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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Transportation Sec. Buttigieg targeted with homophobic tweets

Co-chair of Michigan’s Republican party, referred to the first openly gay cabinet secretary as a “weak little girl”

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Transportation Sec. Buttigieg speaking at San Francisco's subway project dedication Sept. 2022 (Photo Credit: USDOT Public Affairs/Twitter)

LANSING, Mi – As Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT), continues his push for broader adoption of electric vehicle use, he was again targeted with homophobic attacks online.  

Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of Michigan’s Republican party, referred to the first openly gay cabinet secretary as a “weak little girl” on Twitter Sunday, as many were honoring those killed 21 years ago in the worst terrorist attack ever perpetrated on American soil. 

Buttigieg is a decorated war veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 2009 to 2017, including in a deployment to Afghanistan in 2014. A DOT spokesperson and the Michigan Republican Party did not immediately return a request for comment on Maddock’s tweet. 

Meanwhile, on September 10, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus condemned the use of the agency’s official Twitter account for the West Texas region for offensive retweets and likes, including of homophobic posts targeting Buttigieg. 

These included a tweet in which the Transportation Secretary was called “Pete Buttplug” as well as content from former President Trump’s far-right senior advisor Stephen Miller.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson from a regional press office shared a statement excerpted from that which was tweeted by Magnus, who announced that @CBPWestTexas was deactivated and the offending content was removed. 

Bigoted attacks against Buttigieg by conservatives are not new. Last year, when the Secretary took a leave of absence to care for his and his husband Chasten’s newborn twins, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said he was “trying to figure out how to breastfeed.” 

Bizarrely, at a rally in March, extremist Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA) said the couple should “stay out of our girls’ bathrooms,” which appeared to be an attempt to suggest they are sexual predators.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Anti-LGBTQ+ Libs of TikTok hit with [another] 7 day suspension

LGBTQ activists pushed for Twitter to permanently ban Libs of TikTok from its platform permanently although so far no actions have been taken

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Chaya Raichik (Screenshot/YouTube Fox News)

SAN FRANCISCO – The social media account Libs of TikTok, known for its attacks against LGBTQ people, was suspended from Twitter for seven days on Sunday, according to a letter made public Wednesday.

James Lawrence III, a lawyer at the Raleigh-based Envisage Law representing Raichik, sent the letter to Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde – requesting the account be reinstated. It claims Twitter “again wrongfully” suspended Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok. 

The Los Angeles Blade reached out to Gadde for comment. The request has not yet been returned. 

The account has not made a post on Twitter since Sunday. 

Libs of TikTok has grabbed headlines for spreading what advocates call anti-LGBTQ hate speech. In August, the account was temporarily suspended from Meta’s Facebook for falsehoods attacking Boston Children’s Hospital’s gender-affirming treatments. The hospital received “well over a dozen distinct threats” following a harassment campaign, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta.

More recently, the American Library Association (ALA) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray expressing concerns about the ongoing serious threats directed toward libraries, asking the FBI to launch an investigation. Raichik, a former Brooklyn real estate agent, promulgated many of the disruptions and threats on social media. 

“Our client’s reporting may be offensive to Twitter users, including users who identify with protected categories, but that is not sufficient in and of itself to cut LOTT off from your company’s platform and our client’s audience,” Lawrence wrote. 

According to the letter, Twitter has suspended the account multiple times – the last coming a month ago. 

In a Substack blog post, Raichik said she is the target of a “harassment campaign from the Left to deplatform” her.

“The truth is I haven’t engaged in hateful conduct,” she said. “I’ve just exposed the Left’s depravity by reporting the facts. There’s no rule against that, so they have to make up violations I’ve never committed.”

A spokesperson for GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy group, previously told the Blade the account was “synonymous with maliciously targeting LGBTQ organizations, people, and allies by posting lies, misinformation, and blatant hate,”

In addition, Raichik said she is “not taking it lying down,” vowing to sue Twitter if it permanently suspends her Libs of TikTok account. She also asked for donations through her legal defense fund to cover “legal fees associated with fighting back against not only Big Tech, but every single media outlet that has lied about me to try and get me deplatformed.”

On Twitter, LGBTQ activists pushed for Twitter to permanently ban Libs of TikTok from its platform. 

