A song and video created by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and posted to social media July 1 led to a barrage of harassment including death threats against the group and its members.
It prompted investigations by law enforcement and the temporary closure of its administrative offices.
The song, “A Message from the Gay Community,” was designed as satire, tongue-in-cheek and irreverent, the group said. However, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of InfoWars, and others, purposefully took the lyrics out of context and said the song is “pedophilic.” An InfoWars online article posted July 7 brought “death threats, vile attacks, false accusations, doxing and other forms of harassment,” the SFGMC said in a statement.
The group’s executive director, Chris Verdugo, told the Bay Area Reporter July 8 about one particular message he received.
"The threat that stuck in my head was, 'We're gonna put lead in your head.' That was quite frightening,” Verdugo said.
It all caused the organization to place the video in a “private mode,” but it was eventually brought back for the public to access.
“Upon reflection, we have made it live again for all to see the satirical and obviously tongue-in-cheek humor,” the group said in a statement. “We want everyone to judge for themselves. We will not allow ourselves, even in the face of death threats, to retreat or bow to attempts to twist our words, meaning, self-deprecation and humor.”
The song’s lyrics include the line: "We're coming for your children," which Verdugo said is meant to evoke long-standing fears that gay men will “convert” children to homosexuality, but for the purpose of exposing those fears. He explained that the actual conversion meant in the song is one of tolerance and fairness.
"The song is tongue-in-cheek, satirical, and I'd say nuanced except it's not even that," Verdugo told the Bay Area Reporter. "Since Anita Bryant, there have been people who think there is a gay agenda; that pedophiles will convert children to become homosexuals. That's not true, but we do have a gay agenda — teaching children to be tolerant and fair.”
Bryant is the anti-gay activist who ran the “Save Our Children” campaign in the 1970s in an effort to overturn equal protection laws across the country. In 1977, she successfully led the repeal of an anti-discrimination ordinance in then-Dade County. She effectively pushed the idea that since homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce, they are interested in recruiting children as part of a gay agenda.
GLAAD’s research shows that the LGBT community faces more online hate and harassment than any minority group. Some it is fueled by false equivalencies between homosexuality and pedophilia, as it reports in one of its studies.
GLAAD’s president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, said the group’s “Social Media Safety Index” shows that hate and harassment often goes unchecked on social media and that platforms don’t act fast enough to address hateful and violent content, such as what has been directed toward the SFGMC.
“The ugly anti-LGBTQ rhetoric just reinforces the need for LGBTQ visibility, community, and advocacy, all of which the SFGMC has exemplified in its 40-plus year history,” Ellis said in a statement.