Trump’s Impending Presidency Has Not Stifled LGBTQIA+ Hope
The morning of November 9, 2016, was a daze for some, bitter for many, and celebratory for others. Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in becoming the president-elect burst metropolitan bubbles and left the Democratic party in disarray. No Change.org petition or rallying effort for a recount was going to change the fact that come January 20, 2017, America would be led by a misogynist, xenophobic businessman who moonlights as a reality television star; his second-in-command would be a homophobe. "Fear" only begins to describe the energy vibrating through America's LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized communities.
"It's like watching that mid-2000s game show Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck, where contestants press a big red button and yell, 'No whammy! No whammy! No whammy!' and hope it doesn't land on a Whammy," Julian, who identifies as a gay black male, tells me. "As a country, we're all yelling, 'No whammy!' at Trump." That game show mentality is, perhaps, one of the better ways to look at the next four years considering our president-elect's reality television show history.
There's anxiety associated with games, fear of second-hand embarrassment for the contestant. The trouble is: we're the contestants now and one tweet away from getting the "You're fired!" treatment. I polled a sizeable number of LGBTQIA+ people earlier this month, and nearly 100 percent of them expressed this type of concern; zero percent expressed optimism. It's not only Trump the community fears; his inexperience is troublesome in and of itself, but the people Trump is hiring, the ones who wield the experience he lacks, have problematic backgrounds and political records in which their bigotry is evident.
Currently, the battle over a woman's right to abortions and transgender bathroom use is underway—two issues many of the LGBTQIA+ people I spoke with brought up. The reality of climate change, too, is a hot point, but the overarching fear is about an erosion of civil liberties for marginalized communities. "I am most concerned about the protection of civil liberties of people who have only recently come into political equality," an anonymous queer male told me. Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO, tells me, "President-elect Trump has ignited fear in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as other marginalized groups, by continuing to surround himself with people who have long records of espousing hate and discrimination. As a wife, and as a mom, I’m worried for my family and the very real possibility that we could lose important legal protections that we worked so hard to achieve." She adds, "GLAAD is ready to fight to protect the fundamental American value that says everyone is created equal."
Another person expressed fear over the diminishing of safe spaces for queer people of color, while another worried about their queerness being a target for hate crimes. "His treatment of women, minorities, small business owners, and a variety of people is worrisome, to say the least," Rhett, a gay male, says. "He has inspired many of his followers to act the same way." An agender individual, who preferred to be anonymous, expressed concern over not being able to get an O-1 visa, the permission that allows foreigners to enter the United States because they demonstrate "extraordinary" ability in fields like science, sports, and the arts.
Nuclear war, too, came up in discussion: Steve Foxe, a cis gay male, tells me, "Trump's cabinet has spent its collective lifetimes and fortunes fighting against LGBTQ+ rights, women's rights, and economic policies that would benefit the poor and needy, but my most overwhelming fear now is that Trump's insane eagerness for nuclear proliferation, resistance to intelligence, and unchecked Twitter rampages will start a genuine nuclear conflict." Disturbingly, Trump's most recent Twitter tirade likened opposition research toward him with Nazi Germany.
All is not lost, though. The election results have galvanized communities to band together and be the kinds of citizens President Obama outlined in his farewell speech: the individuals who participate in government outside of the presidential election years, look out for their neighbors, and engage in constructive dialogue. "People that are in the center—cis, abled-bodied, queer, white, male-identified, etc.—have to follow the lead of their marginalized counterparts and realize that we are not asking for anything more than what they already have, which is the right to exist and live our truths, without the threat of violence," Julian says. Sabrina, a queer woman, tells me she witnessed more unity than ever in the days following the November 8 election. "The main issue," she continues, "is that we cannot get lazy. We have to constantly work toward [a better future]." Elizabeth, who identifies a cisgender bisexual/pansexual, does not believe Trump's presidency will be beneficial to our nation but has confidence Americans will stand up and act up to fight inequality and the infringement of rights. "As long as we have the freedom of speech," they add, "we have the power to enact real change."
Which leads to the press. Julian brings up the continued diversity of the media as a source of hope. "I can now see myself in every medium," he says. Another anonymous queer individual applauds writers like Lauren Duca and politicians like Elizabeth Warren whose outspokenness have become voices for those too nervous to speak up. It's through individuals using the self-evident rights our Constitution outlines that we come to stand in solidarity. In a similar vein, Mike Rulli, a gay male, believes Trump "can lead to a new era in inspiring someone to step up next—someone that isn't so ingrained in our already established political parties."
By making ourselves into safe spaces for others do we then learn to have each other's backs. " I will defend anyone that is in danger or is being harassed," Sabrina says. "I have hope that other people will have the same mind frame." Foxe echoes this, saying "I hope to see the queer community stand together with the black community, [the] disabled community, Muslims, etc. To survive this, we cannot allow the GOP to fracture us and turn us against each other. If they come for one of us, they come for all of us."
And, if anything, Dolly Parton's "Light Of A Clear Blue Morning," as Rulli recommends, can provide immediate hope when the going gets tough.