“They need to be suspended PERMANENTLY,” said Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. “No other account has gotten this much special consideration or consecutive lockouts without a permanent suspension. It’s clear they are getting special treatment.”

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

American Library Association asks FBI to investigate threats

The letter also specified attacks on social media platforms. Many of these threats have been initiated specifically over LGBTQ+ books

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Chicago headquarters buildings of the American Library Association, (ALA) (Photo Credit: ALA)

CHICAGO – On Monday the executive board of the American Library Association (ALA) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray expressing concerns about the ongoing serious threats directed towards public and school libraries and library workers since last Spring and asking Wray to launch an FBI investigation.

While the ALA Executive Board didn’t state there was a direct connection between recent threats and opposition to library materials and programs, the board on behalf of its member libraires expressed deep concerns over the volume and intensity of the threats which have included violent disruptions of programs and verbal threats of physical harm.

The letter highlighted bombing or shooting threats that forced the temporary closures of Hawaii State Public Library System, Salt Lake City Public Library System, the Denver Public Library, the Fort Worth Public Library and the Nashville Public Library.

The letter also specified attacks on social media platforms over the past year. Many of these threats have been initiated specifically over LGBTQ+ books or books on race, along with violent threats and disruptions over drag queen story hours across the nation.

Notably, many of the disruptions and threats are promulgated by the Twitter account of Chaya Raichik, a former Brooklyn, New York real estate agent, who appears to be negatively obsessed with LGBTQ+ people.

When Raichik tweets to her 1.3 million followers, violence or threats of threats inevitably follow. The people acting on her tweets are very often members of the white supremacist group the Proud Boys, who analysts say have targeted nearly every event Libs of Tik Tok has tweeted about, and who rarely or never target events she doesn’t tweet about.

Raichik also zealously targets transgender people with special emphasis on spreading lies and propaganda as she has reintroduced Anita Bryant 1970’s era far-right anti-LGBTQ+ ideology and language, defining trans females and gay men as “groomers” which has reinvigorated anti-LGBTQ+ extremists.

“Libs of TikTok is synonymous with maliciously targeting LGBTQ organizations, people, and allies by posting lies, misinformation, and blatant hate,” said a GLAAD spokesperson to the Blade.

In addition to the FBI Director, with a copy forwarded to Merrick Garland, Attorney General of the United States, the ALA is cautioning its members, urging that the “safety of library workers and patrons must be a priority. We encourage directors, supervisors and managers to review their institution’s safety procedures with all staff so that everyone knows how to respond if they receive a threat or are threatened directly.”

Transcript of the letter:

LETTER OF CONCERN TO FBI re: threats of violence in libraries: September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

The Honorable Christopher A. Wray
Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Wray:

We, members of the executive board of the American Library Association (ALA), are writing to register our concern over threats that are being directed at public libraries and library workers. In the past two weeks, bombing or shooting threats forced the temporary closures of Hawaii State Public Library System, Salt Lake City Public Library System, the Denver Public Library, the Fort Worth Public Library and the Nashville Public Library.

The bombing and shooting threats in these five metropolitan libraries come on the heels of other threats to library workers in school and public libraries, who have been increasingly targeted by violent disruptions of programs and verbal threats of physical harm, as well as attacks on social media platforms over the past year. In addition to documented instances reported in the media in recent months, library workers are reporting to ALA that they are receiving direct threats. We are concerned that these threats, some of which include the disclosure of personal details and false and defamatory claims, may lead to actual violence towards library workers.

Given the seriousness and proliferation of these threats of violence and other acts of intimidation increasingly taking place in America’s libraries, we are gravely concerned for the safety of library workers and the millions of Americans who visit libraries each day.

We appreciate your attention to our concern about these threats to libraries and library workers and ask that you initiate an investigation as to whether there is any connection among them.

Sincerely,

The Executive Board of the American Library Association

Cc: The Honorable Merrick Garland, Attorney General of the United States

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Far-right influencers are creating new barriers to trans health care

Right-wing media’s campaign against children’s hospitals is making it harder for trans people to access lifesaving medical care

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Ari Drennen | WASHINGTON – Just days after the FBI arrested a suspect in the bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital, Libs of Tik Tok and The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh resumed their campaign against children’s hospitals that provide lifesaving care to trans people, directing followers’ attention this time to Akron Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Right-wing media have established a playbook for inundating hospitals with harassment and forcing them to delete information intended for trans patients from their websites — thus creating yet another barrier for trans people seeking medical care. 

