The Far Right Wants This LGBTQ TikToker Dead. They Say That’s Only Making Them Stronger
You don’t have to tell Jeffrey Marsh they make a certain portion of the internet upset. They’re well aware— they just won’t let it stop them from helping people.
Long before trans star Dylan Mulvaney‘s collaboration with Bud Light lit a portion of the right’s brains on fire, Marsh was making videos about love. Part pun, part dance, part affirmations, their videos directly address the viewers, encouraging them to self-reflect, accept themselves, and sometimes just choose peace. “I can predict the future,” Marsh says in one of their early viral videos on Vine, posted in 2014. “And you’re going to be OK.” “Maybe all you need to know is you are great, just as you are now!” “The way you express yourself: it’s up to you. It’s not up to anybody else.” Following the app’s unceremonious end, Marsh moved their talents to TikTok, where they share daily positive thoughts and assurances to their almost 700,000 followers. While many of their followers appreciate Marsh’s soothing tone and bright demeanor, Marsh’s content, and its pro LGBTQ+ message has made them a longtime target for criticism, threats, and daily, constant harassment on social media.
But the backlash hasn’t stopped the LGBTQ+ educator from continuing to post about affirmation, growth, and emotional healing. In fact, Marsh tells Rolling Stone that the “hateful obsession,” which used to upset them, now inspires them, even more, to keep working. And in their new book ‘Take Your Own Advice,’ out this week, Marsh uses their own story of growth and struggle to encourage readers to give themselves the kindness they usually reserve for others.
“Take Your Own Advice is for the givers,” Marsh tells Rolling Stone. “The 3 a.m. friend, the person who is ready if anybody else is in crisis. If you give beautiful advice, how can you learn to live it for yourself? We have this inner wisdom. How do we act on it? How do we honor it?”
It’s a flowery message given by a person who built a career by giving beautiful advice. But every moment hasn’t been joyful. Marsh is nonbinary, loves wearing bright lipstick, and is open about their support for the LGBTQ+ community, all things that have made them an ongoing target for death threats and right-wing campaigns. They tell Rolling Stone that there are days when their husband, Jeff, has to stand in the gap for them when negative backlash is louder than their inner peace. But their years of being a vocal advocate for self-love mean that now, even when there’s pushback, Marsh is staying focused on their mission: helping as many people as possible.
“I’m here to represent unconditional love as a bookmark until other people can find it in themselves,” they say. “Other people can realize that I’m a reflection of something going on inside them already. And I’ll just hold that spot until that realization happens.”
Rolling Stone caught up with Marsh to talk about how backlash inspires them, inner healing, and what it means to let the haters go.
You’ve been a constant target for right-wing attacks, accused of being a groomer, and sent death threats. Is that hate something that frustrates you?
It used to. Right now, it galvanizes me. It helps me to concentrate on my mission. I help people hate themselves less and I forward LGBTQ acceptance. Those are the two things that I’m about and part of that job is inspiring in other people the things that they need to heal. And I’ve come to be at peace with my videos being seen by people that want me gone. As weird as it seems, I just feel like it could be a tiny little step on their journey to one day accepting seeing people like me in the world.
Is it hard to reach those goals when you have to break through a considerable amount of noise?
This might sound odd, but in some ways, the hateful obsession helps me. Because it’s a representation of the obsessively hateful voice that a lot of people have inside their heads. A lot of people have a voice in their head saying ‘That was terrible. They’re gonna hate you.’ Every single video [I post] has mean comments, accusations, everything, right? And I post again the next day and then the next day, and then the next day. That to me is metaphorical for the internal process of living our lives, no matter what a mean voice in our head is saying.
How do you think the violent response to trans existence has changed how queer people interact with the world right now?
I’ve seen the movement go through variations: trying to court these folks, trying to seem acceptable to them, trying to have all of our ducks in a row so that we won’t upset the broader culture. And I’m just delighted that we’re now in a spot where we’re getting over that. I think the next step is appreciating and celebrating all that brings us together.
How do you create content addressing the hate you receive without sending your followers after people? Especially since TikTok and other social media seem to always call for action.
That’s the crux of the whole tension of what I’m trying to do on social media. I’m asking for reflection in an environment that is geared toward trauma, action, anger, and salaciousness. What I’ve always done is spoken frankly from my own experience. That seems to be able to help. And my experience is not ‘I want those people to pay.’ It would be nice if they were banned so I didn’t have to deal with it. But I assume they’re in pain. And that’s why human beings hate. So what I tried to do is have empathy for that pain and hopefully, that rubs off on some of my followers. And I hope that that message is clear by example.
What inspired you to write your second book? And what message did you want to send to readers?
I was a poor, very queer kid, who grew up on a farm. I talk about in the book about childhood trauma, about my dad being violent. I talk about an incidence of sexual assault that I suffered. I don’t know if these belong in the same category but I talk about being a guest on Newsmax, which was also traumatic. And all of those mentions are in service of helping people heal.
You’ve been honest about how important mental health is, not just in your content but in your day-to-day life. How has your own healing process changed how you’ve approached your career?
There’s a voice way back from my childhood that comes up and says, ‘You can’t say that your work is important.’ And to be completely frank, we know that suicidal ideation is higher among trans folks. There have been many times throughout my life when I almost was not here anymore. And if I’m committed to nonviolence, I’m gonna do everything I can to root that out in myself and help other people to do that, despite the hate, the vitriol, enthusiastic people trying to ruin my life and my career, and trying to kill me. They literally want me gone. So in the face of that stuff, I have to be able to know what I’m doing has meaning, has an impact. I don’t think I could make sense of my life without being of assistance to other people.
But what does that look like at the end of the day? How do you approach your job in a way that lets you sleep at night?
My mission hasn’t changed. A decade ago when I was famous on Vine, that was also a hateful place. And I’ve seen LGBTQ and especially trans hatred expand and contract. We happen to be in the contraction phase — where the hate is very enthusiastic right now. Part of what keeps me going is the faith that that will change. The mission stays the same. And the next time when we have an expansion of love, I’ll be doing the same kind of videos, saying the same kind of things. I’ll still be here.