The Trump administration is using the queer community as a fig leaf for anti-immigrant bigotry

by Heather McNamara

For LGBT people, things have been getting better. The cisgender among us have won the right to live openly in the military and we’ve all won the right to marry whomever we please. Our trans siblings have had fewer victories but more mainstream recognition which normally brings us in the direction of progress.

Naturally, it’s time for conservatives to act like they’ve been our friends all along and to co-opt our struggles as theirs to fight for so long as it serves their interests. This change of heart made for a confusing display as Trump made himself the first conservative candidate to pay lip service to the LGBT community on the campaign trail, holding up a rainbow flag at one rally, supporting Caitlyn Jenner’s right to use bathrooms in a statement to the press, and at one point even betraying his religious base by calling the issue of marriage “settled.”

Of course, this is all lip service. One quick glance at Trump’s cabinet picks betrays his disdain for our humanity and our rights. Sessions has a long and consistent voting record against LGBT rights. Carson, our new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, does not recognize the right of LGBT people to escape housing discrimination. Pompeo, the CIA pick, has publicly stated his opinions against our rights to marriage on several occasions. DeVos’ family was a major contributor to the Family Research Council. Price, Chao, Priebus, Flynn, and Haley, also have anti-LGBT records. Even today’s new SCOTUS nominee, Neil Gorsuch, has a history of using his position on the bench to deny transgender people equal rights. Hilariously, this nomination was announced on the same day Trump pledged to keep Obama’s nondiscrimination executive order in place.

Then there’s Pence. Pence has possibly the worst anti-LGBT record of them all. In 2000, Pence threw his support instead behind “reparative therapy,” a form of “treatment” for LGBT people which involves associating sexual urges or gender deviance with shocks and vomiting.  Later, as governor of Indiana, he closed Planned Parenthood, the only HIV testing clinic in the area. This decision caused Indiana to face the worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history. Worst of all, conservatives in Congress, with support from both Trump and Pence, are preparing to push through and pass the First Amendment Defense Act, a vile piece of legislation that would give any anti-LGBT bigot all of the legal backing they’d need to discriminate against us in housing, employment, medical care, or any other type of service.

You may be wondering, then, what purpose this lip service could possibly serve. Clearly, they have no actual interest in our rights or protections. So why break out the rainbow flags and hug Caitlyn Jenner for the cameras? For the answer to that, we need look no further than Trump’s most devastating Executive Order since entering office in which Trump, apparently without any sense of irony, claims to be acting in the interest of the safety of women and LGBT people:

In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Lest we think somebody might have written this bit by accident, here’s what White House advisor Stephen Miller had to say on the subject:

“It only makes sense that we engage in some kind of selections process that prioritizes the entry of people who, as the order stated, don’t hold bigotry, hatred or violence against any sexual orientation, against any race, or against any particular class of people,”

And of course, who among us hasn’t had to hear about Omar Mateen from Trump-supporting relatives?

Side by side, these decisions and appointments represent an arbitrary choice to regard conservative politicians’ homophobia and transphobia as being at an acceptable level, while – with little detail given – assuming that the attitudes supposedly universally embodied by Middle Eastern immigrants are a serious threat to both queer people and American values. This is the ascension of an on-the-ground conservative trolling tactic (Twitter eggs making reference to gays being killed in the Middle East, “thrown from buildings”, and so on, as a way of invalidating our own concerns) to a matter of official policy. It remains equally groundless, disingenuous, and offensively transparent.

Straight, cisgender homophobic conservatives are not in a place to tell us in the queer community what our priorities and concerns should be. It is not refugees who founded Exodus International or Family Research Council. Middle Eastern immigrants did not run for office with scare rhetoric about children being taught anal fisting in schools. Boy Scouts of America did not choose to exclude LGBT parents and children for decades on the advice of Muslim Americans. We know that in America, by far the most significant threat we face is from conservatives, usually Christians, and the politicians they elect.

On the night the attacks at Pulse occurred, we were less than 10 miles away. Our original plans for the evening had been to stay in a boutique hotel near Pulse, have a few drinks, and watch the Latin night entertainment there, but Booking.com happened to throw us a better rate to go to Universal City Walk so we were there instead. We woke up the next morning to worried calls from family members who had been unaware of our change of plans.

In the following week, we worked as press and spoke to many victims and family members of the victims of the massacre. We attended vigils and stood as human shields when Westboro Baptist Church came to protest at the funeral of one of the victims.

During that time, the Muslim community of central Florida gathered in solidarity to pray for us and to stand against homophobic violence. They donated generously to the One Orlando fund and made their presence known at the vigils with bottles of water in the Florida heat and sympathetic shoulders.

On that same week, Trump met with a group of Florida pastors hoping he would use his presidency to take a stand against equal marriage.

This past Sunday, the very same Muslim community led a march, which we attended, into Orlando International Airport because their family and friends had been affected by the executive order.

We know who our enemies are.

About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.

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