Gay and queer men across the internet are posting photos of themselves kissing as part of an effort to reclaim the term “proudboy” from the grips of a designated hate group. Among them are author and LGBTQ refugee advocate Danny Ramadan, B.C. environmental activist Peter McCartney, and BC NDP candidate Spencer Chandra Herbert.
The Proud Boys are a far-right men’s group that have been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Most recently, they’ve been in in the spotlight because of U.S. President Donald Trump, who, when asked if he would denounce white supremacists, called for the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
Two days after Trump’s shout-out to the Proud Boys, which came during the presidential debate, the openly gay celebrity George Takei took to Twitter to suggest that the LGBTQ community reclaim the term.
“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 (the Proud Boys group) up real bad,” wrote Takei in his post.
Twitter users from the queer community jumped into action.
Vancouver’s Danny Ramadan says that after he saw others answer Takei’s call, he was inspired to join in. His photo is of him and his husband kissing at their wedding.
“That was the first photo of us being a married couple,” Ramadan said in a phone interview with CTV News Vancouver.October 4, 2020
The concept of being proud, which is championed at gay pride events around the world, has long been a feature of gay and queer culture.
“It came from us, it is our hashtag,” and “it’s deep in our personalities as queer folk,” Ramadan said.
The social media effort, Ramadan said, is all about creating and reclaiming space, and he is encouraged to see that men of many different races and body types are participating.
Social media is full of “messages of hate, messages of white supremacy and ... we can then retake that space … with photos of us sharing love and showcasing that we are the proud boys,” he said.
“Those folks (from the militia group) do not have claim over pride because it is within our identity as queer folks.” Ramadan said.
Takei tweeted the call to action on Oct. 1, and after others flooded Twitter with their own #proudboys photos, he finally posted his own on Oct. 4, in which he is leaning his head on his husband’s shoulder.
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
“Brad and I are #ProudBoys, legally married for 12 years now,” reads the tweet.
“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,” it concludes.
Peter McCartney, a West End resident and a frequent spokesperson within B.C.’s environmental movement, also posted a photo with the #proudboys tag. McCartney’s photo features him and his boyfriend kissing beside Killarney Lake during their recent trip Bowen Island, B.C.October 4, 2020
“Any time you can replace a space of hate with a space of love, I think that’s just wonderful,” McCartney said in an interview.
“It’s an opportunity to show who we are and show solidarity with people in our community (such as Black, Indigenous and people of colour) who the Proud Boys have attacked.”
While the hashtag took off on Twitter, it remained unsearchable on Facebook and Instagram. That’s because the company blocked the hashtag back in 2018 in an effort to clamp down on the group using its platforms to organize.
Twitter has not blocked the hashtag, leaving this opening for members of the LGBTQ2+ community to reclaim #proudboys as a term.
McCartney said the reclaiming is subversive on multiple levels.
“It’s kind of just great internet trolling, but at the same time, I know from anti-racist organizing that one of the most effective things you can do is to interrupt the organizing that is going on in the alt-right for white supremacists,” he said.
Photos of two men kissing also challenge mainstream norms of love and sexuality, he said.
“I know that there are people who are scrolling through social media who aren't used to seeing gay love portrayed so visibly,” McCartney said.
BC NDP candidate for Vancouver-West End, Spencer Chandra Herbert, also made a #proudboys post on Sunday, featuring a solo photo of himself in front of a rainbow crosswalk.
“#Proudboys stand against racism, and hate, and stand up for equality and love,” it reads.October 4, 2020
Another public figure, a spokesperson for the BC Teachers’ Federation, also tweeted a #proudboys photo. Rich Overgaard’s photo features himself and his husband wearing long curly wigs and frilly white skirts, along with a note proclaiming that they are “Definitely #ProudBoys.”October 4, 2020
But the #proudboys post that has perhaps gained the most attention in Canada is connected to the military. The Canadian Forces’ unit in the U.S., which has its own verified Twitter account, tweeted a photo of two men, both in military uniform, kissing each other, and accompanied by the reclaimed hashtag.
October 4, 2020