On the same day that Donald Trump and his homophobe-in-chief Mike Pence were elected into the White House, something else happened that gave the political knife, already sunk deep in my gut, a nice, sharp twist. After months of anti-gay marches across the country, Mexico’s congress voted against marriage equality, 19-8. As a gay Mexican, it felt like a doubly cruel blow: The country where I was born voted against recognizing my rights as a citizen, and, on the same day, my adopted home voted for leaders who believe that either I’m a drug-peddling rapist (per Trump) or deserving of electrocution until I’m straightened out (per Pence).
The two events are, of course, totally unrelated and uneven in their impact—after all, same-sex marriage is already legal in several Mexican states, while the outcome of the U.S. election is an absolute catastrophe for many groups beyond same-sex couples. But the coincidence underscores a grave point: While there is no doubt that a Republican administration will be detrimental to civil rights and personal safety at a national level—see the acts of violence that are already occurring in the president-elect’s name—the elevation of Donald “Bomb the Shit out of Them” Trump is also dangerous for human rights, especially those related to LGBTQ people, on a global scale.
For better or for worse, the U.S. exerts tremendous international cultural influence. For the last eight years, Obama’s stance on trans rights and gay rights has acted as a beacon to many communities fighting for change all over the world. That’s about to change.
Enrique Torre-Molina is a queer Mexican activist who works for international LGBTQ rights group All Out (where I also used to work). I asked him what Trump’s election means for Mexico, beyond the president-elect’s plans to have the country finance a wall. For him, the election was “a reminder that hatred and bigotry and intolerance are a reality.” But in a more direct sense, according to Torre-Molina, the National Family Front, which has led the anti-marriage-equality movement in Mexico, has close ties to the U.S. and, with a Trump-Pence administration “will likely gain more support and become more determined to move ahead with their awful mission.”
All things considered, Mexico is probably going to be OK: President Enrique Peña Nieto has actually been remarkably supportive of gay rights. In the 71 countries where being LGBTQ is a crime, the situation could become much more troubling. Last year, Barack Obama visited Kenya, where same-sex sex can get you 14 years in prison, and he spoke out in favor of LGBTQ equality. At the time, I wrote a piece admonishing Obama for not speaking out against American evangelicals and their anti-gay agenda in Africa. Boy, am I eating my words now: I can’t quite see Donald Trump leaving Mar-a-Lago to campaign for gay rights in Africa.
Still, the danger of American evangelicals abroad is very real. Two weeks ago, I went to a screening of And Still We Rise, a documentary about the LGBTQ movement in Uganda. Directed by Richard Lusimbo and Nancy Nicol, the documentary follows Ugandan activists in their fight against the Anti-Homosexuality Act, a bill that originally imposed the death penalty on LGBTQ people. Lusimbo and several other activists were at the screening; they were in the U.S. for an ongoing lawsuit they’ve brought against Scott Lively, a notorious anti-gay pastor who actively campaigned for the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Lively’s case is hardly unique: Conservative American groups have been promoting anti-gay sentiment around the world for years. The American Center for Law and Justice, which bills itself as “a politically conservative, Christian-based social activism organization” has actively promoted homophobic legislation in countries like South Sudan, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Another wealthy conservative group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, has been doing similar work in Latin America.
Unsurprisingly, these groups are pretty happy with the election outcome. According to a recent statement from the ACLJ, “Donald Trump’s top appointments reveal that he is dedicated to elevating excellent leaders.” The ADF, meanwhile, is calling for donations, stating that with the election results, “we have been presented with an incredible opportunity. We must respond quickly to build on the enduring foundation of religious freedom on which America was established.” Groups like these will no doubt continue to be emboldened by the Trump-Pence administration. What kind of havoc they will wreak on queer communities abroad, only time will tell.
But all hope is not lost. As many have argued since the election, our task now is to fight harder than ever, at home and abroad. Lusimbo, the Ugandan activist, gave the gathered crowd some much needed perspective after the screening. “In my own country, I have never seen any other president,” he said. “Today I’m turning 30, and he’s still my president. The thing is how do you learn to navigate through the system. So let’s not give them the chance of taking that pride you have as a country, that pride in promoting human rights. Four years is not a long time. But it’s long when things are tough. The winter is coming. Get your jackets, get your boots, and that’s the way you are going to survive. Don’t give up.”