OutFront Kalamazoo (OFK), the city’s LGBTQ+ center, has been inundated with homophobic hate calls and emails after a TikTok video drew unwanted attention to the center.
The video, posted by the center’s former youth coordinator, advertised the gender-affirming products the center is giving away for free. In response, a cruel conservative blogger called @thegathering saw the video and alerted his followers via YouTube. The result: OFK has received over 100 calls and 40 emails condemning the center and its efforts.
The messages are all similar, each one viler and more disgusting than the last.
“We are all born correct,” wrote one email sender. “We are all born in the body we are supposed to be. … Just because you can change with the help of science doesn’t mean you should. Supplements, hormones, bindings, plastic surgery — all of this shit is destroying human civilization.”
And that was one of the softer messages. Another emailer accused the center of being “deluded, creepy self-righteous groomers. … Woke politics and all this gender identity nonsense is childish and so sinister.”
Not depraved enough for you? Try this one, which was sent in all caps.
“Burn in hell you psychotic freak,” the email read. “I hope you will suffer alot [sic] before you die in flames. Going at children like you are doing is too much. Someone gonna ends your life very soon. Someone closer to you than you can imagine.”
Receiving dozens of such emails and many more phone messages has been difficult for the center.
“It’s tough to hear,” said OFK Executive Director Tracy Hall, who indicated she had notified both the police and the FBI about the matter. “Most of it is the usual stuff. But when you hear it over and over it starts to wear on your heart.”
With anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments becoming more vocal in West Michigan, this hate campaign is the latest bit of anti-queer trouble brewing in the state. At the core of the debate? Products such as binders, breast form inserts, tucking panties and nail polish. All are free to residents of Kalamazoo County.
@outfrontkzoo FREE Gender affirming products!!! #outfrontkalamazoo #kalamazoo #outfront #alwaysproud #alwaysoutfront #lgbtq #lgbt #trans #transgender #gay #lesbian #bi #bisexual #nonbinary #enby #pansexual #pride #pridemonth #gaytiktok #queer #queertiktok #queertok #mlm #wlw #transandproud #ftm #mtf #genderfluid #genderqueer ♬ original sound – 🏳️⚧️OutFront Kalamazoo🏳️🌈
“No hormones,” said Hall. “We don’t do shots. We don’t do anything like that … and they took that and now we’re ‘grooming children.’ [They claim] we’re abusing children. It’s all the same rhetoric we’ve been hearing, especially the heightened rhetoric we’ve been hearing the past few years.”
Connar Klock, operations assistant at the center, agreed.
“We received a flood of phone calls and emails from around the country — and a few from as far away as Norway and South Africa,” said Klock. “[They called us] pedophiles, perverts and groomers, [said that] we belong in jail, to die or worse. It plagued us heavily for about two weeks.”
Though the flood of hate has slowed to a trickle, OFK is still receiving calls and emails every day.
It has caused them to make all calls go to voicemail so that they can be screened.
“We are down to 1-2 a day now,” said Klock. “Before this, receiving hate mail or calls was few and far between.”
But if @thegathering believes his misinformed — some might say downright ignorant — commentary is going to stop the folks at OFK, well, not likely.
“These hateful individuals only embolden us more to continue our work towards creating a just, inclusive and supportive environment in Southwest Michigan for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions,” Hall said. “What continues to impact us is never their hateful words, but the groundswell of solidarity that we received from our community and allies. We are deeply humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love and support.”
To learn more about the center, visit outfrontkzoo.org. And for info about the free gender-affirming products available to Kalamazoo County residents, visit outfrontkzoo.org/genderaffirmingproducts