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This smalltown LGBTQ+ group was building goodwill, until unhinged conservatives copied their act

Pam Godsoe and Kris Lyons, co-founders of Love Lives in Seekonk
Pam Godsoe and Kris Lyons, co-founders of Love Lives in Seekonk Photo: image provided by Joe Novinson

A group called Love Lives in Seekonk (LLIS) sought to educate their small Massachusetts town about LGBTQ+ issues while building support for queer youth in schools. But soon after the group formed, another resident established a similarly named group to mock them. That resident has since accused LLIS and its supporters of being pedophiles and suggested that violence awaits them if they continue their advocacy.

Some residents of Seekonk, Massachusetts (population 15,700), were angered in late March 2023 when Mildred H. Aitken Elementary School advertised its annual Boy’s Choice mother-son dance with an ad welcoming all boys, students who identify as boys, and non-binary students.

After right-wingers shared the ad’s wording on social media accounts, the school district received phone calls and online messages threatening protests and violence. One post featured a picture of a bullet and the caption “PEDOCILLIN,” a combination of the word pedophilia and the medication penicillin. The district canceled the $1,500 event hours before it was about to begin and canceled its scheduled Girl’s Choice dance that following April since its flier used similar wording about trans and non-binary students.

Upset by the cancellation, local parent Joe Novinson spoke passionately at a school board meeting, calling out the violence directed against children and the right of queer families to exist without being shot. After hearing his speech, a group of LGBTQ+ supportive parents, called Love Lives in Seekonk (LLIS), recruited Novinson to join their board. He did.

The group, started by local parent Kris Lyons and Pam Godsoe, decided to help raise the $1,500 that the school’s parent-teacher organization (PTO) lost by canceling the dance. So they began selling yard signs and bumper stickers colored like the progress Pride flag with the group’s name printed on them. The group raised nearly the full amount by April 11, 2023 and presented the amount to the PTO in an oversized check.

As the group’s membership grew, it pledged to hold community and educational events for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. LLIS held a September event to paint rocks for the local library’s Kindness Rock Garden, a November Lovesgiving fundraiser, and a February 2024 trivia night. The group, which became a non-profit in August 2023, donated $300 to Seekonk High School’s gay-straight alliance. LLIS also uses its Facebook page to educate residents about LGBTQ+ issues like pronouns, banned books, trans athletes, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, coming out, queer crisis hotlines, and other topics.

“[The events were] really just about bringing the community together,” Novinson told LGBTQ Nation. “There was a lot of pushback initially to our group and people accused us of being online only, that we didn’t have much more than a digital footprint. So we wanted to counter that by holding events in real life. And we’re making our presence here felt, and we’re telling [those who disapproved of us that] we’re not going anywhere.”

Joe Novinson (at left) and other members of Love Lives in Seekonk
image provided by Joe Novinson Joe Novinson (at left) and other members of Love Lives in Seekonk

Around fall 2023, the group also began publishing letters to the editor in the monthly local news magazine, The Seekonk Reporter. Since the magazine often reprints long letters to the editor and gets delivered to each local resident’s mailbox, LLIS thought it’d be a good way to reach older populations who didn’t engage with the group’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

In October 2023, the Reporter published Lyons’ letter introducing LLIS to the community. In November 2023, the news magazine published a letter written by Joe Novinson’s husband and fellow LLIS member Michael about how visible attempts at LGBTQ+ inclusivity aren’t a form of discrimination against Christians or Republicans.

“Just because something makes you as a parent uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s discriminatory in nature,” Michael Novinson’s letter said. “Schools should be opening children’s minds to the world outside of our own family, not building protective bubbles around children to keep new ideas and people you consider undesirable out.”

That’s when the trouble started. A local resident named Kanessa Lynn sent a letter to the Reporter claiming to represent a similarly named group called Luv Lives in Seekonk.

In one letter, Lynn wrote, “Luv Lives in Seekonk had its first ever LuvsGiving fundraiser on November 8th…. All proceeds are going to myself.” She claimed her group sold yard signs and bumper stickers and held a rock painting event, but others in the town doubted these claims since her letter sounded like a satirical article mocking Love Lives in Seekonk. “I seen how gullible people are,” her letter continued, “and I’m excited to come up with more merchandise to scam, I mean sell to the community!”

