A Queer View of the Incoming Administration

love-trumps-hate

Love Trumps Hate. Photo by Callen Harty.

Likely most people have noticed the Orwellian nature of Donald Trump’s picks for his Cabinet and other roles in his upcoming White House, which is more appropriately named than ever with Stephen Bannon as one of his top advisors. There is a Labor Secretary who hates workers and does not support a raise in the minimum wage, Goldman Sachs executives heading Treasury and other top economic posts, an Education Secretary who has spent years undermining public education by donating money to expand vouchers and charter schools. There has been a never-ending litany of incomprehensible names put forward to run agencies, such as a climate denier heading the Environmental Protection Agency. Unfortunately none of it is fictional or just a bad dream.

What many straight people and self-delusional Log Cabin Republicans may have missed, though, is something that has been obvious to almost anyone who is lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT)—virtually every one of Trump’s horrible picks is not only eminently unqualified for their appointments, but also among the most homophobic men and women in the country. Some of them may be self-hating closet cases. The rest may just be hateful people who don’t want queer folks to have a place at the table, at least not alongside them.

It starts with the incoming Vice-President, Mike Pence, the Indiana Governor who signed a “religious freedom” law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. Public pressure against the bill was so intense that he ended up having to sign an amendment to it that would protect gays and lesbians somewhat, but believing that one’s sexuality is a choice he has long been an opponent of gay rights. He is against marriage equality and, in fact, proudly supported a Constitutional amendment to specify marriage as only between a man and woman when he was a member of Congress. He even signed a bill that would jail gay couples who dared to apply for a marriage license in his state. He has opposed pretty much any attempt to make queer people equal in this country, including the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was written to protect LGBT citizens from being fired at the whim of their employers simply for being themselves. In addition he opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and also President Obama’s directive to allow transgender students to use the restroom that matches their identity. Finally (well, probably not, but this list is enough to give an idea of where he stands), back at the turn of the century (believe it or not, the 21st century, not the 19th or 18th) Pence proposed a law to take funding away from AIDS research and to use those funds toward conversion therapy, the awful idea of coercively converting gay people to a heterosexual lifestyle. In addition to his own anti-LGBT agenda Pence has led the effort to name Cabinet members and other appointments, so it is not a huge surprise that so many of them are equally homophobic.

Reince Priebus, long-time chair of the Republican National Committee and now Trump’s Chief of Staff, is a long-time conservative strategist. He oversaw the Republican convention that nominated Donald Trump for the Presidency and which released the most repressive platform in history as far as queer rights are concerned. It called for overturning the Supreme Court decision that made marriage equality the law of the land and actually said that the party did “not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage”. It promoted the same kind of “religious freedom” bill that Pence signed in Indiana. It said that every child “deserves a Mom and Dad”, even though 50% of marriages end in divorce and many children from straight families are in single-parent households without a “Mom and Dad”. It opposed the idea of allowing transgender persons being allowed to use the restrooms that match their identity. It also promoted the conversion therapy that Pence admires so much.

There is so much wrong with Steve Bannon that a book could be written about it. He is a racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic homophobe. And those are his good qualities. As the editor of Breitbart News, the right-wing online “news” source, he has overseen the publication of articles deriding the “tranny” lifestyle, made comments about “dykes”, and more. And that’s just a couple samples of his transphobia and homophobia, which is nothing compared to his comments about women and other minorities.

For Attorney General, Trump selected Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, more notorious for his past racist remarks than his homophobia. Still, he is considered one of the more anti-LGBT members of the Senate. He is a Senate co-sponsor of the First Amendment Protection Act, the “religious freedom” bill that would allow discrimination against LGBT citizens based on religious beliefs. He also co-sponsored a bill that would have made each state’s definition of marriage take precedence over the federal definition, which would effectively undermine the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. On the flip side he has been fiercely opposed to marriage equality, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and hate crimes legislation throughout his career. In a strange story reported by Chris Sommerfeldt of the New York Daily News (12/2/16) Sessions went out of his way to try to prevent an LGBT conference from being held on the campus of the University of Alabama when he was the Alabama Attorney General. The purpose of the conference was to host workshops to open up dialogue on LGBT issues and AIDS. This was apparently so threatening to him that he threatened to get a court order and later an injunction to prevent the campus from holding the conference. It went on despite his protestations.

Tapped as National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn had previously been vetted as a possible Vice-Presidential pick. At that time he skirted around the issues of abortion and LGBT rights, more or less indicating that they weren’t the real big issues facing the country, emphasizing that he was more about national security. On the other hand, while he didn’t mention it at that time, he did previously oppose allowing openly gay people to serve in the military and opposed the lifting of a ban on transgender soldiers by saying, “War is not about bathrooms . . .”

