The Proud Boys hashtag, which members of the far-right group have been using, was trending Sunday after gay men on Twitter hijacked it and flooded the feed with photos of their loved ones and families and with memes.
The Proud Boys recently made headlines by celebrating President Trump’s reply at last week’s debate, when he was asked to condemn White supremacists. The President instead used his allotted time to blame what he called “antifa and the left” for violence and to tell the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
But now the gay men of Twitter are making the group’s hashtag known for entirely different reasons.
Matt Dechaine, one of the men who pitched in with photos of himself and his husband in efforts to overtake the hashtag, said his goal was simply to spread joy.
“Seeing the hashtag was so uplifting,” Dechaine, who is from England, told CNN.
“It feels like the movement for positive change for all is gathering momentum all the time and I’m glad to be a small part of it. By coming together rooted in respect and love for each other, the world can be so much better!”
But Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, said he doesn’t see what the men are trying to accomplish.
“I think it’s hysterical,” Tarrio told CNN. “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.”
He added, “One of the messages they want to send with this is that they’re trying to drown out our supporters, they’re trying to silence us. … When you’re trying to drown out other people’s thoughts, I don’t think there’s anything progressive about that. Why don’t these people just engage?”
Tarrio, a Cuban American, is also the leader of the grassroots group Latinos for Trump.
The Anti-Defamation League calls the Proud Boys ideology “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration.”
Taking over #ProudBoys
Since Saturday night, the #ProudBoys hashtag has been inundated with photos of gay men, ranging from pictures of couples to memes and videos of gay men dancing.
Many people tweeted their support for the men who hijacked the hashtag.
“Good morning to nobody except the gays who highjacked the #ProudBoys hashtag,” tweeted Jane Lytvynenko.
Other people used the opportunity to share their stories of love.
“Next year my husband I will celebrate 25 years together. We had to move to Canada to legally marry and adopt 2 of our sons. We’re back in the US. Our family has grown. And we’re fighting to save this country. Here’s us voting for Biden, Harris and a Blue ticket. #ProudBoys,” Bryce Tache tweeted.
Dechaine also shared a picture of him and his husband.
“The reclaiming of #ProudBoys is wonderful. Here’s me and my husband. Together for 20 years and married for 3. Both very proud boys,” he tweeted.
Many Twitter users posted photos with their partners, calling themselves “the real #ProudBoys.”
“We grew up in a time when gay men had no rights, when newspapers called us poofs, when police didn’t investigate when we were murdered,” tweeted Patrick Strudwick, adding, “We’re the real #ProudBoys.”