The election of Donald Trump to the presidency is a catastrophe for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Although Trump may bear little personal animosity toward LGBTQ people, he has already begun to put dedicated anti-LGBTQ activists in positions of power. His control over executive agencies virtually ensures that critical rules protecting LGBTQ people in employment, housing, and education will soon be abolished. His judges may roll back hard-won gains in the courts. And his vice president, Mike Pence, is a virulent opponent of LGBTQ equality, opposing nondiscrimination laws and open military service while supporting anti-gay conversion “therapy.”
In the week since Trump’s election, LGBTQ people have struggled to grasp the enormity of the disaster they face. The prevailing mood is one of alarm and dismay. I asked LGBTQ people across the country to explain what they feared the most about the coming Trump administration—and how they planned to push back against the coming curtailment of their rights. Their responses are printed below.
Anthony Michael Kreis, Chicago: I am troubled over a Trump administration, unchecked by a Republican Senate, given the current Supreme Court vacancy and lower court vacancies. Right now, the Supreme Court is set to rule on transgender students’ rights, federal appeals courts are deciding whether federal employment discrimination law includes protections for LGBT people, and judges are considering whether the government can allow businesses to religiously object to LGBT civil rights. There is a real chance that Donald Trump’s federal court appointees will turn the tide of progressive civil rights jurisprudence and chill the federal judiciary’s warm disposition toward LGBT plaintiffs.
The courts are important, but the Obama administration’s use of federal agencies and executive orders to expand the rights of LGBT people is the most vulnerable. It will require relatively little heavy lifting by the incoming administration to reverse course on administrative guidance and rules. More realistically, the Trump administration may just elect to not give existing protections, like Title IX, robust enforcement.
Azariah Southworth, Nevada: As someone who lived in Indiana while Mike Pence was governor, I am scared about his obsession with rolling back LGBT rights. Specifically, I am scared he will continue to advocate for conversion therapy. As someone who went through conversion therapy for five years, it sickens me to think there is someone in the White House with the authority to make conversion therapy government-sanctioned. I fear for younger LGBT people.
I’m not exactly sure what to do. I attended an anti-Trump protest last night in Las Vegas. There is also an LGBT center within a half-mile from where I live. I will likely begin to volunteer there. I have shared words of encouragement to people in need on Facebook. What I do know is this: I refuse to remain silent, and I refuse to do nothing.
Bryan Cole, Ohio: I am scared about what Donald Trump and Mike Pence will do.
After spending years denying who I am—and going through the difficult, transformative process of coming out—it is horrifying to see someone like Mike Pence denying my basic humanity. I can’t help but be reminded of schoolyard taunts, of desperately trying to fit in. I don’t think Pence realizes the cultural forces with which he is complicit; when LGBTQ kids kill themselves, it is because they feel isolated. It is because they don’t have rights. It is because they see politicians on TV, talking with authority and a smile, saying that being gay is against nature and wrong.
I am trying to fight back by being out to as many people as I can. They must know that when they vote for Trump, they vote against me and people like me. They are voting against kids across the country who will see the Trump administration’s policies and, in their bed at night, ask, “What if they are right about me?” I am in grad school for social work, and I will try to build a better world. We need social workers, organizers, and mental-health professionals to pick up the pieces and save as many lives as we can.
Chase Strangio, New York City: One of the scariest parts of the future Trump–Pence administration is just how much is unknown and uncertain. We have made tremendous progress in the context of protections for transgender people during the Obama administration, but there was still so much work to do under Obama’s leadership to push back against horrible immigration, prison, and policing policies and practices that were negatively impacting the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community. Now not only are we facing the possible rolling back of every expansion of rights under federal nondiscrimination law, we are also potentially facing an escalation in deportations, surveillance, and incarceration, which will be harshly felt by queer and trans people of color. In this future context, I am worried for trans health care, trans education, trans employment, and trans survival.
As a white person with access to legal resources and information, I am planning to work tirelessly to support my LGBTQ siblings of color, to fight against anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies, and to build networks of support to share resources. Our work to tell stories of trans lives is only just beginning and will not change. The urgency of our fights for justice has deepened and hopefully we will find ways to come together to fight back against the repressive policies that may be coming.
For the next few months I will continue to support trans people updating their identification documents, getting health care, and sharing emotional, financial, and informational resources. We will be prepared for the future.
