Don’t listen to those who seek to normalize Donald Trump and downplay the setbacks to come.
Don’t worry, they say, marriage is settled law. Yes, but Roe v. Wade is more established than Obergefell yet it’s at the top of the GOP target list.
Don’t worry, they say, the country’s come a long way on gay rights and it’s too late to turn back the clock. That may — or may not — be true for privileged gays like Peter Thiel, but make no mistake that the trans community, among others, will suffer under President Trump.
Don’t worry, they say, the marquee issues of the LGBT movement are finished — marriage, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, a federal hate crimes law. Yes, but what about the less visible issues like LGBT youth homelessness, HIV infection rates, violence targeting trans people of color, not to mention all the myriad ways in which a hostile Trump administration could undo executive orders, guidance to federal agencies, and other such changes. Make no mistake that the negative repercussions of this election on LGBT progress are already underway. A Justice Department led by racist Sen. Jeff Sessions won’t continue the Obama administration’s guidance on trans students’ use of bathroom facilities. An Interior Department led by Rep. Ryan Zinke isn’t going to designate any more LGBT sites as historically significant, even though the National Park Service last year unveiled a Theme Study recommending more than 100 such sites.
And the climate for LGBT federal workers has already changed; a chill has descended across the government, sending many back into the closet. For a recent story, the Blade reached out to more than a dozen LGBT federal workers for their thoughts on the incoming Trump administration. We even offered them anonymity. No one would speak — even off the record or on background.
I remember walking into OPM shortly after President Obama took office where I was meeting with several gay and lesbian employees. The atmosphere was cheerful. It was as if a cloud had lifted. After eight hostile years under George W. Bush in which gay whistleblowers were targeted for retaliation and LGBT federal workers mostly remained closeted, Obama’s victory was liberating.
Over the course of Obama’s eight years, I had the privilege of a front-row seat to the change he fostered: the signing of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal; White House Pride receptions; and numerous invitations to speak to various federal agencies about LGBT rights and the Blade’s work, including to the SBA, the Census Bureau and, most memorably, to the Pentagon’s Defense Media Activity staff at Fort Meade. I couldn’t have imagined when I began working at the Blade in 2002 that soon I’d be an invited speaker at a U.S. military installation celebrating Pride month. But those days are over and, sadly, many federal workers will be afraid to openly celebrate Pride. Already, some have told the Blade they won’t attend this weekend’s Women’s March for fear of being spotted by their new bosses.
This is not a joke. It really will be as bad as you fear. This is a time to again embrace protest and civil disobedience as thousands will do this weekend. A president who would attack civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis during MLK Weekend respects no one and will eventually come for the gays, too. That’s why it’s more important than ever to come out, stay out and stand up. After years of complaints that our Pride celebrations are nothing more than shallow corporate-sponsored street parties, we have an opportunity to reinvent the annual rituals into something more meaningful, bold and powerful. Capital Pride organizers should seize this opportunity to embrace a provocative new vision for the 2017 event. With the U.S. Capitol as Capital Pride’s backdrop, we have a unique responsibility to send an unwavering message to the country that we will not sit idly by as LGBT rights are undermined and reversed.
Kudos to the handful of journalists, including Ben Smith at Buzzfeed, who are challenging Trump and his cronies. Kudos to Rep. Lewis and the other Democrats boycotting the inauguration (as Hillary Clinton should have done). Kudos to the women who will march this weekend. We must all in our own way say no to normalizing Trump.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].