It’s hard to do more than gape at the destructive ripples we’re sending worldwide, the terrible knowledge of how fragile our already imperfect American democracy is, so dependent as it is on custom and those “gentlemen’s agreements” and not the beleaguered US Constitution. Who knew it only took one mad, racist narcissist to inexorably open the floodgates to the blatant white supremacists and rapacious thieves dreaming of a toilet paper little ‘c’ constitution — except for that ironclad detail about bearing arms?
For US queers, this means what? That those of us that were already poor and marginal will be even poorer, even more consigned to the ninth circle of political and economic hell. Especially trans people of color. Already at the bottom of our community’s economic heap, they were just beginning to make a little progress under Obama, but were targeted immediately under Trump, and are now invoked as monsters at Republican fundraisers. Give us money and we’ll keep you safe from them in bathrooms.
And lesbians — and their children — who already suffered from the customary salary penalties assessed to all those obviously female humans will have even less help from the federal government. The tax bill passed by the Senate last week and awaiting a conferencing with a different version passed earlier by the House, essentially takes from the poor to give to the rich, creating unimaginable deficits and knowingly setting the stage for the destruction of programs like Medicare and Medicaid that were saving our lives, though in some states were already tough to access. Those of us who sidestepped the discrimination of the market by hustling our own jobs, now face the elimination of all our usual deductions, while private jet owners are allowed to exempt their maintenance.
PERSPECTIVE: A Dyke Abroad
Bad as all of this is, the worst thing is the frontal attack on democracy and the constitutional rule of law. As queers, we’ve relied on them for progress and protection. We’ve pushed for social change on the streets and in the courts, while persuading legislators to enshrine our gains into law. It was already hard enough to gain access, with so much congressional horse-trading going on behind closed doors. But in the era of Trump, horse-trading is being replaced by one sneaky self-coup after the other. The latest was when senators were forced to vote on a tax bill literally written by lobbyists that few senators had time to read, much less was comment on and debate. All taxation, no representation. Congrats to us as we take another baby step toward “illiberal (aka fake) democracy”, a la Erdogan or Putin.
Apparently the guy tapped to head the Republican National Convention three years from now is a gerrymandering/ voter suppression whiz. At this rate, the only votes we will be left with are our voices in the street. And there, we must be prepared to be prosecuted not as citizens engaged in protest or civil disobedience, but under the Homeland Security laws meant to apply to terrorists. Because what could be more terrifying these days than citizens saying, “No.” “We resist.”
The courts, too, are being revamped top to bottom. Every empty seat open to a lifetime appointment has been filled by radical conservatives prepared to ignore existing law to attack LGBTQ people, people of color, the poor, women. We can only hope there is some way to challenge them, maybe if they are too blatant as they disregard laws. We have to find out. We have to educate ourselves. Encourage young and old queers to go to law school, support organizations like the ACLU. The Innocence Project.
Things may not have been perfect but they were moving, even if two steps forward, one back. Now reversals are happening so fast no one can keep track, much less digest. And we’ll have to do what we’ve forgotten how to. Build community. Look after each other. Order medication from abroad. Get our scripts from tame doctors that we can’t afford to visit. And also, keep an eye on queers abroad.
The impact of Trump’s America doesn’t stop at our borders. LGBTQ refugees, like Chechen queers facing a brutal purge, aren’t enthusiastically welcomed here. Funding for global health programs including those fighting AIDS have been or will be slashed. The destruction of the US State Department is not only irreparably damaging ordinary relations abroad, but gutting the Obama policy of declaring LGBTQ rights human rights. Thanks to that policy, the US offered financial and moral support to embattled queer groups worldwide and saw their work as intrinsic to larger projects of broadening democracy.
In practical terms, this means that queers in Turkey who’ve already seen their Pride Parade banned in Istanbul, have even fewer allies as they fight back against new anti-gay measures like the ban on their queer film festival, PinkFest, which has been declared “an incitement to terrorism.”
If we are going to survive this, we have to stop exhausting ourselves with every Trump tweet or the latest indignities visited on us by the Republicans. We need to think bigger, much bigger, and begin to plan. For the long run.
Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.