The RNC Gets (a little?) Gay(ish?)

The RNC in Cleveland, Ohio this week was absolutely the parade of awfuls I expected it to be. The mainstream media likes to talk about this political season as if the things that are happening are surprising, but frankly not much has surprised me this election cycle. I’m absolutely horrified, but not surprised. It’s pretty easy to pick out that Donal Trump is white America’s response to 8 years of a black president and the progressive changes he’s made. They’re absolutely convinced our country is in crisis, despite the fact that by most objective measures, we’ve been better off these last 8 years than the time before.

I was, however, a little surprised by two things last night. The first surprise came from Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal. Thiel is openly gay, and was given a prime speaking slot at the RNC. I was surprised to hear from the stage at the RNC that the bathroom debate is a distraction. He asked the crowd, “who cares?” and the crowd cheered. He declared boldly that he was proud to be gay, proud to be a Republican, and most of all, proud to be an American, and again, the crowd cheered.

Some may see this as progress, but I don’t. I’m certainly glad the most hardcore of the Republican base that showed up at the RNC thinks the bathroom debate is a distraction, but that hasn’t stopped those laws from causing real harm to people in the real world. These people didn’t seem to have much to say when the lawyer from the right wing Liberty Counsel tweeted “I’m taking my glock .45 to the ladies room, it identifies as my bodyguard.” They didn’t seem to have much to say when a Republican candidate for sheriff in Denton County, Texas posted on Facebook “If my little girl is in a public women’s restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into the bathroom, he will then identify as a John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to.” They didn’t seem to have much to say when a Tennessee state lawmaker threatened to “stomp a mudhole” into any trans woman he saw in the bathroom. So their cheers don’t impress me.

There’s certainly something to be said about someone declaring they’re proud to be gay from the stage at the Republican National Convention and being cheered for it. But this is an illustration of something many in the LGBTQ community are already painfully aware of: white cis gay men, especially ones with wealth, often simply aren’t for the rest of us. This year’s Republican party platform is outrageously anti-LGBTQ. Frankly, wealth will shield people like Thiel, Caitlyn Jenner, and other wealthy LGBTQ conservatives from any of the consequences felt by the rest of our community. LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by unemployment, underemployment, and poverty. And the people of color in our community are worse off still than the rest. Thiel’s proud declaration of being gay and Republican does not impress me.

The next surprise came from the man of the hour, Donald J Trump himself. In his 75 minute long speech, he made reference to the Orlando tragedy.

“Only weeks ago in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by terrorists…As your president I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.”

On the surface, that may seem like a rather bold and impressive thing to say coming from the GOP nominee for president. This one, however, rings just as hollow as the rest. To my knowledge, Trump has had barely a word to say about LGBTQ folks until he had a chance to fear monger over Islam and terrorism. This man is the standard bearer for a party platform that is virulently anti-LGBTQ, so his words mean nothing to me, nor do the cheers of the crowd. Of course it would surprise me if Trump had even read the party platform, but that’s beside the point. This is also the man who picked Mike Pence as his running mate, who’s anti-LGBTQ record is long and distinguished. Again, not impressed.

There were a few other token references to LGBTQ issues at the convention, Ted Cruz (another champion of anti-gay and especially anti-trans policies)  said from the stage, “Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian or Jew, Muslim or atheist, gay or straight.” It was interesting to hear him mention gay people as well as atheists. Newt Gingrich said “If our enemies had their way, gays, lesbians and transgender citizens would be put to death, as they are today in the Islamic State and Iran.” Lynne Patton, the vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation, dared to utter the phrase “LGBTQ lives matter.”

Trust me when I say I want to be happy about these things. But as Jay Brown, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign told publication TheWrap, “Gingrich and Cruz have built their careers on opposing LGBT equality. We’ve moved past the point where merely acknowledging LGBT people should be a moment of pride.”

I couldn’t agree more. Acknowledging that I exist is barely a start.

In case you’ve missed it, here are the salient points on the Republican Party Platform:

  • Reversal of Obergefell v Hodges, robbing LGBTQ Americans of the right to marry
  • Freedom of business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people
  • Schools should be able to deny bathroom access to their transgender students
  • Affirms the right of parents to torture their children with “conversion therapy.”

As long as the Republican Party Platform looks like this, the individual words of personal acceptance or support mean very little to me. Someone’s personal acceptance and affirmation of a trans or gay person is great. But it means basically nothing if that person also supports laws and policies which discriminate and dehumanize me and others like me. When you support the right of parents to send their kids to conversion therapy, you are endorsing the idea that being trans or gay is something that is to be fixed. LGBTQ people are not broken, and the overwhelming evidence shows that conversion therapy is ineffective at best, and deeply harmful at worst.

The Republican Party is the party of defecating on the poor. Regardless of anyone’s personal acceptance of the LGBTQ folks in their lives, their support of social policies that do direct harm to us, and their support of economic policies that cause direct harm to the impoverished makes them anything but an ally to our community. As mentioned above, LGBTQ folks are disproportionately affected by poverty, and the people of color in our community even moreso. So long as these policies are championed by the GOP, their words of support mean nothing to me, and they will continue to be my enemy.

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