A little over 12 years ago, Alvin McEwen began noticing there was little resistance to the ever-invasive right-wing rhetoric that uses religion as a weapon to dismantle LGBTQ progress.
“Writing is the best thing I do,” he recalls thinking. “It’s my gift. So why not give it to my community?” In 2006, the South Carolina-based McEwen launched the blog Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, and has since become one of the loudest voices speaking against the hypocrisies of anti-LGBTQ organizations. Last year, McEwen received the 2017 GLAAD Award for Outstanding Blog, and has been mentioned in dozens of political outlets including The Daily Beast, Newsweek, and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
For decades, conservative voices have been attacking LGBTQ people with carefully worded rhetoric. “Before they were trumpeting ‘religious liberty,’ they were all about ‘protecting marriage,’” McEwen says. “Before that, it was attempting to stop gays from receiving ‘special rights.’ And let’s not forget when all of these other buzzwords don’t do the trick, there is ‘protecting children.’ That always works. I show that behind all of their buzzwords and claims is one goal: harming the LGBTQ [community] and undermining our rights and safety.”
During the Obama administration the far right also began exploiting the fear of people who didn’t want a “black president, but [were] afraid to admit it,” the 47-year-old McEwen says. Many right-wing blogs and talk shows manufactured various reasons to oppose Obama that had nothing to do with race, but with the common theme of him being an outsider who wanted to harm America. Now, he says, they’ve cast Trump as a savior who yanked (white) America back from the multicultural brink.
“And the sad fact is that the majority of these groups which can do damage to us are the ones who you don’t always hear about — the Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation. My blog looks specifically at these groups, their lies, reliance on junk science, and cherry-picked legitimate science to demonize the LGBTQ community.”
Debunking these claims is particularly important to McEwen. “I don’t think there is enough attention on LGBTQ leaders and activists in either the black or gay community, especially not doing the work on the level that I attempt to do,” he says. “That’s one thing as a community we need to do: embrace our diversity and allow different voices from different backgrounds to be heard.”
Cristan Williams, a long-time advocate for transgender people in Texas is executive director of the Transgender Foundation of America, which produces the blog The TransAdvocate, and “does everything from holding support group meetings to running the trans archive to issuing grants and scholarships.” With the mission “to improve the lives of transgender people,” Williams’s role as managing editor of the blog is “to focus on fact-checking and since I happen to have access to a rather large trans archive, I also do evidence-based deep dives into highly nuanced topics that’s rooted in history.”
Headquartered in the Houston area, Williams and the local trans, intersex, and genderqueer population were hammered by last year’s Hurricane Harvey. She says that was made all the more difficult because, “Harvey came on the heels of the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Amendment by a right-wing [group] that made it seem as if trans people — even trans schoolchildren — were potential rapists. And right after that, Trump was elected and the civil rights we enjoyed under Obama were systematically dismantled.”
In 2018, The TransAdvocate, which also features bloggers Monica Roberts and Autumn Sandeen, became even more relevant. Williams has found that fact checking the coverage of trans issues by other media outlets can come with some backlash, like when Williams exposed that “a certain award-winning journalist… was lying about a certain story that substantiated a rather large anti-trans bias she appeared to have.”
Still, she also regularly get calls from long-established news agencies seeking to verify aspects of a topic they’re covering, “and in that way, I see some level of change happening.” Williams also views The TransAdvocate’s work as even more important now, “because we’re currently enduring an administration that’s trying to erase trans and intersex people from society.”