Christina Cauterucci, Slate staff writer, Washington, D.C: In the age of Donald Trump and in the wake of the Pulse massacre, I fear that hateful opportunists will exploit our vulnerabilities to turn LGBTQ people against other marginalized communities. Trump and his followers have tried to convince queer people that we have more to fear from Muslim immigrants than from the Republican Party’s committed crusade against our rights, freedoms, and safety. I fear that some of us will believe them. I’m also scared that the incremental recent progress advocates have made on transgender civil rights will be trampled by an administration incentivized to make trans people out to be less than human. I’m scared that queer immigrants, refugees, and Muslims will be the first of their cohorts to be victimized by Trump and his emboldened supporters.
The one thing that has given me a pure feeling of hope this past week is thinking about my queer friends who are parents, loving their children so hard and raising them as stalwart enemies of the white heteropatriarchy, ready to work for justice. If the U.S. has a shot at a better tomorrow, queers and our spawn will be the ones who build it.
Daniel Summers, Maine: I’m from a conservative small town in the middle of Missouri (though not as small or conservative as the towns around it). I’ve never felt comfortable being out with my family on trips there, fearing what people might say about a family with two dads.
During my most recent trip, to be with my mom as she was dying, we decided to take the kids to the carnival. It was the same carnival I’d gone to every year growing up. My husband and I were anxious about going, worried we’d be harassed as a family headed by a gay couple. But we decided to go anyway.
What was immediately reassuring to us was seeing many women wearing hijabs and the many families of color. Clearly my hometown had gotten more diverse since my years growing up, and if these other people felt safe there, so could we.
Now none of us feel safe. Though Trump has not singled gay people out for the same kind of demonization as he has Muslims and immigrants, the same barely hidden resentments and hatred that are already being expressed very likely apply to my family, too. If they’re vulnerable, we’re vulnerable.
Ember, Kansas City, Missouri: I feel both a sense of urgency and a debilitating weight that is keeping me from moving. I want to be brave and shed as much of my “passing privilege” as I can. Since I am a queer woman married to a man, many assume I am straight; I am in a constant state of coming out. I also feel immense fear over doing so. I’ve had slurs shouted to me on the street, my sexuality assumed on sight and determined to be despicable. I felt terrified and embarrassed. I am closeted to my Trump-voting family, and I don’t even know how to talk to them about any of this; about any of the hatred their votes empowered. Above all, I feel guilty. I feel like I am letting my community down for not being out enough, proud enough, or queer enough. But I know I can help heal some of the hatred through my work, which is what is keeping me going right now.
Emily, Washington, D.C.: As a proud liberal lesbian raised in working-class Pennsylvania, I worry about the erasure of my intersectional identities through a continual stream of think pieces that see poor whites as homophobic, racist conservatives and “the gays” as moneyed, liberal elites, sheltered from communities that cast their ballots for the Trump–Pence ticket. Of course, I also fear for my rights in this country. Even if Trump’s stance toward various LGBTQ issues has been, for the most part, ambivalent rather than overtly hostile, I fear the type of ideology he has legitimized through his choice of Pence as vice president, his appointment of homophobic and transphobic individuals like Ken Blackwell and Ben Carson to key leadership roles in his transition team, and his implicit acceptance of the hateful speech spewed by too many of his supporters.
I worry about my job security and ability to make a living should I move away from liberal cities. Most of all, I worry about the implementation of national religious freedom bills that would allow supposed Christians to hide their bigotry and hate behind the guise of religiosity. I spent almost two decades of my life in Catholic schools and remember learning at 11 years old that calling a woman a lesbian (a question posed out of curiosity, not malice) was the worst thing I could say about her; at 13, that men and women were the only natural coupling; and at 15, that homosexuality was a perversion of the soul and acting upon it was a grave depravity. I don’t need younger generations to grow up under a government that affirms those sentiments and chooses to honor one handful of beliefs held by certain religions over the dignity and wellbeing of citizens they have been tasked with protecting.
Harry, Washington, D.C.: I’m an ally. I was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish household and considered myself progressive for believing in civil unions. It was only through years of efforts by the LGBTQ community that I realized that half-measures are offensive and blatantly discriminatory. These efforts were so effective that I can no longer fathom living in a country in which people may not be free to marry those they love and where homophobia will be increasingly normalized.
These basic principles are now crucial to me as a straight, cisgender American. To do otherwise is as unprincipled as depriving citizens of the right to vote based on race. Yet we have gone backward. I no longer recognize the country in which we live, nor do I understand what it stands for. However, the LGBTQ community must not despair. I’m counting on you to lead the way in fighting for equality for all Americans. LGBTQ Americans know what it is like to be oppressed and what it is like to be victorious. You must persevere through the former to achieve the latter. In the meantime, I’ll be right alongside you, proudly arm-in-arm.
