After the U.S. president refused to publicly condemn extreme right-wing groups and white supremacism in the country during the first presidential debate, many have wanted to know what the extremist group Proud Boys — whom the president asked to “stand back and stand by,” — is all about.
The fascist organization, with white nationalist, racist and sexist tendencies, is among the various extremist groups that support Trump, especially because of the anti-immigrant, racist, and homophobic positions of his administration.
It has been precisely this that has driven a digital networking phenomenon, where gay men and diverse members of the LGBTQ+ community have transformed the #ProudBoys hashtag into a direct label for images celebrating love and equality.
As explained by the Daily Kos, while the Proud Boys are a dangerous but small group, the majority of the known universe “is not made up of people with such small-minded ideas about the world.” And the millions of posts under the hashtag have shown how pride remains an LGBTQ issue.
Between photos and tweets, users wanted to show the love that underpins the LGBTQ movement, in an effort to “divert attention from the controversial group,” the media added.
The initiative was prompted over the weekend by a post by actor George Takei, who asked, “what if gay guys took pictures of themselves making out with each other or doing very gay things, then tagged themselves with #ProudBoys?
Takei, the famous American actor, known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek, became an essential activist voice in the fight for LGBTQ rights after he revealed in 2005 that he is gay.
A few hours after his original comment, Takei shared a photo with his husband and wrote: “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.”
Referring to Trump’s Proud Boy comments, Congressman Carlos G Smith, Florida’s first LGBTQ Latino legislator, said he and his husband Jerick Mediavilla are “standing by, ready to vote.”
“JerickFL and I are joining thousands of gay men on social media to reclaim #ProudBoys from white supremacists and bigoted neo-nazis,” he tweeted. “Let’s replace the hashtag with images of love, positivity, and true PRIDE! Your two favorite #ProudBoys are here standing by, ready to VOTE!”
Jon Cooper, former chair of the Democratic Coalition and a former campaign chair for Barack Obama shared a picture of himself and his husband and children. “My husband Rob and I are two #ProudBoys. Here we are with our five wonderful children,” he wrote.
Amid the country’s chaotic situation, Takei’s campaign is one more example that love shines out stronger than any darkness.