Given we’ve all become political pundits over the last few weeks, let’s try a little thought experiment. Take a moment to imagine you’re running for election. 10 million LGBT votes up for grabs. What policies do you think would be vote winners?
You’ll be forgiven if gay conversion therapy is low down on your list. Likewise, any policies that allow shops to refuse LGBT customers. And I doubt you’ve written down that companies should be able to fire people because of who they have sex with, rather than competency in the job.
So it’s not unreasonable that all three – just for starters – would be a complete turn-off. What then are we to make of the 14 percent of LGBT voters who plumped for Trump?
Take a look at what they voted for:
1) Opposing a ban on electrocution therapies to ‘shock away the gay’
2) Attacking same-sex adoption and parenting
3) Repeal of equal marriage – he’s now claimed the law is settled, but do we really believe anything he says?
4) A new law that would allow rampant religious discrimination of LGBT people, in the workplace, as consumers, when they’re ill
Almost a million LGBT people looked at this platform and gave it a thumbs up. Or at best, a dismissive shrug. That’s a lot of turkeys voting for Christmas.
For anyone working on equality and human rights issues, this is the loudest of wake up calls. The hard-won progress achieved by western countries over the last few decades always seemed irreversible, even if we knew better in the back of our minds. Plus, we had our opponents pegged. We knew the far right and fundamentalist Christians wanted to push the LGBT community back in the closet and lock the door, but they were on the fringes.
Turns out we didn’t spot the danger of those much closer to home. Before this election, who would have thoughts there were LGBT people who were willing to overlook policies that would fundamentally attack their human rights. Not only that, but they would also support a candidate who has fanned the flames of the far right, empowering those very groups that have attacked the LGBT community so viciously for all those years.
What’s going on? Ask LGBT people who voted Republican at this election and they’ll claim that Trump is actually a friend of the gays, proving that Facebook isn’t the only one with a strange definition of that term. Strict controls on immigration will protect the LGBT community from anti-gay foreigners, they say. Have they not noticed the huge elephant in the room? The one with the white pointy hat and robes? It’s like jumping into the jaws of a crocodile to hide from a wolf howling in the distance; I guess ‘they’re homophobes, but at least they’re our homophobes’.
Then there are the voters who claim that there are ‘bigger issues to solve’. It’s hard to disagree with that sentiment when American fascism is on the rise. But I guess that’s not what they mean. They’re primarily talking jobs and wages. In short, for the sake of a decent pay cheque each month they’re not too fussed with outright racism, they’re fine with a Muslim registry, and if women are caught in the cross-hairs too, well so be it.
As a group LGBT people have suffered the very worst forms of discrimination and prejudice. Although many now live under almost full legal equality, none of us should be blind to how hard it was to get here, or the ongoing struggles of minority groups within our community. LGBT people of all stripes should be defending equality and human rights like our lives depended on it, because at one time, that was exactly the case. And for others it still is. Yet there are those who seem content to vote us all back into the political closet. It makes you wonder just how bad it would have to be before groups like Gays for Trump prioritised equality? A Uganda-style ‘kills the gays’ bill and maybe they’ll pause for thought?
We need to find answers to why people are so willing to give this administration the benefit of the doubt. And urgently, because you’d probably find similar constituencies across the Western world right now. Fascists and the far right are on the march, in America of all places. If the dream of progress is about to turn into a nightmare for many LGBT people, it’s time we all woke up.
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Writer, advocate and trustee of human rights charity Waging Peace
Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.