It’s finally 2017, and Americans are now entering into an era of political uncertainty. If we’re being realistic, so is the rest of the world. Whether we like it or not, politics within the United States have a rippling effect which stretch out over every other nation on the planet. We are a world leader, and our actions influence just about everyone else - for better or worse. We have relationships with just about every nation in the world, which often requires a bit of nuance and finesse - both of which seem to be less and less desirable by some.
Despite Trump’s outward flip flopping on LGBT+ rights, protections, etc, he has made it clear where he stands politically by the people he is selecting for positions of power. The LGBT+ community is not safe with a Trump Presidency. There is no denying that at this point. Anyone who believes otherwise is ignoring the political history of many of the folks he’s selected for positions of power. Unfortunately this is not something that is easily fixable. Here are just a few people he has selected for roles and where they stand on LGBT+ issues.
Mike Pence: Signed Senate Bill 101 which allows businesses to discriminate against LGBT+ people for religious reasons. He advocated for pulling money from HIV research to support conversion therapy instead (See under Strengthening the American Family).
Betsy DeVos: Major donor to the Family Research Center which has consistently held anti-LGBT+ views and supports conversion therapy.
Steve Bannon: Former chairman of Breitbart which has a history of anti-LGBT+ sentiment, among other things.
Ken Klukowski: Former editor at Breitbart. Worked for Family Research Council and American Civil Rights Union and Liberty University - all of which with histories of anti-LGBT+ support. He has written articles bashing LGBT+ folks, and transgender folks specifically.
The list goes on, and it’s frightening. With this information in mind, I’ve crafted a short list of 5 things that every LGBT+ identifying person and ally should take stock of for 2017 (and probably the next 4 years). You could call it a Gay Agenda, though it’s more like The Agenda of Every Decent Human Being.
- The Bystander Effect: a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Several variables help to explain why the bystander effect occurs. These variables include: ambiguity, cohesiveness and diffusion of responsibility.
If you see someone being treated unfairly, being picked on, discriminated against - say something. Use your best judgement, and if you are not in a situation where you will be putting yourself at physical risk, don’t hesitate to call the offenders out on their bullshit. Call 911 (or whatever your local emergency number is if you are not in the US) if you witness a hate crime (any hate crime - whether it be against an LGBT+ person, a person of color, a Muslim - they all deserve to be treated fairly). When it comes to politics, if you hear about something like a bill on the House or Senate floor that aims to strip away LGBT+ protections (or any group of people, not just LGBT+), then reach out to your representative to tell them how you feel. Do not email. Do not mail a letter. Call them. Their interns are usually available to answer, and if enough people call your representative will get it. They are there to represent you - you just need to tell them what you want. It’s easy to become disillusioned with the entire system, and having a sense of skepticism is always healthy. However, apathy is not the answer. Apathy got us here.
In the age where the world’s information is available at our fingertips, we seem to be as disconnected from the truth as ever. Fake news, rampant unchecked conspiracy theories and anti-science rhetoric have slowly oozed their way into the mainstream. When disseminated through social media, falsehoods suddenly become the truth, and objective facts become opinions. This is an insidious phenomenon that will not disappear any time soon. We need to learn how to fight and overcome it. Take everything you read and hear about with a grain of salt and research it for yourself. Don’t rely on one-sided news organizations to provide you with all of the information you need to know. You may like reading Occupy Democrats, but they are by no means objective and they will certainly not give you the full story.
Are you disappointed with the state of things in your neighborhood? Or city? Or state? Do something about it. Donate money to a local charity. If you don’t have the money, then volunteer. If you don’t have time to volunteer, then be a sounding board for those organizations. Attend rallies, political events, public forums - every small gesture can help make a difference. Watch the local news to see what’s going on in your city/state. While national and even global politics are very important, local politics are just as, if not more, important. We need to be aware of what our local representatives are up to so we can hold them accountable. Here is where you can find the contact information to reach your Senator. Here is where you can find the contact information for your House Representative. By searching on the internet, you can also find out how to contact your governor, mayor or city council members.
Support One Another
Sometimes your friends will need a shoulder to cry on, or a friend to confide in. Try and be that friend. Even with people you might not know that well - it doesn’t hurt to be a kind person. We all have our struggles and things that we are dealing with. That is not something that is unique to any one person. Our perspective forms our reality. Being that friendly face, that shoulder or that ear can really help someone through a difficult time. It may even help you as well.
This will be the most difficult thing you will have to do. It’s easy to want to argue and tell someone why they are wrong. It’s much more difficult to listen to their perspective (though it by no means suggests that you must agree with them). However, asking them questions, and therefore making them reflect on their own beliefs, is the best way to help open their mind to a new perspective. Don’t get me wrong - it’s not as though they will suddenly have an epiphany and renounce all of the hurtful things they’ve ever said about LGBT+ folks (or about Muslims, or people of color). However, it’s entirely possible that you are the only LGBT+ person they know, and questioning their perspective and asking them why they hold some of the beliefs they do, then that can guide them to a place of understanding. Don’t be accusatory though - that will only cause them to become defensive and double down on their stances. The best way to “win” a debate, or get someone to see your side of things, is to avoid arguing with them. Listen to them, ask them questions. Change their hearts.
Some would argue that we should not have to hold people’s hands when addressing their bigotry/prejudice against the LGBT+ community. Teaching, handling with gloves, dealing with hate gracefully - it’s exhausting. They’re right, we shouldn’t have to. Just because we shouldn’t have to, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. There are probably some people who would disagree with this. And quite frankly, they aren’t wrong. This is also why we need our allies to be as strong as ever too. We need to protect ourselves and fight our own fight, but our efforts will exponentially be made easier by having some great allies by our side.
Things may feel as divided as ever, but together we can still make a difference. Don’t feel hopeless. Not as long as we don't give up.
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