On Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump took a moment in his nomination acceptance speech to address an unlikely constituency: LGBTQ Americans. In a segment of the remarks focused on fighting ISIS and terrorism, Trump invoked the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, claiming that he would “protect” queer people from similar violence:
Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted LGBTQ community. No good. And we’re going to stop it. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me! And I have to say as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.
This statement, and the cheers in the room, are simply galling, not least because Trump’s party just approved a virulently anti-LGBTQ platform, including everything from overturning marriage equality to supporting dangerous “conversion therapy” and anti-trans bathroom laws. But it’s a rhetorical move Trump has been attempting since the days after the attack, when—after thanking supporters for “the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism”—he argued that queer people should support him, our true “friend,” over Hillary Clinton because she isn’t an Islamophobic racist.
I’ve explained at length why this logic is both fallacious and offensive, but it’s worth a quick revisit here, lest RNC viewers be tempted to give credit to Trump or his party for appearing to support LGBT people. For one thing, the large majority of the “wonderful Americans” slaughtered at Pulse were Latino, some undocumented. Trump has spent much of his campaign demeaning, threatening deportation to, and promising to build a wall against such people. Additionally, investigations have revealed that Omar Mateen was almost certainly not connected to any actual “Islamic terrorist” group; indeed, his invocation of ISIS during the attack appears to have been a gambit for attention more than a statement of genuine affiliation. And finally, the idea that a Republican president is going to protect LGBTQ people from “oppression” is, in a word, laughable. In fact, while homophobia in certain parts of Muslim culture is a real problem, queer Americans don’t need to look to a “hateful foreign ideology” to find something to fear. We have more than enough homophobia and transphobia to deal with right here at home—much of it emanating from the white, straight, nominally Christian people who make up Trump’s base.
So yeah, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t put much stock in the idea of a President Trump as queer savior. It’s disgusting—if not surprising—that he’d exploit the memory of our murdered brothers and sisters to try and turn queer people against Muslims. But thankfully, the effort is doomed: LGBTQ people are familiar, painfully so, with what happens when a group of people are demonized as a threat to the safety of the nation. It’s not Muslims we need protecting from; it’s charismatic, prevaricating bigots like Trump.