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Gay Community Reclaims #ProudBoys to Stomp Out Hate

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After President Donald Trump made mention of the Proud Boys during the first presidential debate, telling them to “stand back and stand by”, members of the LGBTQ+ community have taken to Twitter to retaliate by trending #ProudBoys, filling it with pictures celebrating gay pride.

The idea came from former Star Trek actor and LGBTQ+ rights activist George Takei, who suggested on Twitter that gay men should use the hashtag to share images of them “making out with each other or doing very gay things”.

Since last week, #ProudBoys has garnered more than 88,000 tweets.

In his tweet, Takei also made reference to a similar act by Korean Pop (K-pop) fans in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which addresses unnecessary police brutality against black people in the US. #whitelivesmatter was initially used to retaliate against the Black Lives Matter protests, but the hashtag was soon flooded with images of Korean pop stars, courtesy of K-pop fans, to drown out the hate tweets.

Why did they do this?

Following Trump’s mention of the group during the debate last week, many members of the Proud Boys have taken the President’s words as endorsement of their agenda. Notably, Proud Boys’ chairman, Enrique Tarrio, posted on Parler: “Standing by Sir… I will stand down Sir!!”

The debate clip has also been spread on Telegram, and the phrase “stand back, stand by” has been incorporated into the group’s logo.

As such, members of the LGBTQ+ community decided to take things into their own hands by redefining the term Proud Boys, associating it with gay pride, love and acceptance.

Who are the Proud Boys?

The Proud Boys are a far-right, anti-immigrant, all-male group with a history of street violence against its left-wing opponents. The group was founded in 2016 by Canadian-British right-wing activist Gavin Mclnnes.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have banned the Proud Boys from their platforms. Since then, the Proud Boys have taken to lesser-known media outlets to share their sentiments online.

How did the Proud Boys react?

Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys group, told CNN he was not sure what social media users were trying to achieve.

“I think it’s hysterical,” said Tarrio. “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.”

He also added, “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. When you’re trying to drown out other people’s thoughts, I don’t think there’s anything progressive about that.”

The group has also since renamed themselves the Leather Men. McInnes explained the rationale behind the new name: “We Proud Boys stand up for Western Chauvinism and political violence, but we can’t allow ourselves to be associated with all this gay content. That’s why we’re changing our group’s name to something manly and tough, with cool matching leather jackets that could never be misconstrued.”

One of the group’s members, Marcus Smith, was particularly excited about the new name. “Just imagine how cool it’ll look when a bunch of us dudes show up to a bar together all wearing badass leather.”

However, LGBTQ+ Twitter was equally quick to react, and took over the hashtag #LeatherMen with images of gay couples donned in leather.

Online retailers are also distancing themselves

The gay community isn’t alone in protesting the Proud Boys. Retailers such as Etsy, Amazon, eBay and Teespring have begun to remove Proud Boys merchandise from their websites.

A representative from Etsy confirmed in an interview with The Verge that merchandise with the “stand back and stand by” slogans have been removed, saying that “Sellers on Etsy agree to follow our policies, which prohibit, among other things, hate against protected identities, attempting to incite violence against individuals or groups. We actively monitor the site and review and remove merchandise that violates our policies.”

Although the Proud Boys merchandise had long been banned from the site, the representative mentioned that prohibited items do occasionally slip through the company’s filters.

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