The anti-LGBTQ right is going to get people killed
Libs of TikTok, Republican legislators, and right-wing media are putting targets on LGBTQ people's backs.
On Saturday, 31 people affiliated with Patriot Front, a right-wing white nationalist group, were arrested en route to an LGBTQ Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The organization had apparently planned to crash Coeur d’Alene’s annual “Pride in the Park” event, a family-friendly LGBTQ get-together put on by the North Idaho Pride Alliance.
Among the arrested and charged with conspiracy to riot was its founder, Thomas Rousseau. Patriot Front is a rebranded offshoot of Vanguard America, a neo-fascist organization best known for its involvement in 2017’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Now, you may wonder why a right-wing, white supremacist militia group with a history of violence was planning to turn a small Idaho Pride event into a riot, driving across state lines and packing dozens of themselves into a U-Haul. Well, I’m going to guess it had at least a little to do with a certain Twitter account that started by sharing videos of liberals being cringy on TikTok but eventually turned into a right-wing harassment and targeting machine: Libs of TikTok.
In the days leading up to the event, Chaya Raichik (the woman behind the Libs of TikTok account) repeatedly highlighted it.
At first, Raichik’s complaint was that the so-called Satanic Temple was promoting the event on its Twitter account.
Contrary to what Raichik would have you believe, the Satanic Temple does not actually worship Satan. The organization is, essentially, a troll operation meant to fight back against the use of “religious liberty” to oppress others. The concept of religious liberty is that people should be allowed to believe and worship whatever it is they want, but that’s not the kind of “religious liberty” Christian nationalists believe in.
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Christian nationalists aim to force the state to endorse Christianity as the one true religion of the U.S. (which is pretty clearly unconstitutional), and will push boundaries accordingly. The Satanic Temple is best known for using these opportunities to highlight why that might be a bad idea. For instance, when the state of Arkansas decided to build a Ten Commandments monument on Capitol grounds in 2017, the Satanic Temple showed up with a statue of Baphomet, arguing that if the state was going to display the Ten Commandments, it has a responsibility to let other religions display their figures on state property as well.
In other words, the goal of the Satanic Temple is, in part, to highlight the hypocrisy of “religious liberty” arguments by trying to make the people who try to foist Christian beliefs on the country feel as uncomfortable as these Christians make non-Christians. From an NPR article about the Arkansas incident (emphasis mine):
The Satanic Temple, a national organization with 15 chapters in the U.S. and one in Canada, objects to exclusively Christian religious displays on public property. It argues that public spaces should be free from religious messaging or be opened up to representations of all faiths, including Satanist icons.
"We have as little interest in forcing our beliefs and symbols upon you as we do in having the beliefs of others forced upon us," he said from a lectern at Thursday's rally.
Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored a 2015 bill that approved the Ten Commandments' placement on the Capitol grounds, told THV 11 that he "respects" everyone's right to free speech under the First Amendment.
But, he continued, "The people of Arkansas have the right to say that we disagree with your profane statements ... and really a war on the Ten Commandments."
"It will be a very cold day in hell before an offensive statue will be forced upon us to be permanently erected on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol," the senator also added.
This is all clear to anyone who takes a second to look at the Satanic Temple’s website, which includes an FAQ document (emphasis mine):
Q: Do you worship Satan?
A: No, nor do we believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural. The Satanic Temple believes that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition. As such, we do not promote a belief in a personal Satan. To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions. Satanists should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things. Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse.
But after Raichik put a small account (fewer than 1,500 followers) on blast using her massive account (more than 1.2 million followers), that person deleted their account. Raichik then shared a list of the event’s sponsors, which led to the Satanic Temple (which, again, does not actually believe in Satan) bailing on the event altogether.
But this wasn’t really about the Satanic Temple. This was about finding an excuse to attack an LGBTQ event. Right-wingers have been especially focused on drag events in recent months, making them the group’s go-to boogeyman. It’s very convenient for them because it gives them the ability to pretend that trans people are the same as drag queens(false), and allows them to play up their “groomer” lie when organizations have family-friendly events. It’s led one Texas lawmaker to propose legislation making it illegal for children to be in the presence of drag queens.
Knowing this was their easy target ahead of Pride month, Raichik and her financial backer Seth Dillon — who runs The Babylon Bee, a right-wing “comedy” site that more or less just tweets versions of “trans people are fake, lol, I identify as a helicopter” jokes — created a “MEGA DRAG THREAD,” to whip her followers up into a lathery rage. Twitter briefly suspended Raichik’s account. She responded by putting the thread out there in a newsletter. In it, she shared “good news” about getting events canceled around the country.
Two child drag events have been canceled as a result of raising awareness to this phenomenon. One in Apex, North Carolina and another in Jasper, Indiana. A Texas legislator said he will introduce a bill which would ban drag shows in front of minors while Governor DeSantis has expressed interest in cracking down on drag for kids, too.
Where we go from here:
It’s obvious that I hit a nerve. That only means we have to dig deeper into this and continue to expose it. Which is exactly what I intend to do.
But Raichik was back on Twitter in short order, ready to continue mocking and targeting LGBTQ people. Here’s a tweet from January celebrating a non-binary teacher in Idaho being told they couldn’t go by “they/them” pronouns at work. “I do not feel safe here,” reads the text within the video. This, to Raichik, was “good school news” and “based.”
It wasn’t just the Idaho event, either. In California, a “Drag Queen Story Time” event (it’s exactly what it sounds like: drag queens read children’s books to kids) that was targeted by Raichik and others on the right was disrupted by a group of 8-10 members of the pro-Trump Proud Boys group, who threatened attendees and performers while shouting homophobic and transphobic slurs.
Things are getting really bad for LGBTQ people out there, and I just don’t see how it’ll get any better, especially in the short term. Republicans and their allies in right-wing media are going on the attack. Their goal is to create reasonable-sounding arguments (“No, you see, I just really care about fairness in women’s sports!”), and then use that to wipe out LGBTQ people. There are already people on the right arguing that being trans should be illegal (not just “you’re not protected by non-discrimination laws,” but flat out, “It should be illegal to be you”), and there are already Republican politicians fighting to make it more difficult to access health care.
And what’s particularly frustrating is how little any of this seems to be sinking in with Democrats and the general public. After the 2016 election, Very Smart Political Commentators told Democrats that they were somehow too focused on LGBTQ issues (despite the fact that LGBTQ issues were not one of the primary issues being discussed by Democrats during that campaign), and that they need to do less if they wanted to win back the “white working class.” Democrats took that advice, and have essentially given Republicans the green light to attack LGBTQ people with impunity. Meanwhile, the average person thinks that things are awesome for LGBTQ people because Time magazine put Laverne Cox on its cover in 2015.
Things are really bad, and people need to wake up. I’d say that this seems like it’ll end with people getting killed, but I’d be lying if I said I thought that anti-LGBTQ militia violence will end with just one death. They’re going to marginalize and attack us until we disappear. If we have allies, we really need them to stand up for us in this difficult moment.
False, false, false, false — this isn’t to say that there aren’t trans people who do drag or have done drag, but it’s something done primarily by gay men.
This would take us down a very, very dark path very, very quickly if this were to become something within the realm of reasonable ideas for Republicans. Up until a few decades ago, some states had laws on the books about what people were allowed to wear, etc. It’s not too out there to think that those could return in time.