Supporters of the GoFundMe account “Gays For Trump,” a group that purported to raise money from LGBTQ donors for the Trump campaign, must feel a bit scammed. The New York Times reports that the group was actually just a front for a 21-year-old delivery driver collecting donations from gullible supporters.
Josh Hall of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania created the Gays for Trump GoFundMe as well as an accompanying Twitter account as a means of raking in cash for the Trump campaign. Beginning in February, Hall began mixing QAnon conspiracy theories and off-color remarks in his Tweets to attract support. He also began dummy accounts for Trump’s family and political appointees, including Robert Trump, the president’s brother; Barron Trump, the president’s teen son; and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator.
Related: Crazies Tries To Bash Gays With Fake Twitter Feed But Get Pwned By Cool Folks
Hall even impersonated Trump’s sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau. One of his tweets even drew the attention of Trump himself, who replied to a tweet with a “Thank you Elizabeth, LOVE.” Even Trump himself didn’t realize the account was fake.
“I’m a big Trump supporter, but I’m thinking, ‘He’s got to know that that’s a parody,’” Hall said of his fake accounts. “How does he not know?”
Hall amassed 160,000 followers between the fake accounts.
“There was no nefarious intention behind it,” Mr. Hall told The Times. “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun.”
Hall, who identifies as bisexual, admits he began the accounts after struggling to hold down a job. The more incendiary his remarks, the greater his followers and donations. In all, Hall raised $7,384 in a GoFundMe account for Gays for Trump. He claims to have never withdrawn the money from the account, though GoFundMe says otherwise.
At the time of this writing, all of Hall’s dummy accounts, as well as his own personal account, have been suspended. The exposure of Hall and his GoFundMe scheme is just the latest scandal in the ongoing debate over the spread of online misinformation. Critics continue to claim social media giants Twitter and Facebook don’t do enough to weed out fake accounts designed to sew chaos and confusion online. Earlier this year, both sites began tagging or blocking dubious posts–a move which itself drew criticism.
It’s International Lesbian Day, so let’s celebrate with the latest results from the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), the longest-running study on any LGBTQ-parent families. This summer, the project published a study of the relationships between the adult offspring of lesbian parents and their unknown or known donors.
The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) has focused on the same group of subjects over many years (what researchers call a “longitudinal” study) and offers a picture of lesbian-headed families that few other studies can match. Principal Researcher Nanette Gartrell, M.D., a psychiatrist and Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, and her colleagues began interviewing the parents in 1986, when they were inseminating or pregnant, then again when their children were 1 1/2 to 2 years old, 5, 10, 17, and 25. (They focused on donor-insemination (DI) families in order to limit the number of variables, especially with the few resources they had for the study.) They also directly questioned the children at 10, 17, and 25 years of age. The study has had a remarkable 92 percent retention rate since it began.
The interviews at age 25 were the first to be conducted after those with open-identity donors became old enough (18) to contact their donors, and the latest study dives deep into the relationships between them. Among the 76 participant children, there were approximately equal numbers of men and women. Most were White, college graduates, and self-identified heterosexuals. Thirty had permanently unknown donors and 16 had open-identity donors whom they had not met. Another thirty had currently known donors, of whom 22 had always known them. Eight had open-identity donors whom they had met at an average age of 20.4 years old.
Among those with a donor they had always known, 10 of the 22 characterized him as a ‘‘father.’’ The researchers note, “In choosing a known donor, some NLLFS parents anticipated the possibility that the donor would assume a father role or be identified by the child in that way.” At the same time, seven of the eight offspring with open-identity donors whom they had met characterized them as ‘”acquaintances.”
Nearly half of all who knew their donors had good feelings about their relationship, though a minority expressed “conflicted feelings.” The researchers explain:
Offspring comments demonstrating conflicts or reservations centered on mismatched perceptions, hopes, or expectations of either the offspring toward their donor (‘‘I would have preferred that he were someone more similar to me’’) or the offspring’s view of their donor’s false hopes or expectations of the offspring (‘‘He became. . .dissatisfied with my choices’’, and ‘‘He sees himself as a father but I would consider him more of an uncle or relative.’’).
Those who did not know their donors, either because they never could or simply had not met yet, expressed “more comfort than discomfort” about them. The researchers hypothesize that “early disclosure to offspring of their donor origins, even with a permanently unknown donor, along with conversations about the rationale for type of donor selected, may have contributed to these feelings of relative comfort.”
They also note that most of the research done on DI offspring has been on those with heterosexual parents, and that based on this, “It has been proposed that DI offspring who cannot or do not have contact with their donors may have identity formation problems or even ‘genealogical bewilderment.’” Yet these problems were not found in the NLLFS offspring, and there were “no psychological adjustment differences between offspring based on their donor type.”
Age-appropriate, early, and open disclosure of a child’s DI origins may be integral to facilitating an understanding of this information and to creating overall positive feelings about the donor.
Many of the previous studies, however, found that offspring had a more negative response when they learned about their donors as adults or by accident. Since only one third of DI offspring in the NLLFS sought to contact their open-identity donors (a rate consistent with a previous study from the Sperm Bank of California), this might mean that “strong family bonding with open and early discussions of their origins have resulted in most offspring not feeling an urgency or desire for donor contact.” They conclude that “Age-appropriate, early, and open disclosure of a child’s DI origins may be integral to facilitating an understanding of this information and to creating overall positive feelings about the donor, whether always-known, open-identity and met, or unknown, and whether from a lesbian couple, heterosexual couple, or single woman.”
The study has some limitations, however. The NLFFS is a non-representative sample because it began when many lesbians were closeted and most could not access DI, so a more representative sample wasn’t feasible. The parent sample therefore “lacked diversity,” and the offspring, “who are mostly white and highly educated,” don’t reflect do not reflect what the entire population of DI offspring with lesbian parents looks like. (Of the 76 parents, 69 were White and seven were people of color.)
At the same time, the results do suggest some ways that we DI parents can try to approach discussion of our children’s origins with them. They also offer health care professionals some insight into working with us. The researchers advise that clinicians “should be aware of the different life experiences of offspring with known, identity-release donors, and unknown donors.” Clinicians should also keep in mind that those who have always known or recently met their donors generally feel positive about them. When there is conflict, it is often about mismatched expectations, which “might be mitigated by clear and continuous communication between lesbian parents and their offspring about role expectations concerning an always-known or recently met open-identity donor.”
More generally, they say, health care practitioners should be familiar with the research that shows “the adult DI offspring of lesbian-identified parents fared as well as their peers in population-based comparisons of psychological adjustment” and “should not assume that sexual minority parentage or DI conception inevitably is associated with any psychological challenge that DI adult offspring may report because empiric studies have shown overwhelmingly that family processes have more influence on mental health outcomes than family structure or the means of conception.”
Want to know more about the NLLFS and its results? See my post on their paper from last fall, the first to look at the overall experiences of any LGBTQ parents from their children’s conception through young adulthood, and my interview with Gartrell in 2018.