A hashtag used by far-right neo-fascist group the Proud Boys has been taken over by LGBTQ people on Twitter, co-opting it to show photos of LGBTQ men, their partners, and their families.
The Proud Boys gained national prominence after President Donald Trump failed to denounce white supremacy during his first debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, instead telling the Proud Boys to “Stand back, stand by” — a slogan the group quickly adopted and promoted on its social media.
In response, LGBTQ people on Twitter have taken it upon themselves to ensure that Proud Boys content on the social media site is buried underneath dozens upon dozens of images of gay men kissing one another and living their best lives.
Actor and activist George Takei helped organize the takeover of #ProudBoys on Twitter, tweeting on Oct. 1: “I wonder if the BTS and TikTok kids can help LGBTs with this. What if gay guys took pictures of themselves making out with each other or doing very gay things, then tagged themselves with #ProudBoys. I bet it would mess them up real bad. #ReclaimingMyShine”.
On Oct. 3 Takei checked back in to update people, writing: “Look up what’s trending now on #ProudBoys. You’re welcome, internet.”
Takei later followed up with his own #ProudBoys post, sharing a photo with husband Brad.
“Brad and I are #ProudBoys, legally married for 12 years now,” he wrote. “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.”
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
Matt Dechaine, from England, spoke to CNN after sharing his own #ProudBoys post. He tweeted a photo with his husband, writing that the “reclaiming of #ProudBoys is wonderful. Here’s me and my husband. Together for 20 years and married for 3. Both very proud boys.”
— Matt Dechaine 👂 (@mattdechaine) October 4, 2020
Dechaine told CNN that seeing the hashtag, which normally shares content related to the Proud Boys, co-opted by LGBTQ people was “so uplifting.”
“It feels like the movement for positive change for all is gathering momentum all the time and I’m glad to be a small part of it,” he said. “By coming together rooted in respect and love for each other, the world can be so much better!”
Hundreds of other users shared their own #ProudBoys images, including Queer Eye star Bobby Berk:
— Bobby Berk (@bobbyberk) October 4, 2020
The official Twitter account of the Canadian Armed Forces in the United States also got involved, tweeting a widely shared image of a uniformed man kissing his partner.
The account followed with a message of support for LGBTQ servicemembers, writing: “If you wear our uniform, know what it means. If you’re thinking about wearing our uniform, know what it means. Love is love. Know what we mean?”
They added: “They were silent. They were shunned. They weren’t always welcomed. This is about us, then, now. This is for them. They are Us.”
— Canadian Forces in 🇺🇸 (@CAFinUS) October 4, 2020
They were silent.
They were shunned.
They weren’t always welcomed.
This is about us, then, now.
This is for them.
They are Us. 🏳️🌈
— Canadian Forces in 🇺🇸 (@CAFinUS) October 4, 2020
Check out some other highlights from #ProudBoys below:
— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) October 4, 2020
— Being LGBTQ Podcast🏳️🌈 (@BeingLGBTQPod) October 4, 2020
— TURN TEXAS BLUE (@Blue_Texas2020) October 3, 2020
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) October 4, 2020
— Dr Gráinne McEntee (@pongosapien) October 4, 2020
Looks like many #ProudBoys are standing bi today.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) October 4, 2020
— Jeff in the sky (@JGastauer) October 4, 2020
— Andrés Camilo (@andres___camilo) October 4, 2020
.@JerickFL and I are joining thousands of gay men on social media to reclaim #ProudBoys from white supremacists and bigoted neo-nazis. Let’s replace the hashtag with images of love, positivity, and true PRIDE! Your two favorite #ProudBoys are here standing by, ready to VOTE! 🏳️🌈🗳 pic.twitter.com/8k8iUlfFFx
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) October 4, 2020
The claiming of #ProudBoys by Gay Twitter may be the best thing to happen in 2020.
— Ali Velshi (@AliVelshi) October 4, 2020
However, while many celebrated gay Twitter turning #ProudBoys into something good, the actual Proud Boys weren’t quite so amused.
Enrique Tarrio, who founded the group, told CNN that it was “hysterical,” saying, “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.”
But Forbes reports that, behind the scenes, Tarrio and the Proud Boys are furious that their hashtag is being used for purposes other than spreading what the Anti-Defamation League calls their “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration” ideology.
Proud Boys members reportedly flooded conservative social media network Parler (the group is banned from Twitter) with angry messages decrying the takeover of #ProudBoys.
Torres, writing on the Proud Boys official Parler account, said the Left was attempting to turn the group’s name into “a slur” and that gay people were trying to “drown out the voices of our supporters.”
The group’s supporters quickly filled comments about the hashtag takeover with furious pro-Nazi and homophobic messages, including one person who wrote that they “Can’t stand gay people…should be illegal,” and another who posted Nazi imagery including a swastika and support for a “Final Solution” — the Nazi plan to murder Europe’s Jewish population which led to the Holocaust and the death of six million Jews.
Twitter, meanwhile, continues to fill up with pro-LGBTQ #ProudBoys content.
— Yasmien Naciri | 🌈 (@Smienos) October 4, 2020
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