How ‘Straight Pride’ parades like the one in Boston today mask a far-right agenda
During Pride Month, an organization with ties to violent hate groups, Super Happy Fun America, announced it would host a Straight Pride Parade in Boston.
The city of Boston approved its application for a public event, and on Saturday the parade will take place at noon, when participants will march from Copley Square to City Hall Plaza. Then they’ll host a rally and hold a flag-raising ceremony, presumably of their “straight pride” banner.
On the event’s Facebook page, the group wrote: “Celebrate the diverse history, culture, and contributions of the straight community! The Straight Pride Event will be held to achieve inclusivity and spread awareness of issues impacting straights in Greater Boston and beyond.”
The organizers speak about straight people as an oppressed group, extol traditional gender roles, and praise straight people for “preventing extinction.” Photos they have shared representing “straight pride” are predominantly of white couples and families.
This narrative of victimhood is common for far right spaces. These talking points range from outright hatred of LGBTQ people, that is tied to what white supremacists see as a weakening of the white race, to a more subtle opposition against a “liberal agenda” which includes any celebration of LGBTQ people.
Trans people in particular, are increasingly the target of hate by far right groups. In June, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report on hate groups “ramping up” their demonization of trans people. The SPLC said white supremacist groups are using more violent language as movements for trans equality become more visible and support for transgender rights grows.
For instance, Neo-Nazi Christopher Cantwell wrote on Telegram recently that, “Assisted suicide is the only help you can give trannies.” And Daily Stormer editor Andrew Anglin encouraged trans people to kill themselves last year.
But it’s not just neo-Nazi and white nationalist figures on the far right who have become also become more vocally transphobic, according to the SPLC report. Figures on both the “alt-right” as well as the “alt-lite” try to couch their transphobia in humor, or frame the fight for trans equality as out-of-control political correctness.
The alt-right, according to the Anti-Defamation League, rejects “mainstream conservatism in favor of politics that embrace implicit or explicit racist, anti-Semitic and white supremacist ideology.”
The alt-lite tends to shy away from the expression of outright white supremacist views but “are in step with the alt right in their hatred of feminists and immigrants, among others,” the organization says. It tends to focus on “political correctness” and “identity politics.” Resist Marxism, a group that organizers are tied to, is one example of an alt-lite group.
Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said this year’s Pride celebration in Detroit, where armed neo-Nazis met parade-goers with homophobic slurs, was intended to gather momentum and backing for their extremist worldview. Those Neo-Nazis were part of the National Socialist Movement, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has said is one of the largest and most prominent Neo-Nazi groups in the United States.
There has been another attempt to host a straight pride parades but it was largely unsuccessful. Last week, in Modesto, California the National Straight Pride Coalition organized a straight pride rally which drew about 20 participants and a much larger number of counter protesters. Many more people came to protest the event.
The organizer of the Modesto rally, Don Grundmann, defended his coalition as “a totally peaceful racist group” — a description offered without a hint of irony.
“Hardcore white supremacists and their animosity toward the LGBTQ community is established,” Segal said. “You also have these virulent online communities that peddle in white supremacist ideas that glorify violence that seek to normalize anti-LGBTQ sentiments, which has a large impact as well.”
He continued: “Many people are absorbing this online and getting their worldview out there, which is a problem with many issues including this. But then there’s a set of groups that don’t fit neatly into white supremacy that people have called the alt-right and a movement is more alt-lite, which also has an agenda opposed to PC culture, liberalism, multicultural, feminism, and that also often results in the demonization of the LGBTQ community.”
Segal added said straight pride parades are not unlike the right’s embrace of the phrase “White lives matter,” and are meant to convey that the view that oppressed groups should not be afforded special status. And as with many far-right agendas, they make frequent use of memes and try to mask their hate with levity.
“Whether it’s hardcore extremists, whether it’s the alt-lite types, it’s an effort to promote their agenda through humor and irony. In many ways there are elements of this event that seem like a trolling attempt,” he said.
Although the parade’s name and memes focus on sexuality and not gender, one of the organizers has said that he doesn’t want kids to be taught that gender is something that is determined by each individual, a statement that appeared to conflate gender and sexual orientation.
