On November 8, 14% of queer-identified registered voters somehow felt comfortable enough to cast their ballots for President-elect Donald Trump. Perhaps that’s because Trump isn’t a textbook homophobe so much as a man who has expressed opinions about LGBT people varying from mild acceptance to outright hostility.
Earlier this year during the Republican National Committee, for example, Trump insisted that he was dedicated to protecting “LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” He also told 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl, days after the election, that he was “fine” with gay marriage and that the issue of marriage equality was “already settled.”
But marriage equality is an issue he’s waffled on for years; as recently as 2015, he reiterated that he did not support gay marriage. Earlier this year, he was comfortable criticizing North Carolina’s bathroom bill and calling the trans and gender-nonconforming people it protects a “tiny group of population” who, for some reason, didn’t deserve the same protections as others. Then, of course, he chose Mike Pence as his running mate, a man who has supported conversion therapy to “fix” queer people.
Vacillation has been the defining characteristic of Trump’s stance on queer issues. But now that Trump has begun to piece together his cabinet, it’s become increasingly clear that his White House won’t be the bastion of LGBT acceptance his queer fans deluded themselves into thinking it would be.
It’s perhaps understandable that some particularly wealthy and out of touch LGBT people—like, for instance, Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel—would be willing to overlook Trump’s missteps.
“I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American,” Thiel said at this year’s RNC. “I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform, but fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline, and nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.”
But only so many Peter Thiels cast their votes for Trump. Many more of Trump’s supporters were regular people from a variety of racial and economic backgrounds who all bought into the idea of making America great again while excusing his anti-LGBT track record. In those first few tumultuous days after Trump’s election, those unsure of what kind of president he would be urged everyone to just wait and see how things shook out, only to watch him garner support from literal Nazis, evade the media in favor of lying to the public on Twitter, and appoint a bevy of bigoted, shockingly unqualified people to his cabinet.
And now, vacillations aside, it’s pretty clear where a Trump administration would stand: Each and every single person Trump has tapped to be a member of his cabinet has a history of opposing LGBT rights.
Among the worst offenders is Jeff Sessions, tapped for attorney general, who was an ardent supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act and cited Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s opposition of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as reason to challenge her nomination.
There’s also current South Carolina Governor and soon-to-be UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who not only has virtually zero foreign relations experience to speak of but also took a firm stance against gay marriage in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision and has not prioritized passing any type of anti-discrimination bills.
Our new National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has obsessed about how irrelevant a soldier’s gender is when it comes to war, but fought the Obama White House’s decision to overturn the ban on trans people serving.
And it can’t be stressed enough just how vociferously Mike Pence has described his and Trump’s plans to dissolve all of the protections for queer people that the Obama administration has put into place over the past eight years.
There are still a number of cabinet positions left to be filled still and sure, there’s a chance that Trump could appoint a right-wing champion for queer rights…who none of us have ever heard of. More realistically, though, Trump will keep stocking his cabinet with conservatives who have a dim view of LGBT folks and little to no interest in making sure that we aren’t relegated to second-class citizen status.
In the same way Trump doesn’t have to bring a member of the KKK directly into the White House in order to give the Klan what feels like a significant political win, he also doesn’t need to assume an expressly anti-queer posture himself in order to turn the executive branch into something gay people should fear. Given how politically inexperienced Trump is, he is in a very real sense the friends he keeps. The people he’s surrounding himself are no friends of the LGBT community.
But hey, let’s just wait and see.