Less than a week after the far-right group the Proud Boys were mentioned at the presidential debate, the group’s name is being taken over on Twitter by gay men.
During the debate last Tuesday, President Donald Trump did not condemn the “western chauvinist” men’s group that the Southern Poverty Law Center says is a hate group. But on social media, many men in the LGBTQ community began sharing photos of themselves and their partners to counter the group’s rhetoric.
“What if gay guys took pictures of themselves making out with each other or doing very gay things, then tagged themselves with #ProudBoys,” Star Trek actor George Takei, who is gay, tweeted Thursday.
Many have been posting the photos using the hashtag #ProudBoys and often sharing how long they have been with their partner.
Brad and I are #ProudBoys, legally married for 12 years now. And we’re proud of all of the gay folks who have stepped up to reclaim our pride in this campaign. Our community and allies answered hate with love, and what could be better than that. pic.twitter.com/GRtSH1ijQ8
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) October 4, 2020
— Jeremy Schaeffer (@Schaefferjer) October 5, 2020
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said.
Megan Squire, a professor of computer science at Elon University in North Carolina who studies online extremism, said that the comment led the group’s organizers to feel “validated.”
The Proud Boys publicly deny supporting white supremacy but they have tolerated racism among their ranks and associated with overtly racist figures, said Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University senior lecturer who studies nationalism, race and ethnicity.
Founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, the group has since been involved in violent confrontations and their presence during social unrest often devolves into fights and violence.
An ongoing lawsuit filed by McInnes claims SPLC’s characterizations of him as a “‘hate’ figure” are “defamatory, false and misleading” as well as “purposefully deceitful.”
— Rick Lockhart II (@ricklockhartii) October 5, 2020
— Canadian Forces in 🇺🇸 (@CAFinUS) October 4, 2020
However, not all were supportive of the push to use the hashtag and questioned whether it was effective. Some were critical of how many using it were white gay men and note how even some members of the Proud Boys are gay.
The humor of white gays using the Proud Boys hashtag like they aren’t some of the biggest bigots on this Earth is not lost on me.
— Phillip Henry (@MajorPhilebrity) October 4, 2020
but some of those white gays are also apart of the proud boys. this is dumb https://t.co/JDGw0cfCtC
— kev. 🏳️🌈 ᵇˡᵐ (@phxodisiac) October 4, 2020
Enrique Tarrio, a Proud Boy leader, told CNN the group was not homophobic and that he understand what using the hashtag was trying to accomplish.
“I think it’s hysterical,” Tarrio told CNN. “This isn’t something that’s offensive to us. It’s not an insult. We aren’t homophobic. We don’t care who people sleep with. People think it’s going to bother us. It doesn’t.”
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