The white supremacist group Proud Boys, founded by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, has been in the news lately thanks to a shoutout from President Donald Trump during the first presidential debate last week.
After Trump told the group to "stand back and stand by," the group's members flooded social media with posts thanking Trump and pledging to back him, according to The Washington Post.
But thousands of gay couples decided to take back the term on social media Saturday night, using the hashtag #ProudBoys to share hundreds of photos of themselves.
The move was met with joy and anger from both sides of the political aisle. Many thanked men for taking the term and turning it into something positive while others questioned whether it was the right way to take on the group's views.
Although Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio told CNN the group is not homophobic and had no problem with the takeover, the group's rank-and-file members did not hold the same view. Many of the members took to Parler, a two-year-old social media app popular among conservatives, to complain about the movement and use a plethora of homophobic slurs to describe what was happening, according to Forbes.
Here are some of the posts that trended this weekend with the hashtag.
Some people shared photos of themselves with their partner or pictures of others.
#Proudboys Happy Pride y'all . All us proudboys happy we live in a exclusive world. LGBTQ still has hurdles. HIVAids awareness. Better Healthcare. Suicide prevention. Homeless youth , counseling. Transgender awareness. Also let's not forget the many heroes before us who died. pic.twitter.com/ZxFYPmdReS
— Lesley Fisher (@LesleyFisher72) October 5, 2020
Not everyone was happy with the effort, with some airing concerns about what it would mean for those seeking information on the white supremacist group.
I don't like what y'all are doing with the #ProudBoys hashtag. I get the intent, but the impact is:
1) You are making it hard to find actual news about them by flooding the feed.
2) You're taunting them which could prompt a reaction.
This ain't Stan Twitter. This is real life.
— Lionsong Yves (@AdamantxYves) October 4, 2020
I'm so proud that BLACK GAY MEN have created their rightful (and natural) place in the cosmos by spreading massive love and positive thinking about being #ProudBoys
The hashtag is wonderful!!! As an African Mum…..I so approve this message! pic.twitter.com/89Udcri4hz
— WRITER KOLA BOOF (@KolaBoof3) October 4, 2020
Despite what the current leader says, the Proud Boys have a fraught history with both homophobia and transphobia.
According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, McInnes has published multiple pieces criticizing trans people for simply existing.
“We’re all transphobic. We see there are no old trannies. They die of drug overdoses and suicide way before they’re 40 and nobody notices because nobody knows them. They are mentally ill gays who need help, and that doesn’t include being maimed by physicians,” he wrote in a piece for Thought Catalog.
He has also called trans people “stupid lunatics” and other names. Despite the open dislike, the group also uses homophobia when criticizing non-American cultures, frequently targeting Islam and Muslim-majority countries for their stances on the LGBTQ+ community.
McInnes helped found the group in 2016, which they say is a “white chauvinist” organization, using his platform to spread offensive views on Black people, women and cultures outside of the United States, according to Reuters.
While Trump later denounced the group after the debate and tried to separate himself from their actions, the group has still professed its adoration for him.
Tarrio, the current leader of the Proud Boys, is also in charge of the "Latinos for Trump" group, CNN reported.
Matt Dechaine told CNN the goal of the effort was to spread joy and remove the negative connotation from the terms.
"Seeing the hashtag was so uplifting. 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!" he said.