and violence fuelled by the spread of misinformation and disinformation. As noted in the court’s decision, the term “groomer” is a slur used against drag performers that is “rhetoric based on hurtful, and hateful myths and stereotypes…”

This decision represents the significant finding that calling drag performers “groomers” is an accusation of child sexual abuse and that people targeted by that accusation have the right to take legal action to protect their reputations.

Credits and Source: Egale Canada