Samson Racioppi, one of the organizers, complained to the Boston Globe about a Netflix show featuring drag queens and a friend’s preteen daughter thinking about her gender. He said that straight people have been “disregarded” and felt the program to be a “form of attack.”
“People need to be reassured that even though there’s all this mixed messaging, it’s still perfectly natural to identify as a heterosexual,” he said.
Another of the organizers, Mark Sahady, with the group Resist Marxism, was seen on video grabbing a trans woman at the Boston Women’s March in January.
A group called Solidarity Against Hate-Boston, which is staging a counter-demonstration on Saturday, flagged Resist Marxism in a statement in June.
“RM is an attempt to emulate the right-wing violence culture on the west coast. They have failed because we’ve met them with overwhelming numbers of counterprotesters,” it wrote.
“Even then, they’ve been violent — choking, shoving, punching … They have tried to disrupt DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) meetings, trans rights rallies, & immigration rights rallies. That things haven’t gotten more violent is a testimony to the work people in the city have done to counter these actions, and RM’s own incompetence.,” Solidarity Against Hate-Boston said.
Sahady also has ties to groups like the Proud Boys, the New Hampshire American Guard, and the Massachusetts Patriot Front. The Proud Boys group, which has assaulted antifascists, also has engaged in transphobic speech.
Gavin McInnes, who founded the group but claims to have left it in 2018, has called trans people “mentally ill gays who need help, and that doesn’t include being maimed by physicians” and “gender [use of the N-word].”
Sahady himself has used violent rhetoric. Like many far-right figures, he appeared to refer to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who killed at least 120 political dissidents by throwing them from helicopters, and suggested that Republicans should throw “anti-American communists” out of helicopters.
During the Rally for Free Speech in July that was planned by the Proud Boys and several far-right personalities, Brandon Sullivan, who was seen with Super Happy Fun America, reportedly threatened Black Lives Matter protesters and punched an antifascist.
Ahead of a Central Maine Pride Festival event held in May in Waterville, Maine, Resist Marxism posted on Facebook “Attention Patriots in Maine” to let people know that a drag queen planned to come in and read children’s books.
It has been a common tactic among the far right to disrupt “Drag Queen Story Hour” events like this one. Drag Queen Story Hour is a national program which aims to capture “the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, white nationalist Paul Nehlen urged his followers to “Get photos of all the degenerate parents who take their kids to this filth. Get their license plates, anything else you can.”
Segal said that alt-lite and alt-right groups and speech can lead people to more extreme white supremacist spaces.
“I think in some ways groups like Resist Marxism, the Proud Boys and other groups like them are sort of a gateway into more extreme groups … We consider [Proud Boys] to be an extremist group because of the violence that has been associated with them,” Segal said.
“People don’t tend to just flip a switch and become white supremacists. So the normalization of hateful tropes, whether it’s anti-Semitism or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-LGBTQ sentiment, those who embrace that get one step closer to the more extreme views.”
Anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQ views tend to go hand-in-hand on the far right. A religious far right group, Patriot Prayer, which Proud Boys has provided security for, has also engaged in transphobia. Last year, Patriot Prayer organized a rally called “#HimToo” in response to what they called “false rape allegations,” which engaged in misogynistic and anti-trans language.
The ADL’s Segal said that all forms of bigotry need to be considered when looking at people’s radicalization into extremist groups. Much like the Red Pill Movement, a group associated with anti-feminist and misogynist views, men’s rights activists, and “incels,” or involuntary celibates, can help usher people into more far-right spaces, so can transphobia and the idea that cis and straight people are oppressed by the LGBTQ community.
“When we’re looking at extremist groups, we tend to look at racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry and misogyny tends to be overlooked as an indicator that someone is going down that path of radicalization,” he said.
“I think absolutely the same is true for those who engage in transphobic speech or anti-LGBTQ sentiment more broadly. These are all forms of hatred that are not only embraced by the extreme, but that they rely on to attract the next generation of followers,” Segal said.
“That’s why it’s so important for people to speak out against these forms of hatred.”
Read more: thinkprogress.org