Two well-known anti-LGBTQ groups have taken to America’s streets to deliver their hate-based rhetoric, using an over-the road coach called the “Free Speech Bus”, watchdog groups said Tuesday.
The National Organization For Marriage (NOM) and the International Organization for the Family have joined with other extremist organizations to operate the bright orange vehicle, which is emblazoned with the slogan, “It’s biology–boys are boys. Girls are girls. You can’t change sex.”
The rolling homo- and transphobia campaign was vandalized by transgender-rights activists yesterday, during a stop in Manhattan. The driver chased off two men whom he allegedly witnessed spray-painting the words “Trans Rights Now” on the side of the bus. No arrests have been made.
Local LGBTQ groups spoke out against the traveling hate show. “This is exactly the kind of message we don’t need in our streets,” said OutRight International spokeswoman Jessica Stern. “Trans youth already have an extremely high risk for violence, discrimination, and suicide. Broadcasting a message that erases and denies the reality that transgender and intersex children and youth exist is irresponsible, factually misleading, disrespectful and dangerous. This vehicle is part of the reason trans youth are driven to suicide.”
The bus was parked outside the United Nations Wednesday and yesterday, and was later permitted to park in front of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. NOM Tweeted a picture of the coach at the President’s skyscraper, saying “The #FreeSpeechBus in front of Trump Tower. We hope @realDonaldTrump will protect #ReligiousFreedom and #FreeSpeech against gender ideology!” LGBTQ advocates were quick to respond, noting that “Free speech is a constitutional right, but language has consequences.”
The bus is scheduled to visit Boston, Massachusetts, New Haven, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC in the next month, before heading west and south across the country.
“We call on politicians everywhere that the bus is traveling to take a stand for diversity and respect for all people—including intersex, transgender, and gender non-conforming people— and to speak out against the hate and transphobia propagated by this bus,” said Gilian Kane, senior policy adviser at IPAS, a women’s health and reproductive rights group.
The vehicle and its message are the brainchild of Brian Brown, who leads both NOM and IOF. Inspired by a similar campaign in Spain, he adorned the coach with the venomous rhetoric earlier this month. He flatly denied the bus was encouraging hatred. “It’s not bigotry. Men and women were created equally, each given a gender that is fixed, immutable and complementary,” Brown insisted. “Rather than perpetuate a lie that gender can be changed based on emotions and feelings, we should encourage people to embrace and love who they were made to be.”
Underscoring the impact such hate speech can have, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says its studies show that 40% of the adult US transgender population has attempted suicide at least once. LGBT groups in all the Northeast Corridor cities the bus is slated to visit, say they will stage “vigorous” counterspeech protests in reply.