Libs of TikTok first targeted Boston Children’s Hospital on August 11, sharing a video about gender-affirming hysterectomies with an incendiary caption claiming that the procedure was available to “young girls.” The hospital was forced to quickly delete the video, but the narrative had been set in right-wing media, and criticism of the hospital intensified.

On August 15, Walsh made the false and incendiary claim that children’s hospitals across the country were “butchering, mutilating, and sterilizing their young patients.” These attacks were followed by violent threats including threats to “execute” doctors and at least one bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital.

Members of the right-wing media initially dismissed the threats, with Infowars’ Owen Shroyer calling it a “false flag,” Chaya Raichik, who runs Libs of TikTok, asserting it was “probably a left-wing person trying to get me suspended,” and Walsh suggesting that it could be a left-wing hoax. It apparently was not. On September 15, the FBI announced the arrest of a suspect who allegedly called hospital operators from her personal cell phone, calling them “sickos,” saying that a bomb was on the way, and demanding that everyone evacuate.

By September 18, Libs of TikTok had returned to the campaign against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care, posting a tweet disclosing that Akron Children’s provides puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones before misleadingly noting that the hospital treats patients as young as 7.

On September 20, Walsh made similar claims about Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, saying it makes “lots of ‘services’ available to children, including chemical castration.”

Misinformation about treatments is rife on social media and in the right wing media, but 7-year-olds do not receive cross-sex hormones and are given puberty blockers only if another underlying disorder is causing precocious puberty. Cross-sex hormones are safe, studied, and effective treatments for gender dysphoria that dramatically reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in trans people.

Information about where to seek out medical care is vital for trans people. Nearly half of all trans people report experiencing mistreatment from medical providers, including verbal or physical abuse. According to a 2016 study, the biggest obstacle to obtaining safe and effective health care for trans people is a lack of knowledge by medical providers. 

The removal of public information intended for patients in the face of a vicious hate campaign creates a new barrier. In addition to Boston Children’s and Akron Children’sChildren’s National in Washington, D.C., and Vanderbilt Children’s in Nashville, Tennessee, have recently been forced to remove information for trans patients. Lurie Children’s hospital in Chicago canceled in-person meetings of a support group for trans youth because of security risks.

Without resistance, the barriers to effective care for trans people could grow further. According to freelance journalist Sydney Bauer, multiple medical providers have said that their worry is that these tactics will lead hospitals to drop gender-affirming care, shifting coverage to private clinics with less resources that could then be endlessly picketed and threatened — exactly the tactic that the right has used against abortion providers. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Raichik has targeted multiple hospitals this year. After earning a weeklong suspension for violating Twitter’s policies prohibiting hateful conduct, Raichik only vowed to double down. “We are not just reporting on this,” said Walsh in a tweet. “We are going to put a stop to it.”

Among the items posted by Libs of Tik Tok about Akron Children’s Hospital is an article with a photo of a 13-year-old girl. Her hair is long and blonde and she’s posed, smiling, next to a horse. They’re sharing a blanket — red, with a white snowflake pattern. The article says that this teenager knew from age 3 that she was transgender, and that with the help of the providers at Akron Children’s, she was able to become her true self. 

She’s a cheerleader. She rides horses. She says that she didn’t want to develop facial hair or for her voice to deepen. This is a story familiar to many trans people. A 2022 study from Stanford Medicine showed that trans people who accessed gender-affirming care as teenagers were less likely to experience major mental or substance abuse disorders than those who were denied care or forced to wait until adulthood.

But for Chaya Raichik, this is a horror story, and her 1.3 million followers flooded the article with hate, misgendering the trans girl and calling her “Buffalo Bill in the making,” a reference to the serial killer from the 1991 horror film The Silence of the Lambs. The article from Akron Children’s closes with a line from that teenager: “If you’re transgender, show it. Tell people,” she said. “It will help other transgender people feel not so alone.” The article has since been deleted.

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Ari Drennen is the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, where she has worked since January 2022. She has a bachelors degree in political science and economics from Middlebury College. Previously she worked at the Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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