Since the unthinkable happened last month and U.S. voters elected a racist demagogue as president, I have been inundated with emails and personal requests for reassurance. After all, we’ve seen worse – George W. Bush, AIDS, etc., right?
Indeed, we have seen worse, though the impact of a President Trump on our community is so far unclear. He has appointed a cadre of wealthy, anti-LGBT ideologues — some with no government experience — to senior advisory positions and Cabinet-level posts. Some were anti-marriage activists; at least one is a hero of the KKK. It’s hard to fathom that this is our 2017 America, but here we are. After eight years of progress — from the economic recovery to unprecedented advances on LGBT rights under our first African-American president — we’re about to take monumental steps backward. The excuses offered by Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook and others about Russian interference and James Comey’s recklessness ignore the reality that her campaign lacked a coherent message and that the candidate was deeply flawed from the beginning. In a change year, the Democrats put forward the ultimate insider politician, someone who voted for the disastrous Iraq war before apologizing for it; who supported TPP before opposing it; who co-sponsored a bill to criminalize flag burning; who was woefully late to the marriage equality fight; and who even praised Ronald Reagan’s record on AIDS.
Despite Clinton’s flaws and her campaign’s apparent indifference to Rust Belt states critical to her Electoral College strategy, there was only one responsible choice on Election Day. About 2.5 million more voters made that choice than supported Donald Trump, but lopsided margins in California couldn’t offset Clinton’s lack of appeal across the South and Midwest. And so, here we are.
Trump’s gay defenders — and there are a handful — have said not to worry, that Trump reached out to gays during his convention and that he won’t undermine LGBT rights as president. But most of us are more concerned about a disengaged President Trump empowering anti-LGBT figures like Vice President-elect Mike Pence, whose anti-LGBT views are well known, and Reince Priebus, whose party platform was labeled “the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history,” by the Log Cabin Republicans. There’s also Trump’s disturbing pledge to appoint justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia to the U.S. Supreme Court.
What’s coming won’t be pretty. But this isn’t 2000 or 2004, when George W. Bush cynically used anti-gay animus to motivate conservative voters. The Obama era has produced great advances toward equality that will prove difficult to undo. From opinion polls that show growing acceptance of our relationships to court victories like Macy v. Holder and Obergefell v. Hodges, the LGBT community is on much surer footing than eight years ago. Our advocates (and journalists) will need to readjust to playing defense again and fight to preserve those victories. Those strategies should include a new march on Washington for LGBT equality.
Many younger voters came of age during the Obama era and are unaware of our community’s history as a despised and discriminated against minority. Maybe that’s why many of us of a certain age didn’t slip into a post-election depression — we’ve been here before. We’ve marched on Washington and protested government indifference to the pandemic in front of the White House, decades before we were ever welcome inside. A new march would serve to educate and galvanize a younger generation in the way previous marches in 1979, 1987, 1993, 2000 and 2009 inspired many of us. We should send a message to Trump and his supporters that LGBT Americans are NOT returning to the closet and will not abide a rollback of our hard-fought advances. It’s a new era but we’ve been here before. We know how to fight from outside the White House gates.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.