The Republican share of the LGBT vote has dropped from 27 percent for John McCain, to 22 percent for Mitt Romney to an abysmal 14 percent with Donald Trump. Trump, and even Mike Pence, know they can do better, and they want to do better.
The 86 percent of LGBT people who voted for their opponents must learn to live for 4-8 years under Trump-Pence. Our new president is the most pro-LGBT Republican candidate ever. LGBT people need to work with him to protect essential HIV programs and to advance our rights at every opportunity.
For Trump, the rebel 14 percent can become a bridge to a bigger LGBT vote. Trump promises to reach out and listen to “the forgotten Americans.” The LGBT non-PC 14 percent are the most forgotten of all. That needs to change for the good of the Republican Party, all LGBT people and all Americans.
Trump respects loyalty and loves loyalists. We of the 14 percent are among the most tested of all Trump loyalists. We salute our Hispanic and black brothers and sisters for Trump who rejected groupthink to follow conscience. Like us, they endured bullying, abuse and ostracism for their political beliefs.
Juan Hernandez, a fellow Log Cabin Republican, was attacked by anti-Trump thugs at a Trump rally. He was bloodied, and suffered a concussion and broken nose. “Coming out as gay was really difficult,” Juan said, “but coming out as a Trump Republican was far more difficult.”
In June, my own support of Trump cost me my 15-year long position as political consultant to AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Three weeks ago my landscaping was vandalized for my sin of displaying a Trump sign in my yard. Juan’s and mine are just two among hundreds of abuses suffered by the rebel 14 percent who followed their consciences to vote for Trump.
Outreach to rich gays like Peter Thiel is great, but not enough. Trump must reach out to the forgotten LGBT voters who paid a high price in bullying and ostracism to support him.
Soon, Trump needs to reach out to forgotten People Living with HIV, who fear their lifelines to vital HIV drugs and care may be endangered. Their existential fears are real and becoming more widespread. The one place Trump should never emulate Ronald Reagan is his reputation for forgetting about people with AIDS.
Several HIV and LGBT presidential initiatives are imperative: First, assurance that access to care and treatment for people with AIDS and other life-threatening diseases will not suffer any disruption as ACA is replaced. Second, protect and re-authorize the Ryan White Care Act.
Third, drug price/access negotiation is almost certain to become an issue in the next Congress. Trump has promised to use his negotiation skills to gain better deals for American patients. He must also speed research through tax incentives, by cutting FDA red tape, and improving NIH. The lives of HIV patients in developing countries matter. Trump’s State and Commerce departments must negotiate agreements to end access crippling tariffs in countries that still tax essential pharmaceuticals.
Those Trump supporters who heard his call to protect women’s and LGBT rights from terrorism and bigotry posturing as religion must not be disappointed. Trump should re-affirm this commitment as president. To us, Jihadism and Sharia are Hitler in a burka. We trust Trump to never sell out women’s and LGBT lives and rights for 30 barrels of oil. We hope Trump can become, like Churchill, a leader with the vision and courage to confront the greatest threats to freedom and universal human rights in our time.
LGBT Americans need more than just tolerance, equality dictates recognition. Gays played key roles in major civil rights movements—remember Harvey Milk, originally a Republican, and Bayard Rustin. They are true American heroes, yet neither gets the recognition his achievements and sacrifices merit. Remember dying AIDS activists whose protests speeded treatments for HIV and spearheaded the worldwide patient rights movement; their heroism still gets scant notice.
It is only reasonable and fair that LGBT people be given open recognition proportional to our numbers, contributions and sacrifices. The thousands of LGBT vets and those who gave their lives in America’s wars deserve open recognition. Above all, America must never forget the millions of LGBT lives blighted or destroyed by bigotry during America’s long failure to grant LGBTs the protections guaranteed under the 14th Amendment and the equal respect and justice required by the Judeo-Christian ethic.
James Driscoll, Ph.D., is a longtime AIDS activist and member of Log Cabin Republicans.