Following the Pulse nightclub shooting in June, Donald Trump pledged to protect the LGBT community from harm if elected to the White House. “As president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” Trump said at the Republican National Convention in July, pointing a finger at radical Islamic terror organizations like ISIS for the attack, which killed 49 patrons of a Florida gay bar. His statement was met with applause from the audience, to which he responded: “And, I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
But the real question is: Who is going to protect the LGBT community from a Trump presidency?
Following the CEO’s surprise upset victory during Tuesday’s election, there is fear of a surge in hate crimes following reports of anti-LGBT backlash across the country. Some have been instances of verbal or written attacks, while other incidents have reportedly devolved into physical violence.
Chris Ball, a Canadian film producer who lives in Calgary, was watching the election results pour in on Tuesday at a bar in Santa Monica, California, stunned with disbelief. Ball told Calgary Metro that as the outcome became clear, the atmosphere became tense and volatile, with other patrons yelling anti-gay slurs at him. “We got a new president, you f**king faggots,” one Trump supporter reportedly said. After the altercation, Ball was jumped while attempting to walk to his car, and the attackers smashed a beer bottle over his head. He blacked out after his skull slammed against the pavement.
Ball was rushed to the hospital, where he would reportedly receive four staples to close the wound. A photo of blood pouring down his face went viral on Twitter. [Warning: graphic imagery]
On the video sharing service Vid.Me, a user posted a video of an altercation he had with a Trump supporter in traffic, who began verbally berating him in a fit of road rage. “Trump!” he yells, approaching the vehicle. “Trump! Trump! Trump all the way.” When he sees that the other driver is African-American, the man says, “Black lives don’t matter.” He repeats this claim numerous times, calling the person filming the incident a “n***er.” After four minutes of continuing to hurl racist insults, the Trump supporter walks away, calling him a “transgender f****t.”
In Rochester, N.Y., there are numerous reports of pride flags being burned, according to local news agencies, including one flag flying in front of Greg Ventura’s home. “It's OK to hate now,” Ventura told Rochester’s News 8. “That's the message that's being spread now, and I know a lot of people that are scared.”
Shaun King, the Black Lives Matter activist who is also a columnist for New York Daily News, has been posting reports of bias attacks across the country — against queer people, Muslims, Latinos, women, and black people. One of the more heartbreaking examples is a note left on a gay couple’s car in North Carolina, the state that is home to House Bill 2, one of the nation’s most notorious anti-LGBT laws. “Can't wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president,” the message reads. “Gay families = burn in hell. Trump 2016.”
These incidents represent an anti-LGBT segment of the population emboldened by Trump’s numerous attacks on racial and sexual minorities, which will culminate in an agenda targeting the basic civil rights many groups hold dear. The president-elect has vowed to appoint justices who would overturn the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on marriage equality, while also overturning every single one of Barack Obama’s executive orders on his first day in office. That would include a 2014 order protecting LGBT federal contractors from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Donald Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, has openly supported conversion therapy, the discredited practice that seeks to “cure” gay people of their same-sex attractions. While governor of Indiana, he signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT clientele based on “sincerely held religious belief.”
Many have warned that Trump’s election, as well as his administration's anti-LGBT policies, could have a “Brexit effect.” Following the United Kingdom’s referendum vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, the number of homophobic bias attacks in the country more than doubled. Over the next three months, there was a 147 percent rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes when compared to the same period during the previous year. In addition, The Guardian claimed that there were more than 3,000 total hate crimes reported to authorities the week before and the week after the vote, many of which targeted immigrants and people of color.
Even after the temporary rise in homophobic hate, the fear of violence remained palpable. According to a survey from YouGov, 37 percent of LGBT students in the U.K. feared being the victim of a bias attack, a 95 percent increase over the previous year. Another 23 percent were concerned they would be terminated from their jobs.
If there is a flood of hate crimes under a Trump presidency, many states won’t recognize them as such. Currently, just 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books that include gender identity and sexual orientation under existing hate crime legislation, which recognizes racial minorities, people with disabilities and women as constituting a protected class. LGBT people aren’t protected under such laws in states like Ohio, Mississippi, Utah and North Carolina. Five states — including Georgia and South Carolina — don’t have hate crime statutes at all.
That won’t change during the coming administration. Pence, while serving in the House of Representatives, referred to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Bill as a “radical social agenda” that will have “a chilling effect on religious expression, from the pulpits, in our temples, in our mosques and in our churches.” Trump, who has never spoken out about the violence at his rallies, is unlikely to voice concerns about the same attacks taking place on the streets now.
This is Trump’s America, and LGBT people have to find a way to live through four years of it.