Buckle up Americans who ignorantly continue to deny the current climate of hatred, intolerance and bigotry toward almost any group that doesn’t conform to the white-Christian mythical norm that President Donald Trump and company posits as the only “true” patriots.
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, an LGBTQ+ media organization working to provoke productive dialogue and social change, conducted an Accelerating Acceptance survey for the past four years to discern the public’s relationship with and feelings toward the LGBTQ+ community.
The 2017 survey yielded troubling but unsurprising results. For the first time since GLAAD began conducting the survey, support for LGBTQ+ people has dropped across the board, showing a decrease in support in the seven measured categories.
Thirty-one percent of Americans reported feeling uncomfortable seeing a same-sex couple holding hands. Thirty-seven percent of Americans reported feeling uncomfortable with their child having an LGBTQ+ teacher.
While these numbers amount to no more than a 3 percent increase in any given category, it’s not the rate of increase that’s important. It’s important and dangerous that intolerance is growing and that the numbers are increasing rather than decreasing.
In essence, one year of Trump’s aggressively intolerant rhetoric caused a tangible regression in the general attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community, erasing any progress former President Barack Obama’s administration has made following the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage. More troubling, perhaps, is the spike in reported discrimination on the basis of LGBTQ+ individuals’ sexuality or gender identity. This rose from 44 percent in 2016 to 55 percent in 2017.
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Over the course of his campaign and first year in office, Trump has certainly worked tooth and nail to denigrate the LGBTQ+ community. Trump repealed an Obama-era policy protecting transgender students from discrimination in public schools and has attempted to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is a known opponent of LGBTQ+ rights and dissented from a ruling requiring states to list same-sex parents on birth certificates.
The Supreme Court is also set to rule on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, where a bakery owner in Colorado refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. Our own College Republicans side with the owner, reiterating the problematic Republican rhetoric that freedom of religion allows and encourages discrimination based on who a person is marrying or their gender identity. The Court’s decision will likely set the tone for the future of LGBTQ+ rights under the Trump administration and with a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, the community’s odds are not favorable.
Trump is not the only threat to the LGBTQ+ community in this administration. In fact, Vice President Mike Pence might be even more against equality and tolerance than Trump is.
While Pence vehemently denies any association, LGBTQ+ groups have repeteadly tied him to supporters of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy refers to psychotherapy directed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In his 2000 congressional campaign, Pence’s website insinuated that he supported these methods and demanded that, “resources [taken from organizations celebrating and encouraging behavior that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus] be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
As Governor of Indiana, Pence signed a bill that will allow businesses to deny service to gay and transgender people, citing religious freedom as justification. As a member of Congress, Pence voted against the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, as well as protections against workplace discrimination for LGBTQ+ individuals.
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Taking all of this into consideration, it’s not exactly surprising that the government is putting forth policies that make it more difficult for the LGBTQ+ community to gain the equality and public support they deserve, nor is it surprising that anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric continues spewing from Capitol hill. However, legislation can always be undone. When Trump inevitably overstays his welcome in the White House, whether that’s in 2020 or after, his successor has every opportunity to restore the government and its policies to those of toleration and progress.
What is more concerning for the future of this country is the public’s treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. An 11 percent increase in reported acts of discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals shows how people in society have taken the bigotry stemming from the president as permission to lash out against communities they don’t like or “morally disagree with.”
If one year is all it takes for the closet homophobes to jump out of hiding en masse to hurl slurs and blatant acts of discrimination against an already disadvantaged and targeted group of people, what is this country going to look like in four years?
Laws, legislation and government programs can be undone with the help of committed and competent leadership. Trump’s discriminatory policies won’t last forever. Society’s cracks and crevices, the infamous “political polarization,” the groups of racists, sexists, homophobes and bigots emerging from the woodwork with their KKK slogans, Nazi marches and rampant discrimination are not going to be as easily fixed and serve as a warning for all Americans as to what the future of this country could look like.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and intending to major in journalism.