Pittsburgh Holiday Gift Card Project for LGBTQ Kids Faces Multiple Attempts to Interfere Linked to Anti-Trans Extremists

PITTSBURGH – A local holiday gift card project for teens has faced two attempts to disrupt their efforts. Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities (PLC) organized a gift card drive to support regional LGBTQ teens, ages 12-21, with a simple gift card worth $25. Two separate attacks on their registration process have slowed down their progress. 

“This project is a gesture of goodwill from the greater community to let these teens know that they are seen and heard, supported and loved,” says Pittsburgh Public School teacher and GSA advisor, Devin Browne. “Students can use however they would like for the holidays — they can re-gift it to a friend or family member or they can treat themselves to something special.” 

PLC has worked with GSA’s and youth community groups including Proud Haven, Project Silk, the Diamond Love Project, Dreams of Hope, Washington County Gay Straight Alliance, and PFLAG/Families Like Ours to identify and distribute youth. The organizations register and coordinate distribution to protect the privacy and dignity of each young person. Nearly 400 students are registered and more requests arrive daily. 

The major donor for this effort is the F. Dok Harris Initiative along with Bistro-to-Go. Scores of individual donations have also supported.  

The registration form used for this project was abused on two separate occasions to disrupt the project and potentially defraud the 501c3 organization. On the first occasion, someone registered over 70 times, using a mashup of genuine organizational information laced with anti-trans rhetoric. They requested over 55,000 gift cards. 

A few days ago, another seemingly bad actor submitted a request for cards for what they described as a student led “home based support support group” for students. When the project sought more information about this, the requestor did not respond. The address given was traced to a faith community with strong anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ values.

“With the increased fixation on school districts by extremists who want to strip LGBTQ youth, especially trans youth, of their rights to an education without harassment, coupled with recent events as close as Columbus, Ohio targeted by white Nationalists, we are proceeding with defiant caution,” say Sue Kerr, PLC Board President and LGBTQ activist. 

While no students were directly impacted by this interference, it did successfully distract organizers from collecting and distributing cards. Ironically, the gift card distribution grew out of the #ProtectTransKids projects that itself was spawned by an intimidating message targeting a 15-year-old Black trans girl on Pittsburgh’s Northside. 

As a social worker, Kerr has been organizing projects, including holiday drives, for 25 years. She’s never had this experience. 

“Yes, we’ve had people act in bad faith – submitting fake names, attempting to register more than once, or even theft of some items,” says Kerr. “But I can’t recall someone using a registration form to send messages to organizers about their disdain for the target population – in this case LGBTQ kids.” 

PLC is consulting with the State Attorney General’s office  to determine if this constitutes fraud or other criminal conduct, more time that disrupts the project from their priority of seeking donations to ensure all registered kids receive a card.

“We did plan to continue through December 31 to touch across multiple winter holidays and support youth whose actual holiday experiences are less than ideal,” says Kerr. “It is exhausting and disheartening to have to delve into the world of anti-LGBTQ youth organizing, but protecting youth is our top priority.” 

The project hopes to find support from the community to ensure that this disruption doesn’t impact any of the kids signed up to receive a gift card. The original intent was to end the year on a positive note. This year has been brutal for LGBTQ youth. 

For more information on The Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities Holiday Gift Card Project, visit bit.ly/PTKGiftCards. Donations are accepted via GoFundMe, Venmo, PayPal, Facebook Giving, and other official channels. Electronic and physical gift cards are also directly accepted. 

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Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities was was established in 2021 to raise community awareness and promote grassroots engagement for neighborhood quality of life, animal welfare, anti-poverty, and LGBTQ+ issues in Western Pennsylvania.

GoFundMe Charities (no fees)

Venmo @PittsburghLGBTQ (fees)

Paypal bit.ly/PayPalPLC  (no fees) 

Facebook.com/PittsburghLGBTQ – click ‘Donations” (no fees) 

Checks can be made payable to “Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities” and mailed to 1439 W. North Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15233

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