Just like that, #ProudBoys has a brand new meaning.
President Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacy at the first Presidential debate of 2020 last week, instead naming the group The Proud Boys, a SPLC-designated hate group, telling them to “stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys, “founded” in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice Magazine, purport to be just a “fraternal group” that is “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt.”
While they claim to be fine with all races and sexualities, they have a history of taking part in bigoted, pro-Nazi or anti-LGBTQ events and actions, such as those at Charlottesville that led to the death of Heather Heyer in 2017. The Anti-Defamation League has deemed their ideology “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration.”
In fact, McInnes has previously used LGBTQ people and tried to compare their rights to those of Nazis, saying it should be a hate crime to attack a Nazi just like it is to attack a “fa**ot.”
Following Heyer’s death, Trump said that they were “very fine people on both sides” of the unrest – which was mentioned at the debate as appearing to condone white supremacists – and all these years later, he continues to appear to embolden them.
This latest name check has led to several outlets featuring interviews and explanations of Proud Boys ideology, which they thrive on for recruitment purposes. Thus, people decided that the hashtag for the Proud Boys – which maintain “official” accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and especially use the latter for their operations – needed to be repurposed. The real “#ProudBoys” were called to stand up.
By Thursday, that idea reached out actor George Takei.
I wonder if the BTS and TikTok kids can help LGBTs with this. 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
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) October 1, 2020
“What if gay guys took pictures of themselves making out with each other or doing very gay things, then tagged themselves with #ProudBoys,” the star of Star Trek fame wrote a few days ago, before cross-posting the tweet onto Instagram.
From there, the #ProudBoys hashtag slowly spread, and in the last 24 hours the usage exploded, reaching even non-LGBTQ people who shared pictures of out people they know being their loving, affectionate selves.
Its usage has gone up over 50% in the last week, and mostly with a much kinder message.
#ProudBoys hashtag has been hijacked by gay men and it’s amazing. 🤣🏳️🌈
— Dana Goldberg (@DGComedy) October 4, 2020
— Marina Sirtis (@Marina_Sirtis) October 4, 2020
— Hele von der Vole (@HVole) October 4, 2020
— Lauren is fed up! (@🏠) (@Laurenpresists) September 30, 2020
Proud gay couples were the targeted audience and the catalyst of the trend, but single and bi+ people soon joined in to “stand back, stand bi!” as one Instagram comment put it. Non-cisgender people and many others would join in to claim they’re a #ProudBoy.
— Brandon Wolf (@bjoewolf) October 4, 2020
— Adam Sank 🏳️🌈 (@AdamSank) October 4, 2020
This trend did not come without criticism, of course, with some not taking kindly to the idea of mocking an active white supremacy group. CNN even decided to reach out to “Proud Boy leaders” and give a platform to their thoughts on the matter, further giving the group attention and recruiting space as Trump had done.
But overall, the trend is being largely welcomed by anyone that uses the sometimes-negative social network for a positive moment. (The hashtag #ProudBoys isn’t allowed on Instagram.)
Gay twitter has claimed the #ProudBoys hashtag from alt-right white supremacists and filled it with images of love, positivity, and true PRIDE! Go and take a look, it’ll make your day 🌈♥️ pic.twitter.com/gVnvYuDU7P
— Jordan Daly (@jcrdandaly) October 4, 2020
— Senthorun Raj ✨ (@senthorun) October 4, 2020
.@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
— Bobby Berk (@bobbyberk) October 4, 2020
One supposed Proud Boys leader did claim that the trend is fine by the hate group, because they supposedly have “no issue” with LGBTQ people.
The use of the hashtag for non-white supremacist purposes may not be ideal, though.
— Joe (@iamjoeprince) October 4, 2020
— Matt Dechaine 👂 (@mattdechaine) October 4, 2020
— Mark Fish (@SMarkfish) October 4, 2020
When I met this man we weren’t allowed to marry. The law changed & we had our trip to the registry office & our official day of love because society changed -is still changing- thanks to all the brave allies of all genders & loving families & #ProudBoys #LoveMakesTheWorldGoRound pic.twitter.com/rOQTJ07bP5
— Damian Barr (@Damian_Barr) October 4, 2020
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) October 4, 2020