A bus fueled by hate is embarking on a tour of the east coast.
On March 22 and 23, the “Free Speech Bus,” will be parked in front of the United Nations and Trump Tower in New York City. On the side of the eye-catching orange vessel is the phrase: “It’s biology: Boys are boys … and always will be. Girls are girls … and always will be. You can’t change sex. Respect all.”
The organizers behind the bus include the notoriously anti-LGBTIQ groups National Organization for Marriage and International Organization for the Family, which are based in Washington D.C. Both are led by Brian S. Brown, the social conservative behind the “Dump Starbucks“ campaign, which encouraged people to boycott the coffee brand in 2012 because it publicly advocated for same-sex marriage.
“It’s biology, not bigotry,” Brian S. Brown said of the Free Speech Bus’ message in the release. “Men and women were created equally, each given a gender that is fixed, immutable and complementary. 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.”
According to a press release, after its scheduled stops in New York City, the bus will travel to New Haven, Connecticut and park at Yale University then continue on to Boston, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.
Once the bus is parked in each location, representatives from the campaign will speak to media and have meet-and-greets with local supporters, Joseph Grabowski, a spokesperson for the NOM, told the Huffington Post.
Several organizations that advocate for LGBTIQ rights in New York City, such as Advocates for Intersex Youth and OutRight Action, have banded together to speak out against the bus, saying that the message is discriminatory and encourages violence against transgender individuals.
“Free speech is a constitutional right, but language has consequences that must be considered"”
“Free speech is a constitutional right, but language has consequences that must be considered,” Jessica Stern of OutRight Action International said in a press release sent to the Huffington Post. “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.”
According to a study published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 40 percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide.
The bus is the brainchild of CitizenGO, a social conservative online advocacy platform located in Spain, which has partnered with National Organization for Marriage and International Organization for the Family on the bus project.
Earlier this year, a similarly styled bus drove around Spain and was eventually banned in Madrid on the premise that it was discriminatory and could incite hate crimes.
After the bus was banned, it received high-profile attention from Chelsea Clinton who tweeted, “Please don’t bring these buses to the U.S. (or anywhere).”
CitizenGO, responded to her with a tweet that read: “Don’t worry, @ChelseaClinton, we’ll be there soon.”
The LGBTQ groups working together against the bus are also calling on New York City’s political and civil society leaders to join them in their fight, which is not a far stretch of the imagination. New York City has many inclusive policies and programs for the LGBTIQ community.
For instance, earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) signed an executive order that granted people access to public facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
Yet, New York’s openness towards the LGBTQ community is part of the reason why the bus tour is starting in the city.
Grabowski told Buzzfeed that the bus tour is trying to embolden social conservatives living in progressive cities.
“One of the purposes of the bus tour is to have people speak up if they feel uncomfortable and let the business owner know,” Grabowski said. “This can’t be considered transphobic or bigoted.”
Yet, it seems that the people the bus has inspired to speak out are those who oppose its message.
The bus was vandalized in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City around 4 p.m. on March 23, Buzzfeed reports.
The driver caught two men who approached the vehicle and began spray painting it.
“[The bus driver] confronted them, which is when they took out the hammer,” Grabowski told the outlet. “They were able to do some damage before fleeing.”
The men left messages like, “Transgender rights now!”, gashed the windshield, and left a few holes in the side of the bus.
This article has been updated to include additional information regarding vandalism of the bus outside of the United Nations on March 23.