by Peter Jackson
We gave him the benefit of the doubt when he declared at the 2016 Republican National Convention last July, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBT citizens.”
Four months later, we had reason to be hopeful when he borrowed a rainbow flag emblazoned with the words “LGBT for Trump” from a supporter and held it high at a rally in Greeley, Colorado, declaring he would be a friend to the LGBT community – the best ever!
But as we’ve come to expect from Trump, there are often “alternative” facts.
Today, any hope there might be advancement of equality and LGBT rights under his presidency has evaporated and turned instead to fear. The reality – which LGBT Americans must digest with a collective, sobering and urgent understanding – is that the Trump administration is pandering to the base that supported him and our expectation must be that things are going to get a lot, lot worse.
The ultimate wish of the christian evangelical Trump base is to contain an estimated 14-16 million LGBTQ Americans and marginalize their existence. They want “religious freedom” legislation in order to discriminate legally.
Summarily, they want to be able to sing to Jesus on Sunday but deny medical care to the sick children of LGBT couples, or customer service to LGBTs and other minorities at restaurants and businesses, on Monday.
Trump’s supporters “are threatened by what they don’t understand, and what they don’t understand is almost everything,” believes David J. Rothkopf, a scholar, journalist and visiting professor of International Relations and Political Science at Columbia University.
“From evolution to data about our economy to the science of vaccines to the threats we face in the world, they reject vast subjects rooted in fact in order to have reality conform to their worldviews. To many of them,” Rothkopf concludes, “knowledge is not a useful tool but a cunning barrier elites have created to keep power from the average man and woman.”
The professor’s bang-on analysis is difficult to dispute.
Trump supporters especially don’t understand and specifically reject any legislation that benefits LGBTs – and the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling two years ago this month still sticks like a craw in their throats.
In Washington, D.C., the response to the Trump base has been seen in a series of actions intended to torpedo all the advances in equality made under the Obama administration.
Nationally, the climate of intolerance and hate has been demonstrated by a surge in hate crimes and violence against LGBTs, punctuated by a record number of murders of transgender women.
In just a few months, the Trump administration has reversed the federal protections for transgender students, subjecting innocent young lives to shame over their gender identities rather than embracing their individuality. Gone, too, are the protections against discrimination for federal employees which President Obama enacted in 2014. The removal of questions from the national census aimed at better understanding the size and importance of the LGBT community only served to further dismiss and marginalize gay Americans.
Millions of dollars have been slashed in budgets for HIV research and if proposed health care insurance legislation becomes law, designating HIV a pre-existing condition, tens of millions of HIV-positive gay men would be among those left without health insurance and unable to afford their medications. The ramifications are simply frightening.
Expect to see another attempt soon at “religious freedom” legislation to formally relegate LGBT Americans to second-class citizens and undermine marriage equality.
A great deal depends on the message sent on June 11 at the Equality March in Washington, D.C, and at similar events across the nation – including a rally in downtown Fort Lauderdale – and around the world when LGBTs join hands with other minorities in denouncing these demonstrations of bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.
It is hard to believe that while much has changed in the 48 years this June since the Stonewall Inn riot and birth of the gay rights and Pride celebrations, much remains the same.
One thing is clear: we still have a fight on our hands as equality, once within our grasp, rapidly becomes a fleeting ideal.
Peter Jackson is the vice president and general manager of Fort-Lauderdale, Fla.-based Hotspots Media Group.