The founder of a group that provides safe space for queer and trans youth in North Bay, Ont., received death threats online when he helped plan a local drag show.
Seth Compton, the founder of OutLoud North Bay, said he received a barrage of hateful messages in his email inbox and social media accounts after a popular TikTok account from the U.S. learned the organization was planning a drag show for youth.
“And it had nothing to do with bringing drag queens in,” Compton said. “It had nothing to do with entertaining adults or anything like that.”
He said it was the organization’s young members who wanted to host their own drag show, among themselves, so they could express themselves in a safe environment.
“I want to promote inclusion and love and acceptance in our space. And that’s what we do,” said Compton, who came out as trans four years ago, and has made it his life’s purpose to support young people going through the same thing.
“And it breaks me. I feel broken. I mean, to read through some of these messages and I’m not talking just a few, I received thousands.”
Compton said if he were not currently in a healthy mental state, the messages might have been enough to drive him to suicide.
Compton said a TikTok account based in New York first targeted the event and encouraged followers to harass him and OutLoud’s social media accounts.
“She’s promoted nothing but hate and exclusion of specific people and sends people to different events to shut them down,” he said.
“It’s absolutely disgusting just to head over to that account and just look at what they’re promoting and how social media can allow accounts like that to stay open.”
Compton added he reported the hateful messages to police, and has had to put in additional security measures for the event.
Police taking threats seriously
North Bay Police Service Det. Const. Stacy Jackson said police are taking the online threats and hateful messages “very seriously.”
“We live in a free country where people have the right to express who they are, and without being discriminated against, based on your race or ethnicity, your sexual orientation,” Jackson said.
“And comments, especially threatening or hateful in nature, can be devastating to an individual.”
Jackson said the police service is meeting with OutLoud organizers to go over the social media comments and investigate them.
He said it can be a challenge to lay charges, and if many comments originate from the U.S., it could mean working with law enforcement in that country.
“The challenge for our service is to actually put that person behind that computer at the time that those comments are being made,” Jackson said.
Possible charges could include uttering death threats, threats against property and criminal harassment.