We have had a good while now to digest the news that a character one would have previously reserved to be a Batman villain became the leader of the Free World but it still felt bizarre last night seeing Donald Trump sworn in as the 45th US president.
This election has resulted in much division and acrimony across the world, but what remains in its rubble are uncertainty and fear for the protection of minorities in the US. In a political climate in which Republicans will wield so much power, race remains the country’s biggest crisis and women bore the brunt of this shameful election, what does the appointment of America’s new leader mean for LGBT+ people?
After a volatile and uncertain election, the protection of LGBT+ rights hangs in the balance, especially since Vice President-elect Mike Pence confirmed he and Donald Trump will repeal President Obama’s LGBT rights orders and sign a law permitting discrimination. But first some context: Pence is in fact worse than Trump, and his influence in the White House is the most frightening prospect.
This man, in 2006, contended that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family,” and not only that being gay a choice, but also that keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination, but an enforcement of “God’s idea.”
Meanwhile, Ken Blackwell – the man tipped to head domestic policy for Trump’s administration – supports harmful and illegal gay conversion therapy. “I think it’s a transgression against God’s law,” he said in 2014.
“And I think you make good choices and bad choices in terms of lifestyle. Our expectation is that one’s genetic makeup might make one more inclined to be an arsonist or might make one more inclined to be a kleptomaniac. Do I think they can be changed? Yes.” Pence also endorsed conversion therapy in 2000, which doesn’t bode well for a country in which 3.8% of its citizens identify as LGBT+.
But what can Trump himself do? Or at least, what has he said he intends to do, and will any of it come to fruition?
He seems adamant in erasing any evidence the Obama presidency existed, and his attack on LGBT rights could begin with scotching executive orders that protect federal employees and contractors. Hypothetically, this could go even further, with Trump starting a rule-making process to reverse regulations that protect LGBT patients, renters, and homeless people.
Trump could well have the ability to replace those policies with new directives that say transgender workers and students are explicitly not protected or reverse the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal, which led to LGBT+ military service people serving openly in 2011. In short, Trump has the power – and recklessness – to undo years of political progress in the protection of sexual minorities.
Pence claims “Washington DC has no business imposing its bill and its values on communities around the nation.” Trump has vowed to sign the First Amendment Defence Act in an effort to ban the government from taking “action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
This law would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT+ citizens in the name of religious freedom, negating President Obama’s executive order that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Moreover, Trump has affirmed his support for local state anti-transgender laws, despite not having a declared national policy on the issue and the fact that hate crime, violence and discrimination against trans people remains a chronic issue. So is there any hope?
At times like this, we have to try and think of positives. One could be that with so many Conservative Republicans in power, the fight for equality has never been more pertinent. And in an ideal situation, minorities would unite to strengthen this pressure to protect the legal rights they already have as well as continue the fight for more.
Thankfully there are superb allies to fight our corner and make our voices heard, like Massachusetts senator and liberal hero Elizabeth Warren, who is aggressively asserting herself as a Democrat to rely upon, and of course, Mr Sanders.
In an election in which women, those who immigrated to or sought refugee status in America and Muslims found themselves the target of vitriol, while The Guardian has reported that at least 194 black people have been murdered by the police in 2016. If ever there was a time to unite against racism, misogyny and homophobia, surely this is it.
Our community has endured adversity consistently throughout history, and with political protection and media visibility the more naïve may believe that the fight for equality is over. I trust organisations like Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD Media, and more to push the LGBT+ fight to the forefront.
It feels like the first time in a long while – arguably the early Bush administration – where equality and human rights hang in the balance. Let’s hope Trump is as bad a leader as he was a candidate. At least we won’t have to worry about any of these things actually happening.