The Deputy National Security Adviser selection, Fox “News” commentator K. T. McFarland, is reported to have outed her brother to their parents as he was dying of AIDS and also failed to visit him the last couple years of his life even though they lived fairly close. The initial report on this was an article in the New York Times Magazine in 2006. In the article a selection from a letter she wrote to her parents was included, which comes across as cold, uncaring, and lacking any compassion: “Have you ever wondered why I have never had anything to do with Mike and have never let my daughters see him although we live only fifteen minutes away from each other? He has been a lifelong homosexual, most of his relationships brief, fleeting one-night stands.” Speaking of no compassion, when the writer first asked about her brother her response was, “Ummmm. He was sick and then he died.” Perhaps cold-heartedness is a desired quality for national security.

Former Presidential candidate Ben Carson, who pretty much admitted he was not prepared to lead any large bureaucracy about a week before being named head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has been rabidly anti-gay as a candidate. This includes comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality. Everyone knows that those Midwestern farm boys who have sex with cows just want to buy Bessie a ring and live happily ever after. In a post on Carson by the Human Rights Campaign it was noted that he believes Congress should fire judges who rule in favor of marriage equality and he joked that those opposed to same-sex marriage might poison the wedding cakes of same-sex couples if bakeries were forced to do business with gay and lesbian couples. Ha-ha. Funny stuff there, Ben. In general his views are so archaic that he could open an antique shop of his brain. He was also famously quoted as saying that prison caused the “choice” of homosexuality and actually had to backtrack on that one a bit.

According to John Riley of MetroWeekly (12/8/16) Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, believes that the “LGBT lifestyle” leads to more health concerns that could cost the government considerable amounts of money. This is in addition to his typically right-wing conservative stances on all the other hot-button LGBT issues already noted of the other appointees. As a Representative he voted against ENDA, including queer people in hate crimes legislation, and an LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act. In an article in The Advocate ( 12/12/16) Price referred to Obama’s directive on allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their identity as an “absurd federal bathroom policy.”

The nod for Secretary of Education went to Betsy DeVos, again one of the more Orwellian selections as she has worked tirelessly to dismantle public education by promoting vouchers and charter schools. In addition to her work on that she is just simply rich, which automatically makes her a perfect pick for Trump’s administration. She and her family have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to fight marriage equality, much of it going to the virulently anti-gay Focus on the Family. She also opposes expanding discrimination protections to transgender people.

The new C.I.A. Director will be former Congressperson Mike Pompeo. Like Jeff Sessions he believes that marriage should solely be between a man and a woman because that is the “ideal” for raising children. Again like Sessions and most of the President-elect’s picks, Pompeo has consistently rated a zero from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group that rates Representatives and Senators on how friendly they are to queer rights issues.

There have been other selections for whom not much is known as far as their record or positions on LGBT issues and there are likely many others missing from this list as it is not all-inclusive. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was chosen as Ambassador to the United Nations. Aside from vehemently opposing same-sex marriage she has been relatively quiet or moderate on LGBT issues. Incoming Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao may not be stridently anti-gay but they also do not appear to be definitively pro-gay either.

One other name to throw onto the list is that of Ken Blackwell. It is unclear how much of a role, if any, that he may play in the administration after the inauguration, but for now he is leading the team that is helping to name appointments for domestic issues. He may be the most anti-gay of the lot. He is Ohio’s former Secretary of State and is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, a group that fights anything gay and is so determined about it that they have been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This quote from him as reported by Right Wing Watch indicates about where he stands:

“I think homosexuality is a lifestyle, it’s a choice, and that lifestyle can be changed,” Blackwell said in response to the question “Is homosexuality a sin, and can gays be cured?” according to published transcripts. “I think it is a transgression against God’s law, God’s will.”

He continued: “The reality is, again…that I think we make choices all the time. And I think you make good choices and bad choices in terms of lifestyle. Our expectation is that one’s genetic makeup might make one more inclined to be an arsonist or might make one more inclined to be a kleptomaniac. Do I think that they can be changed? Yes.”

He was also quoted as saying that homosexuality “defies barnyard logic,” apparently not knowing that same-sex sexual behavior has been observed by scientists in countless species.

All of these appointees may explain why queer people have unfriended and now distrust those who voted for Donald Trump. If you didn’t understand why your LGBT friends and family haven’t talked to you since the election or why they are scared to death right now you might want to take note of the people Trump has selected to serve with him. While he came across during the campaign as at the very least tolerant on queer issues, the birds of a feather he is nesting with now are a frightening menagerie of hawks, vultures, and other birds of prey when it comes to queer rights. LGBT citizens are rightfully frightened at the moment. If you truly love your queer children, friends, and neighbors you need to do what you can to reassure them that you will fight these homophobes as they start to dismantle queer lives, and then you need to follow through on that promise.

Note: Within hours of posting this blog it was learned that former Governor of Texas (and former “Dancing with the Stars” loser) Rick Perry was to be named Energy Secretary. He has a long history of homophobic statements. Follow this link for just a few delightful ones: http://www.dailydot.com/layer8/rick-perry-homophobic-quotes/

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About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Both are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he has been an actor, writer, and director since 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events.
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One Response to A Queer View of the Incoming Administration

  1. Thank you, Callen, for putting this into words. Sharing. ❤

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