What is the best way to understand the Trump Administration’s overall impact on LGBT Americans over the past four years? If you asked LGBT media and advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign, you might walk away believing LGBT Americans are living in constant fear and under enormous stress to retain our basic rights fighting a cruel and oppressive Republican regime. Of course, if you pay attention to your surroundings, it’s hard to identify this oppression. What rights are being threatened exactly? Why are LGBT Americans afraid? What, exactly are they afraid of?
As a conservative LGBT writer, I spend a great deal of time addressing these questions and since 2013, I’ve been researching claims ranging from the rise of anti-LGBT hate crimes to the seemingly endless predictions of a doomsday event targeting my community by the Republican Party. As anyone who looks into these claims objectively finds, there is far more rhetoric than reality. I recently researched more than 160 claims by LGBT organizations, sourcing from a chronological list produced by GLAAD, that the Trump Administration has aggressively targeted and harmed LGBT Americans.
This research was organized into a book, Without Context: Evaluating the Anti-LGBT Claims Against the Trump Administration. Without context, these claims build upon each other and over time create the illusion of certainty most LGBT people in our country feel is true.
One thing I am often told is that even though the book is an in-depth breakdown of four years of claims, it’s difficult to get a full and complete understanding of what it all means as a big picture. Are the LGBT activists right? Are they entirely wrong? Why do right-wing LGBT organizations like Outspoken, the Walk Away Campaign, and the long-running Log Cabin Republicans enthusiastically support Donald Trump?
To answer these questions, I first try to frame it within the understanding of the differing goals and expectations between the Right and the Left. All mainstream LGBT organizations and media hold leftwing progressive goals. This means that they prioritize identity over individuality and view the world through the lens of oppression and justice. To someone on the Left, a person’s identity is sacred and one of the primary roles of government is to affirm and protect it while atoning for past sins. President Obama exemplified this mindset, despite running on conservative values regarding marriage for both of his terms. But how does President Trump measure up?
In contrast to President Obama’s efforts to specifically identify LGBT Americans, praise them, affirm them and vow to specifically protect them, President Trump has treated LGBT Americans far more casually as regular Americans. For people on the Right, and for much of the gay rights movement’s history, this is the goal. For many LGBT people on the Right we would rather be treated equally than be treated specially. In my opinion the biggest narrative distinction is in how the Left interprets this assumption of equality and portrays it as anti-LGBT bigotry.
When you read that the Trump Administration removed LGBT people from documents or revoked protections, what really happened is administration officials included sexual orientation and gender identity under broader categories like “sex.” Where many recommendations or official guidelines and even some policies were celebrated as “pro-LGBT” under the Obama administration, the Trump Administration recognized them as either unnecessary or obstructive in administering policies equally or efficiently.
Another major category focuses on people working in the administration or who have been promoted by Trump, especially his judicial nominations. President Trump made up for President Obama’s hostility toward religious conservatives by reaching out to them instead. By doing so, LGBT media portrays meetings with religious conservative leaders as Trump meeting with “anti-LGBT bigots.” This line of attack goes so far as to even complain that President Trump failed to denounce Reverend Billy Graham after his death for his alleged anti-LGBT positions, ignoring the fact Graham ministered to 10 consecutive presidents including President Clinton and President Obama.
Judicial nominations often labeled as “anti-LGBT extremists” are little more than conservatives holding positions the LGBT Left has decided are unacceptable. For example, all of those listed as being dangerously anti-LGBT have supported traditional marriage at some point in their career. This includes the many repeated denunciations of individuals involved with mainstream conservative organizations falsely labeled as “hate groups” by the SPLC or innocuous mainstream conservative organizations, such as the Heritage Foundation, labeled as “anti-LGBT” by leftwing LGBT organizations. Rather than representing a long list proving Trump engaged with and catered to anti-LGBT bigots, its more representative of the prejudices held by the LGBT organizations themselves.
The LGBT Left unilaterally has decided any action to legally protect religious liberty is, by definition, harmful to LGBT people, often falsely labeling them a “license to discriminate.” President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who is also falsely accused of being anti-LGBT, have been vocal in their support for religious liberty, therefore by the standards imposed by LGBT organizations, they are automatically denounced.
Finally, there is the question of transgender Americans and how gender identity is handled legally. While lumped together under the LGBT label, transgender issues are often very different in nature from gay issues, especially in terms of legal standards.
The biggest example of this, of course, is President Trump’s alleged “ban” on transgender people in the military. Whereas homosexuality could disqualify a person from service in the past, gender identity under the Trump Administration does not. While it is accurate to say that the administration reevaluated medical standards and issues of sex-segregation and fairness in standards, transgender individuals are not banned from serving in the military. Other issues include concerns surrounding girls and women in sports and safety issues in sex-segregated restrooms the LGBT Left has arbitrarily declared “anti-trans.”
President Trump, of course, is the first president to enter office supporting gay marriage and has a history of pro-LGBT support dating back decades, from donating money to HIV/AIDS organizations in the 1980s and ’90s to being praised by The Advocate in 2000 for his pro-gay views, celebrating gay marriage in 2005, all the way to applauding his LGBT supporters in the 2016 election. To say President Trump is personally anti-LGBT is simply and factually incorrect. As president, he appointed multiple openly gay officials, including the first openly gay member of the Cabinet in U.S. history, Ambassador Richard Grenell.
President Trump has welcomed and included LGBT supporters in his 2020 campaign, most recently with First Lady Melania Trump defending gay conservatives from being treated poorly in media and affirming the administration’s, and specifically her husband’s, love of and support for all Americans, including LGBT people. The most straightforward way to understand all of this is to simply position it from the ideological divide discussed above. Is President Trump anti-LGBT? Of course not. It is laughably absurd to suggest such a thing.
But by the standards imposed by LGBT organizations, which range from positioning Christian conservative organizations as hateful, prioritizing LGBT policy goals over the civil rights of religious Americans, ignoring legal equality in favor of special rules and laws for LGBT people, and routinely and vocally elevating LGBT policies, demands for representation, and ever-changing standards for “inclusion” and “justice,” is President Trump “pro” LGBT? No Republican could be. The expectation from the Left is that the only good people already agree with them. There is no intellectual or ideological diversity to work with.
When confronted with the accusation that President Trump and his administration are anti-LGBT or a threat to LGBT rights, keep these distinctions in mind as they greatly influence the narrative.
Objectively there is no evidence whatsoever that any LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage with a newly minted conservative majority on the Supreme Court with Justice Amy Coney Barrett, are in danger. There are no specific threats or dangers to LGBT Americans and both parties are welcoming and inclusive of LGBT Americans. There really is nothing to the anti-LGBT narrative at all.