Donald Trump has found an unlikely group of supporters in the millennial conservative LGBT community. Trending hashtags on Twitter such as #GaysforTrump have surfaced, and a new wave of LGBT millennials have taken Trump’s victory as a call to action for social and fiscal conservatism.
The central argument of gay conservatives is that, despite potential personal beliefs about homosexuality, politicians need to be focusing on ‘real threats’ facing America, such as ISIS, immigration, and the economy. They argue that politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who have taken money from governments that persecute LGBT citizens, are not allies to our community.
To analyze these claims, it is most instructive to briefly review the state of LGBT equality in the United States. Twenty-five states tolerate workplace discrimination, twenty-eight tolerate housing discrimination, and thirty-eight tolerate insurance exclusion for transgender healthcare. In state legislatures, there were more than 150 pieces of anti-LGBT legislation proposed in the year 2016 alone. LGBT youth face tremendous abuse and hate, both at school and at home.
When we consider the construction of a conservative gay movement, it is important to understand the conservative ideology with regard to LGBT rights. On July 18, 2016, top Republicans met to draft the 2016 Republican Party Platform. Careful reading will reveal a litany of anti-LGBT rhetoric, from condemning the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and United States v. Windsor, “which wrongly removed the ability of Congress to define marriage…” They promote the First Amendment Defense Act to protect discrimination against the LGBT community, and give a nod to conversion therapy, saying that “We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children…”
Beyond the rhetoric, however, is a record. If we exclude the discussion to the Trump administration that has been constructed to date, we find that the record is horrifying and predictable. To begin, Mike Pence, the Vice President-elect who will preside over the US Senate, ran for the Senate in 2000 in a campaign in which he sought to divert funding from HIV/AIDS treatment to fund conversion therapy, a failed practice which can involve electroshock therapy to change a child’s sexuality. He vehemently opposes marriage equality and the protection of LGBT Americans, saying that “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discreet and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions supported “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and refused to include sexual orientation and gender in the list of hate crimes. CIA director Mike Pompeo opposed marriage equality and same-sex adoption, and Education secretary Betsy DeVos has, according to Politico, “given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group whose founder called the battle against LGBT rights a ‘second civil war.’” Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services, voted against anti-discrimination laws, chief of staff Reince Priebus presided over the RNC who put out the platform previously described, and our ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, opposes same-sex marriage. Not a single member of the Trump administration to date supports even a fraction of LGBT protections and equality.
With the rhetoric and record in place, we can now dissect the gay conservative movement, and the dangers it presents. To the typical gay conservative, none of the aforementioned bigotry matters, since these individuals aren’t in charge of social programs and setting policy on how to treat gay people. And herein lies the central danger in the movement: Mike Pence will preside over the Senate, and our UN Ambassador Nikki Haley will be meeting with human rights activists and progressive committees of the United Nations who are trying to fight for justice and equality. Tom Price will head Health and Human Services, while today in America the LGBT community faces severe discrimination in healthcare. With Supreme Court vacancies growing, Donald Trump will have to appoint justices. Given his current cabinet appointments, it becomes quite clear how LGBT issues will be treated in Trump’s court.
If we extend the conversation beyond LGBT equality, we notice a larger trend in civil rights opposition in the Trump cabinet. From wanting to keep the Confederate flag to opposing the Voting Rights Act, the same people in Donald Trump’s cabinet who are refusing civil rights for the LGBT community are simultaneously upholding systems of oppression that limit basic human rights in communities of color all across America.
Throughout history, milestones in progress and justice have come about only when a broad coalition of oppressed groups form solidarity movements. We can draw inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement and Palestinian activists who showed solidarity from across the world in 2014, when Palestinian activists tweeted at Ferguson protestors with advice on how to deal with a militarized police force using tear gas. Understanding the root causes of systemic oppression is required to try and draft solutions to the many problems facing the world today.
The United States foreign policy throughout the Muslim world since World War II has been abhorrent. From the overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government of Mossadegh in 1953, the support of Saddam Hussein by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and Obama’s global assassination campaign, the United States has destabilized the region and placed a target on Muslims everywhere.
In order to combat the serious threat of ISIS and terrorism, we must begin to understand the role that the US has played in destabilizing the region. Only then do we find that there is a particular need for black people, queer people, women, Muslims, Palestinians, immigrants, and the disabled to forge a coalition to fight oppression at the global scale. The issues that plague the LGBT community are upheld and fortified by a global attack on civil and human rights in all oppressed communities.
The LGBT community, as it fights for equal rights, must join forces with Black Lives Matter, fighting against police brutality and dismantling racist institutions; Palestinian activists, fighting for survival and the end to the illegal Israeli occupation; women, fighting for access to healthcare and economic equality; and Muslims, fighting for religious freedom. There is a significant parallel between these systems of oppression and the ones that deny justice and equality to the LGBT community. We must embrace intersectionality as a reality in each of these communities, understanding that there are compounding systems of oppression that have been fortified and strengthened by Republican attempts to pit one community against another. This was seen after the Pulse night club attack, when a surge of Islamophobic racism swept into the gay community. The unfortunate consequence of this, and several other examples, is that the queer community has many internal issues, including transmisogyny and queer racism.
With regard to Hillary Clinton, there are several countries in the world that persecute gay people. We need a global boycott and divestment campaign that places economic pressure on these countries. In fact, we’ve seen a model for this in North Carolina, with businesses, sports teams, and musical artists diverting business to other states in response to two hateful anti-LGBT bills. Unfortunately, the pressure has not yet been enough, as the Charlotte bill and HB-2 remain intact after further review. One positive result that may be attributed to this divestment is the gubernatorial race, in which Roy Cooper defeated Republican incumbent Pat McCrory.
To date, the Democratic Party has a far better track record with LGBT rights when compared to their Republican counterparts. This, however, is not enough. Like our courageous brothers and sisters in the Black Panthers, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and many others, the vast majority of social progression in LGBT equality has come about from grassroots activism and mass public resistance. These grassroots movements throughout history have been impossible without widespread support and solidarity from other groups of people who face oppression and injustice.
There are many issues facing this country, including combatting terrorism and improving the economy. American capitalism was built on the backs of slaves, and has been used as a tool of economic oppression for decades. To embrace democratic socialism is to acknowledge the intersections of race and class, and to begin the process of assuring all people- regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, or ability- equal opportunity in the American economy. The gay conservative movement supports an ideology that gives tax breaks to billionaires, supports privatized prisons, and believes in trickle-down economics that have resulted in stagnated wages, income inequality, and racial disparities in wealth accumulation.
To identify as gay and conservative is to embrace an ideology that not only rejects the basic equality of one’s own community, but an ideology that rejects the same struggles for equality, both social and economic, in other communities around the world. These communities depend on solidarity and activism from their LGBT brothers and sisters. Their struggle is our struggle, just as our struggle is their struggle.
There is an ideology, frequently ignored, whose foundation is on international law and human rights. It is possible to construct a party platform that adheres to both combatting injustice around the world and securing personal liberties and equal rights at home. It believes in the rights of Palestinians, the trouble with American imperialism, and the right to clean water in Flint, Michigan. It understands the problem with mass incarceration and racist police brutality, perpetuated by G4S, both at home and abroad. And, importantly, it supports equality and human rights for everybody who identifies as LGBTQ. The gay conservative movement that has latched onto Donald Trump and his ideology is dangerous not only to their very own LGBTQ brothers and sisters, but to all oppressed communities who struggle for justice.