A “Free Speech Bus” with the message that there are only two genders has been vandalized in New York with slogans in support of transgender people.
While the vehicle was parked outside the United Nations headquarters for a scheduled event on Thursday evening, two people approached it, scratched it with a key, cracked windows with a hammer and painted slogans like “Trans Liberation,” according to one of the organizers of the event.
The organizer, Brian Brown, told USA Today that there were no passengers inside the bus when the vandals approached it other than the driver. The bus driver, according to Brown, was tackled by one of the vandals.
The “Free Speech Bus” tour along the East Coast is organized by several groups—the National Organization for Marriage, Citizen Go, a social activism group, and the International Organization for the Family, a Washington-based group that encourages “the natural family.”
“Boys are boys and girls are girls—it’s very simple,” Brown said about his tour message. “We don’t want men in girl’s restrooms. We don’t want schools and our law attempting to say that people are bigoted simply because they understand that there’s a difference between male and female.”
The co-organizer also said about the alleged vandalism: “If they thought that would silence us, they were totally wrong.”
The bus so far has received a mixed reaction, Brown said. As the vehicle was making its way through New York’s streets, some people greeted it with a thumbs-up, while others showed “some other hand signals.”
The tour, however, sparked condemnations from multiple LGBTQ groups and supporters across the country. They claim that while the organizers have free speech rights, their message on the “Hate Bus” is partly “the reason trans youth are driven to suicide.”
Jessica Stern, the executive director of OutRight Action International, a pro-LGBT rights group based in New York, has released a statement in response to the bus tour, saying that “free speech is a constitutional right, but language has consequences that must be considered.”
“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,” she added.
“This vehicle is part of the reason trans youth are driven to suicide.”
Gillian Kane, a senior policy adviser at Ipas, an international women’s health and reproductive rights group, has urged New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Council to publicly condemn the bus message.