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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Giving the Homophobes the Attention They're Looking For

Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, Jul 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

1341346158-retweetedhomophobes.jpeg

You need a thick gay skin if you're gonna to follow @homophobes on Twitter.

The man behind @homophobes—let's call him TMB@H for short—searches Twitter for hateful anti-gay tweets, which he turns around and re-tweets to his 8500 followers. TMB@H's in his early twenties, lives in the United States, and is lucky enough to be working in his chosen field... and that’s as much personal information as TMB@H is comfortable divulging. I met TMB@H in person at a big gay thing we both happened to be attending sometime over the last twelve months... and that's as specific as TMB@H wants me to get about when and where we met. (You would jealously guard your privacy too if pissing off violently homophobic bigots was your hobby.) We spoke by phone about what he hopes to accomplish with @homophobes.

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What motivated you start @homophobes?

A couple of years ago some law passed, something related to gay marriage, and I wanted to see what people were saying about it on Twitter. So I did a search and I found this one guy who said something really horrible—gay people are all sick and we don’t deserve to get married or something like that—and I re-tweeted him from my own account. A lot of my friends started talking about this guy’s tweet and some of them tweeted replies to him. That’s when I thought, “Oh, it might be a good idea to create an account to just do this, to re-tweet homophobes.” Just for kicks I checked to see if “@homophobes” was available as a Twitter name. I was surprised that it was. I really scored there.

Your account info says, “Giving homophobes the attention they’re looking for.” What kind of attention do you hope the homophobes you re-tweet get?

A lot of these people have never been challenged before. They say these things because they’ve heard them, or it’s what their friends all think, or it’s what their parents told them. They’ve literally never been challenged before. All their friends feel the same way! When I re-tweet them and people respond, maybe it will make them think about what they’re saying for the first time. And then maybe they’ll think twice before tweeting something like that again.

There have been a few people who’ve gone back and deleted their homophobic tweets. And there have been some people who apologized for their homophobic tweets. That’s only happened a few times. But being re-tweeted by @homophobes has changed a few people.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

How do you find homophobic tweets?

I have a long list of saved searches. If someone uses the phrase “gay people” in a tweet, it’s usually negative. The same goes for, “If I had a gay son.” Those can be really depressing. Then there’s “gay abomination,” “gay marriage” and, of course, any combination of “gay” and “bible.” And I have a search on “no offense.” So many people will say, “no offense,” right before saying something really offensive. And followers send me tweets.

You’re a gay man. Doesn’t wading through homophobic insults and 140-character anti-gay rants all day get to you? Some of the stuff you find is really violent.

It doesn’t faze me. Some of the things these people say are just so stupid. It makes me realize how stupid these people are. Their arguments are so stupid. It makes me laugh.

Do you regard @homophobes as a form of activism?

Yeah, definitely. One of the valuable things about this thing is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t think homophobia is a problem or that it can’t really be that bad. Even some gay people out there think homophobia isn’t a problem. Maybe they grew up in towns that were really gay friendly, or they never had any problems with bullying, or their parents never gave them any grief about it. But even some gay people don’t realize how bad it can be.

Imagine being the kid of someone who sent out one of those “If I had a gay son” tweets. Or one of those violently homophobic #ToMyUnBornChild tweets.

Right. Seeing these real tweets that come up every day can make people realize that homophobia is still a real problem and that it hurts real people.

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