Right-wing influencer Tim Pool responded to the mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, by calling gay and trans people “groomers,” a slur, and otherwise spreading anti-trans hate and propaganda. The attack occurred on Saturday evening and left five people dead and another 19 wounded.
Pool is a popular social media personality who has 1.4 million Twitter followers and a similar number of YouTube subscribers. His anti-trans commentary tracked with the broader response to the Club Q shooting from right-wing media, which have used the tragedy as an occasion to malign drag queens, lie about gender-affirming care, and attack LGBTQ communities.
Pool addressed the topic on Twitter and in a YouTube video on Tuesday, suggesting that the club and the victims of the shooting were to blame for the violence perpetrated against them and that trans people and drag queens are “grooming” children, using an anti-LGBTQ slur that has reemerged as a common attack against these communities on the right.
Pool’s remarks about the Club Q shooting often rely on false equivalence between LGBTQ people and those who wish to eliminate them through vigilante and state violence, but this is a fig leaf. His pretextual concern is, in reality, a demand that trans people disappear from public life, and an implicit endorsement of anti-LBGTQ violence as an inevitable response to trans and gender-nonconforming people being visible members of society.
In one tweet, Pool quoted NBC extremism reporter Ben Collins offering context about drag shows, responding, “People have been calling for putting pedophiles in woodchippers then someone goes and does this.” (Pool may have been referencing responses to posts by the anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok, in which some Twitter users made that gruesome threat against drag queens and trans people.)
In response to a screenshot of a post from the Club Q account announcing an all-ages drag brunch the day after the shooting, Pool wrote, “People keep calling for woodchippers and this is what happens.”
In another tweet, he wrote that “the grooming of children is not stopping,” perpetuating a myth that people in LGBTQ communities are grooming or otherwise sexualizing children.
He continued to characterize trans people and drag queens at the scene of the shooting as threats to children, writing, “We shouldnt tolerate pedophiles grooming kids. Club Q had a grooming event.”
His YouTube channel featured more of the same. “We need the police to shut these events down, for a variety of reasons, but it’s not going to happen,” he said. “I fear what will start to happen is more violence.”
Pool then discussed the Club Q post announcing a drag brunch before the shooting. “Nobody really wants to say it, but I’ll say it: I think the grooming is wrong,” Pool said. “I think the grooming should be stopped by law enforcement.”
“I believe there should be legislation stopping what’s happening,” he continued.
On his members-only stream that evening, Pool continued to claim LGBTQ communities are full of sexual predators. “A bunch of goddamn pedophiles are grooming children and when we're like, ‘hey, stop associating all LGBT people with groomers,’ ya'll keep fucking doing it,” Pool said.
He also blamed LGBTQ activists who have opposed the groomer slur for being the ones who are actually laying the foundation for anti-gay and anti-trans violence. “I tweeted if you claim that groomer refers to all LGBT people, then you are calling all LGBT people groomers and you are inciting violence against them,” he said. “Stop inciting violence against them. That's what they're doing.”
Pool then reiterated his call for police to arrest parents or guardians who bring children to all-age drag shows, and criticized law enforcement for what he perceives to be their overly permissive treatment toward trans people and spaces. “The police can go in and arrest them, they're not doing it,” he said. “Legislation won’t do anything about this. It's the police refusing to do it.” (Trans people are 7 times more likely to experience physical violence during police encounters when compared with cisgender people, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.)
Pool has a history of promoting the “groomer” slur. In July, he said that “the LGBTQ community is now dominated by overt pedophiles.” The previous month, he accused drag performers of “grooming your kids.” His YouTube feed is littered with these kinds of accusations.
Pool also responded to news outlets reporting that the alleged shooter identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. The significance of these claims, from the shooter’s legal defense, is difficult to determine, and there are substantial reasons to doubt their veracity. A neighbor and friend recalled the alleged shooter using an anti-gay slur regularly. These claims from the defense could be an attempt at mitigation for a defendant facing hate crime charges, or a troll meant to further victimize LGBTQ communities. Even taken at face value, there is nothing inconsistent about a nonbinary person internalizing and acting on anti-gay and anti-trans ideas.
Twitter has come under increasing pressure to address discriminatory speech following Elon Musk’s takeover, including from tech giants Apple and Google, which both include the company’s app in their digital stores. Pool’s most recent comments may be a violation of the companies’ terms of service against “objectionable content” and hate speech. Apple’s ad agency recently recommended that the tech giant pull its advertisements off of Twitter, given the platform’s direction under Musk, and the head of the App Store recently deactivated his account.
Regardless of the information that emerges about the alleged perpetrator in the coming days and weeks, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric like Pool’s puts gay and trans people at risk. If Pool continues to refer to trans people and drag queens using the “groomer” slur, he will be contributing to an environment that makes attacks against LGBTQ communities more likely.