J. Bryan Lowder, Outward editor, New York City: I am terrified, but not so much of Trump’s administration directly. I am hoping against hope that his relative lack of interest in LGBTQ issues will mean a period of stasis rather than massive rollbacks of hard-won successes. (Though, of course, a conservative SCOTUS and an executive branch operating under different directives and interpretations could do a great deal of damage.) I’m more frightened of the blessing his win has given to bigots of all stripes, folks who now feel authorized to harass and attack women, Muslims, people of color, and, yeah, queers, with impunity. There will be violence and death as a result of this, and our people will bear much of the suffering.
John Aravosis, New York City: My biggest LGBT concern is Vice President–elect Mike Pence. Trump will hand over the reins to Pence. And Pence is an LGBT-hating religious-right nut who once wanted to cut AIDS funding and use the money to fund programs to pray away the gay.
There is no way or reason to allay those fears. We’re fucked. But we can fight back, and we will. Our community is expert at taking on bullies against the odds and winning. It will be no different with Donald Trump and his GOP Congress.
Jonathan Renteria-Elyea, Kalamazoo, Michigan: I live in Michigan. My husband and I were hoping to adopt in the next couple of years. All that seems uncertain now. I fear for my family’s protection under the law with a conservative SCOTUS in action again. I fear more religious freedom bills will sail through until even government employees can refuse me service. I fear for my trans and non-white friends most of all. For their basic safety and dignity.
Kate Earley, California: I’m concerned about Pence’s support of conversion therapy—a horrific practice that involves, in its extreme forms, electrocution to “fix” gay people, especially queer children. How am I to be “fixed?” There is nothing wrong with being queer. There’s nothing to be fixed. This unscientific, dangerous practice deserves to be abolished and shamed. I do not feel wrong. I am not wrong.
But what scares me most is Trump’s objectification and assault of women, and how those violent masculine views translate into his future policies regarding LGBT+ communities. Bi women are commonly hypersexualized with jokes about threesomes and invasive questions into their sex lives. A man who has objectified women at every corner of his campaign could be a disaster for the bi community. Biphobia and objectification of bi women is going to increase significantly, as will overall hatred for our community.
We’re not pieces of meat. We’re not freaks. We are human beings.
Matt Baume, Seattle: I’m afraid of losing our allies. Fifty years ago, queer people were forced to hide, but today we have more friends than at any point in American history. Over the last half-century, we’ve come to assume that more will always join us and few will leave. But with those who would do us harm rising to power, I’m afraid our allies may be persuaded to abandon us. I’m afraid we’ll once again be alone.
Nadia Steck, California: The things that scare me the most about a Trump–Pence presidency is not necessarily something they plan to enact but something they plan to overturn. President Obama enacted an executive order a while back that barred discriminating against a person based on gender identity. It was one of the first times the federal government truly extended any kind of protection to trans people and Trump and Pence have both stated they plan to reverse it and make trans bathroom access a states’ rights issue. Without the federal government providing some basic level of rights, I worry about my ability to safely do or go anywhere. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act means insurance companies won’t have any incentive to provide coverage of surgery or hormone procedures that are incredibly vital to the trans community.
I have been rather vocal and outspoken about the need to be unapologetic. The only reason that Trump was able to win was because communities were unapologetic in their rhetoric and existence. We never saw a white supremacist being nervous for walking down the street so why should we? This new regime, whether directly or not, is coming for us. We have already seen a spike in hate crimes and a reported rise in suicide rates among trans youth. There is a very large target on our backs. We should not wait for them to come to us, we should bring the fight to them. Be afraid but be unapologetic; we are in a time when our rights are in limbo, so let’s make damn sure that whoever is representing us knows we are angry and are real people.
Nicholas DiSabatino, Boston: What scares me the most about the Trump–Pence office is the overall rise in bullying I think we’ll see, specifically targeted at the LGBTQ community. This election has essentially declared that kindness and decency and respect for differences is overrated. I worry about young members of the community and what they’ll be subjected to in the next four years.
On a purely personal level, my husband and I were married last year, and I do fear what a conservative Supreme Court could do to the state of gay marriage in the U.S. We both want children in the future, either via adoption or surrogate. After seeing the heartbreaking responses of parents having to describe Trump’s win to their children, I’m not sure I have it in me to even start this process until after 2020. I’m that frightened.
