Extremist group the Proud Boys tried to fill Twitter with their hate and bigotry, but gay men mobilized to drown out the hostility with love.
Far-right, neo-fascist group the Proud Boys recently took to Twitter in order to celebrate the United States President Donald Trump's performance at the first Presidential debate between the incumbent and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. However, their virtual celebration was soon derailed when the social media platform's gay users showed up with force to overtake their hashtag, #ProudBoys. Soon, the hashtag was trending—for all the things the bigoted interest group does not want to be associated with. Images and stories of gay men sharing their love for their partners and the LGBTQIA+ community quickly littered the Twitter hashtag, CNN reports.
.@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 group first went viral when President Trump criticized "Antifa and the left" for outbreaks of violence across the country. Refusing to condemn White supremacy in the United States, he instead asked the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" in order to lend support if needed. While the far-right group expected to gain traction on Twitter for Trump's statements, their hashtag was engulfed by those more interested in spreading joy and love. In the hundreds, gay men took to the social media platform to share images of themselves with their partners. They also posted uplifting messages for and about the LGBTQIA+ community.
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 is one of the men who posted an image of himself with his husband. In an interview with CNN, he said he simply wanted to "spread joy." "Seeing the hashtag was so uplifting," he said. "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. By coming together rooted in respect and love for each other, the world can be so much better!" Of course, this is in complete contrast to the Proud Boys' central messaging. Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, claimed that he did not quite understand what the men were trying to achieve through their posts.
He explained, "I think it's hysterical. 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." For someone who isn't offended, the leader sounded quite defensive. "One of the messages they want to send with this is that they're trying to drown out our supporters, they're trying to silence us," Tarrio added. "When you're trying to drown out other people's thoughts, I don't think there's anything progressive about that. Why don't these people just engage?"
Nonetheless, for the gay men who uploaded posts on Twitter, this was a way to reclaim their space. Twitter user Patrick Strudwick affirmed, "We grew up in a time when gay men had no rights, when newspapers called us poofs, when police didn't investigate when we were murdered. We're the real #ProudBoys."
good morning to nobody except the gays who highjacked the #ProudBoys hashtag— Jane Lytvynenko (@JaneLytv) October 4, 2020