Lynn reposted the article in Seekonk Residents, a right-wing Facebook group that reposts screenshots from anti-LGBTQ+ activist Chaya Raichik’s Libs of TikTok X account, the transphobic right-wing group Gays Against Groomers, and videos of far-right activist Charlie Kirk. The group also features various posts opposing transgender athletes, immigrants, DEI efforts, “the war on whites,” and the “COVID vaccine hoax.”

After complaints about Lynn’s letters, The Seekonk Reporter removed LLIS’ and Lynn’s letters from their website.

On October 26, 2023, Michael Novinson said he had a phone conversation with Barbara Georgia, co-owner of The Reporter. According to him, Georgia said the publication reprinted Lynn’s letters so that it wouldn’t be seen as “taking sides.” Georgia also reportedly said that the Reporter didn’t fact-check Lynn’s claims because “Those are her words, not ours” and that the publication had the right to refuse any submissions.

“We have given space to both groups in the past and due to the fact that it has escalated so much in nature we have decided to remain neutral and no longer print either side,” Georgia wrote to Michael Novinson in a January 4, 2024 text message exchange.

Novinson explained to Georgia that, unlike Lynn, his group was created to improve the lives of local queer kids, not “to get in a tit-for-tat with” Lynn or her sham group. “Silencing our voice will only serve to hurt LGBTQ+ youth,” Novinson wrote. Georgia and her husband have previously made donations to Republican candidates and the 2020 re-election campaign of President Donald Trump, according to data from the Federal Election Campaign.

Lynn cheered Georgia’s decision in a January 18 Facebook post in the Seekonk Residents Facebook group, writing, “To them it was a setback, but for all of us in Seekonk it was a victory!!! Now we don’t have to read their useless articles filled with lies.”

In other posts in the same group, she arranged four progressive Pride rainbow flags in the shape of a swastika, misgendered a trans male LLIS member, reposted screenshots of the full names of all the members of the LLIS Facebook group, and posted images of her car with two signs on it: one reading, “Love Lives in Seekonk are GROOMERS,” and another reading, “LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE!”

A post from Kanessa Lynn in the "Seekonk Residents" Facebook group
Facebook screenshot A post from Kanessa Lynn in the “Seekonk Residents” Facebook group

At the January 8 meeting of the Seekonk School Committee, Lynn said the LLIS’s members and supporters are “groomers.” She referenced the community upset at the aforementioned “PEDOCILLIN” social media post, saying that it meant that “pedophiles should get a bullet.”

“If you’re not a pedophile or a group that grooms children,” she continued, “then the meme shouldn’t even have affected you.” She then asked if the library or school board if either would be able to handle a neo-Nazi protest if either organization ever held a community drag event at LLIS’s request.

“You might wanna take that to Rehoboth or Attleboro because it’s not going to happen in Seekonk,” she said. “We’re not going to have grown, mentally ill men dressed as women coming to read to little kids in Seekonk — it’s not going to happen, I promise you that…. Leave the kids alone, leave the schools alone… You have a sick obsession with children.”

As proof of LLIS’s obsession, she noted an LLIS Facebook post in which Michael Novinson opposed a proposal to make the school district’s sex education classes opt-in and to let parents opt their child out of any curriculum that contradicts their religious beliefs. In his post, Novinson worried that the policy would reduce the number of students learning about human sexuality and “lead to more STIs and unwanted pregnancies for teenagers in town.”

Beyond the censorship, accusations, and threats, Seekonk is gearing up for the upcoming April 1 townwide elections. Lynn and other town residents are supporting conservative school board candidates who could push school positions banning LGBTQ+ books, curriculum, and trans-inclusive policies. Meanwhile, LLIS’s members continue to speak out at board meetings and inform its Facebook followers members about why LGBTQ+ kids need community support.

“Folks running from the right are making things like gender ideology and critical race theory central components of their campaign,” Michael Novinson said. “In that way, Seekonk mirrors national patterns and a push on the right to make this a culture war.”

Lyons, one of the straight co-founders of LLIS, said she wants to encourage more residents in her town and in neighboring towns to “feel more emboldened to step up and be loud” in support of LGBTQ+ people.

“Two straight moms from Seekonk got together with a bunch of people to take a stand, and you can too.”

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