After reading reports of several trans children taking their own lives, I really want to volunteer at a suicide hotline and/or any LGBTQ youth facility. I remember when Bush was re-elected in 2004 when I was a recently out 17-year-old at a deeply conservative Catholic high school in middle Ohio, and I felt desperate and helpless. This feels so much worse, and I know that if I had older LGBTQ allies in my life at that time, it would have been a much more bearable experience.
Rob Tisinai, California: My biggest fear from Trump-Pence victory is our expansion of what sickening things are now acceptable. If overt racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and admissions of sexual assault don’t disqualify you from the presidency, then soon they won’t disqualify you from anything. If it’s not immediately acceptable across the country, it soon will be, as Trump’s continual presence on TV defines a new normal. Decades of progress are rolled by back by this single election, not just with what the president can get away with, but with what everyone can do.
Sam, Boston: Born and raised in the Middle East, I decided to stay in the U.S. and start a family here post-graduation from college because the Obama administration made it possible for me to marry the love of my life and eventually receive a green card to stay and work here. Trump boasted about his desire to overturn nationwide marriage equality throughout his campaign. I don’t know how legally possible this is, but he and his supporters are against LGBT equality and I cannot imagine what it would be like to go back to living in a society that does not believe that I am worthy of equal rights or that my marriage is not valid. Our incoming VP believes in “conversion” therapy. This is not OK in the 21st century, especially for a country like the U.S., which so many people abroad look up to. Many of my LGBT friends back home envy me for being able to enjoy so many freedoms here in the U.S., but I don’t know if any of those freedoms will still be there four years from now. I do not want to go back to being closeted and fearing for my life like I used to—though I know this is already the case for many people in certain parts of the U.S. But my attempt at the American Dream has granted me the privilege of living in an accepting city and being surrounded by people who love and accept me.
LGBT people, other minority groups and white allies need to come together as one and we must hold the new administration accountable. We should do anything it takes—from lobbying to writing to our congressmen/women to working in our communities —to make sure we don’t go backward. We can’t afford that. We’ve fought so hard for all the progress we enjoy today.
Sierra Herndon, Kansas: It scares me to my core that people refuse to believe that my being gay isn’t a choice, so either I choose to “be straight again” or to “live sinfully” and am therefore worthy of whatever political punishment may come about.
I’m a campus ministry graduate assistant at a private Catholic university in Kansas, and I’m living out and proud as the person I believe God made me to be. I explain myself to people who are genuinely curious and create a safe space for other queer students on campus. And I pray.
Steve Lichtenstein, San Francisco: I worry that an easy, reflexive air of bigotry and division that has largely been cleansed during the Obama years is about to get toxic again, and quickly. I worry about being demonized and that the steady progress of our civil rights and the acceptance of our equal place in society is coming to a screeching halt. I fear that bitter old white evangelicals who won’t bake a cake for a gay wedding will soon seem awfully quaint.
My fears are so total and overwhelming right now (and on a multitude of levels) that it’s hard to even begin to consider how to allay them. Optimism is scarce. Every few minutes, I think of another likely result of what’s to come, and a new wave of panic and nausea comes sweeping in. Mounting a political response will help. So will time, friends, my dog, therapy, art, music, weed. But it is presently such a deep, profound anxiety and terror, the likes of which I have never experienced.
Zack Ford, Washington, D.C.: Among many other things, I’m particularly concerned about a possible increase in homonationalism. In the wake of Orlando, Trump attempted to drive a wedge between Muslims and the LGBTQ community by stoking Islamophobia, which erased both LGBTQ Muslims and the many Muslims who are, in fact, LGBTQ-affirming. Besides fueling hate against Muslims, this kind of thinking also attempts to downplay the real harm that is perpetrated against LGBTQ people by various conservative Judeo-Christian faith traditions. It is those beliefs that are largely, if not singularly, responsible for the discrimination and violence we have experienced in the past and expect to experience more of under a Trump presidency.
Zenén Jaimes Pérez, Austin, Texas: I’m most concerned about losing all of the gains we’ve made in fighting back against HIV/AIDS and how to prevent a health catastrophe among LGBTQ folks. If what we saw Pence do in Indiana is any indication, we’re in for some serious cutbacks to HIV/AIDS prevention work. Additionally, I’m afraid that Title X funding for health centers will be cut and/or Planned Parenthood will be cut out. Huge numbers of low-income LGBTQ folks rely on Title X for health services.