It looks as though we LGBT folks are going to have to go to war again.
Like so many others, I stood outside the White House lit up in rainbow colors in June 2015, celebrating the nationwide legalization of gay marriage, thinking that LGBT oppression at the hands of our own government was drawing to a close.
Turns out we were a tad premature. As Donald Trump prepares to take power, he is appointing one hateful anti-gay bigot after another.
And I don’t use these terms lightly.
As reported in the Washington Blade and elsewhere, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, likely Attorney General Jeff Sessions, likely CIA Director Mike Pompeo, likely Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, likely Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, likely Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Domestic Transition Team Leader Tom Price all have demonstrated animus toward LGBT equality and same-sex marriage. And of course, Kellyanne Conway was spokesperson for the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.
How should we respond?
Many of us are afraid, for good reason. Our well-being, our safety, our employment, and our rights are once again likely to come under attack. And when people in power say that LGBT people are not as good as everyone else, it’s going to be difficult not to absorb some of their hatred and turn it against ourselves.
Some of us will be tempted to put our heads down, try to avoid attention, and keep quiet about being targeted, fearful that we’ll make things worse or invite retribution. When circumstances start to deteriorate, it’s human nature to tell ourselves that things aren’t so bad while hoping that they won’t deteriorate further.
But none of these responses will help us. Not a bit.
Appeasement, though understandable, never leads to a positive outcome for those under attack. Acceptance of injustice simply leads to further injustice. So even if we are afraid—especially if we are afraid—we must forcefully stand up to the hate, relentlessly call out the bigotry, and fight, unyieldingly, any attempt to diminish our rights, while doing our best not to be negatively affected by the anti-gay animus that is once again being publicly spoken.
As a psychologist, I know that taking action on our own behalf is the route to feeling good about who we are, because it is through doing so that we come to respect our own actions and lives. Fighting for what is right feels a lot better than wallowing in victimhood and hopelessness.
Moreover, if you are considering keeping your mouth shut to avoid trouble, ask yourself what sort of life you can have when you live in fear and believe that you have to hide who you are in order to stay safe. Is there really any safety in the closet?
So let’s not despair, not in the slightest.
Remember, we’ve been through this before and we’ve not only persevered, but prevailed.
Let’s hold in our awareness how far we have already come through our banding together in unity; through our standing firm; through our fighting for justice; and through our letting others know the truth about our lives.
Let’s also keep in mind that we are far stronger and better organized than we were at the time of Stonewall or at the start of the AIDS crisis. Moreover, we now have as allies the majority of the American people.
When George Washington wrote the words “to bigotry, no sanction; to persecution, no assistance,” he was condemning exactly the attitudes and behavior exhibited by those who are now poised to take over the leadership of our country. It is we who are on the side of true patriotism and who stand for what America really represents.
With this knowledge as our inspiration, let’s fight for the cause to which George Washington dedicated himself, that our nation be one where “every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
Michael Radkowsky is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.