At least three Pride Month events were targeted by right-wing groups over the weekend, a continuation of recent violence and escalating threats against trans people and LGBTQ spaces. Two of the anti-LGBTQ protests were precipitated by an implicit call to action from the far-right, anti-LGBTQ Twitter account Libs of TikTok.
The recent wave of confrontations comes amid an escalation of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric among far-right media figures and politicians. The right has manufacured a narrative that gay and trans people are “grooming” children, fueled in large part by Libs of TikTok and magnified by Fox News. In some cases, that anti-trans rhetoric has taken the form of direct calls to violence, as when Fox News’ biggest star Tucker Carlson said teachers who discuss gender identity should be “beaten up.”
In San Lorenzo, in the San Francisco Bay Area, a group of eight to 10 men believed to be associated with the proto-fascist street gang Proud Boys stormed a Drag Queen Story Hour on Saturday, hurling obscenities and threats at those in attendance. The event’s host, drag queen Panda Dulce, told CBS affiliate KPIX 5 that the intrusion “felt very close to violence.”
“It was extremely loud. It was like a cacophony of voices just yelling over one another, taunting me, calling me a groomer, a pedophile, a tranny, and an ‘it'. (They were) interrogating the parents, ‘Why are you bringing your kids to this?' I didn't feel safe because one of them was wearing a shirt with an AK-47 on it. And it said ‘kill your local pedophile'," Dulce recalled.
Days prior to the story hour, Libs of TikTok had tweeted about the event to the account’s 1.2 million followers.
Thirty-one people believed to be members of the fascist gang Patriot Front were arrested on their way to that event and charged with conspiracy to riot. Among those arrested was the group’s leader, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, who had previously led Patriot Front’s earlier iteration, Vanguard America, during the Unite the Right rally in 2017. Patriot Front’s manifesto calls for the creation of a white ethnostate and the group is virulently anti-gay and anti-trans.
In Arlington, Texas, an adults-only drag brunch was disrupted by a group of anti-LBGTQ protesters, one of whom said they were there for the purpose of “protecting kids,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The protest was organized by self-described “Christian Fascist” Kelly Neidert, who was joined by several Proud Boys and far-right media activist Tayler Hansen. Camera footage obtained by journalist Steven Monacelli showed one of the protesters threatening violence against a pro-LBGTQ counter-protester who was filming him.
Neidert also led an anti-LBGTQ event in Dallas on June 4, specifically targeting a family friendly drag queen show as part of Pride Month. She is the executive director of an anti-trans organization called “Protect Texas Kids,” which has posted anti-LBGTQ content on its social media accounts, and has garnered praise from white nationalist Michelle Malkin. Libs of TikTok amplified the June 4 protest as well.
Violence against trans people in the United States is rampant. At least 14 trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming people have been murdered this year alone. The fascist who allegedly carried out the racist massacre in Buffalo, New York, also wrote that gay and trans people were “pedophiles and groomers,” rhetoric adopted wholesale from conservative media.
As the conservative movement escalates its rhetoric aimed at trans people, drag queens, and others who don’t fit neatly into a rigid gender binary, the risks of both spontaneous and organized violence against those communities increases. That is the predictable and intended result, and the mainstream media should recognize it as such.