The Gays are taking over Twitter. On Saturday night and into Sunday, gay men flooded Twitter with family photos, memes and gay dancing videos accompanied by #ProudBoys in order to reclaim the hashtag from the far-right, neo-fascist organization of the same name.
The idea took off quickly with thousands of couples sharing their love stories. Even the official Twitter account of the Canadian Armed Forces in the United States joined in, tweeting a picture of soldiers kissing.
It’s unclear where the idea came from, but sources credit Star Trek actor George Takei with popularizing the idea. On October 1, Takei tweeted “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.”
The takeover came in response to Tuesday’s presidential debate, during which moderator Chris Wallace asked President Trump to condemn white supremacy and militia groups. The President told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” in lieu of denouncing the organization.
Proud Boys was formed in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. McInnes described the group as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.”
Civil rights advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center designates the Proud Boys as a hate group, stating “they are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.”
Publicly, the Proud Boys deny supporting white supremacy, but The Anti-Defamation League has uncovered videos of McInnes giving the Nazi salute, defending Holocaust deniers and using racial and anti-Semitic slurs.
In response to the Twitter takeover, current Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio told CNN “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.”
Additional sources note otherwise. According to Forbes, Proud Boys members are “furious” about the campaign and have taken to Parler, a social media app popular with conservatives and conspiracy theorists, to rant and denounce the movement.
In a post on the Proud Boys official Parler account, Tarrio said the Twitter takeover was an attempt to make the group’s name “a slur” and added that the campaign was trying “to drown out the voices of our supporters.”
The hashtag campaign was a success as far as the LGBTQ community is concerned. On Sunday, Takai tweeted a picture of himself and his husband Brad along with the caption “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.”
The picture has garnered over 100,000 likes as of Monday afternoon.