But not Trump’s online armies on the alt-right, energetic hordes of nativists, white supremacists, anti-Semites and, yes, homophobes whom Trump has emboldened.
Within a matter of minutes I was under full-blown assault from a stream of haters tweeting their anger, often with homophobic, racist and misogynistic slurs. At first I blocked them, but the effort became futile as they poured in every few seconds. This was similar to the anti-semitic attacks on Twitter that New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman, journalist Julia Ioffe and others have experienced from Trump’s alt-right warriors.
Many of those tweeting me had images of Trump or his campaign’s logo as their avatars or as the banner of their pages. A large number had renamed themselves with the word “deplorable” – “Deplorable Joe,” “Mr. Deplorable” and so on – taking Hillary Clinton’s accurate criticism of the bigots Trump has brought into his campaign and turning it into a badge of honor.
One of several threats of violence and death streamed in, including from “Boss Zogg,” who suggested, “One solution for freaks like u,” above an image of a man being thrown from a rooftop, in what looked like photos that have been identified as depictions of ISIS executioners killing gay men.
I reported some of the more threatening tweets to Twitter, but, in an effort to ascertain what drives these people, I engaged with a few of the less violent. I was interested in how they defended Trump, particularly against the most pointed descriptions of him, so I admittedly bombarded them with the list of terms: racist, bigot, hatemonger, deplorable, etc. In response to my calling Trump a racist, “Bitler” seemed incredulous, and like a few others, he asked for documentation, as if they’ve not been watching this entire election, and he clearly didn’t think anything Trump has said or done, from birtherism on down, revealed racism: “Prove he’s racist? Hasn’t said the nig word.”
The idea that Jimmy Fallon, as a late night comedy host, could choose whom he wants to speak to (and not), didn’t seem to dawn on most of them. Fallon of course is not a journalist expected to give equal time during an election, and like Seth Myers ― who’d banned Trump, and railed against him the other night ― he can make choices as an entertainer. These Trumpers however viewed this as issue of free speech and fairness, even as I focused on the threat presented by Donald Trump like no presidential candidate before.
They kept writing me over a period of days, and it continues. They’re quite confident Trump will win, tell me to get used to eight years in a new world with them in charge, and more than one let me know that they were allowing me to speak and would be in control of my freedom, so I had better accept Trump’s speech. As “Gallant Gallstone,” put it, “well, you’re a faggot, but we let you run your mouth, so why not Trump?”
“Deplorable Garrett” responded to my comment about losing respect for Fallon, with this: “I’m sure losing the respect of a faggot is causing him to lose sleep at night. Faggot.” Someone named “Ceasar” said, “Harvey Milk would have disowned you. You’re an embarrassment to faggots everywhere.” “DN” wrote “massive homo” with an arrow pointed at my name. “Deplorable Navy Vet” (@MrMrwhitefolks) commanded me to, “Grow up faggot and get over it.” “AR Sniper” said, “Any male who uses the term ‘normalizing of hate’ = fag.”
One guy offered $10,000 to my favorite charity if I would physically fight him.
“Shitlord,” who identifies himself as a member of the #AltReich, asked, “Are you a Jew?” Hours later, he asked again, “Are you a pig-faced boy?” The next day he wrote to say, “Jew detected.” (I’m happy to be Jewish on Twitter, but I think my name very clearly shows I’m as Italian as they come, revealing how the hate even defies basic logic.) Shitlord’s bio also says, “We identify as #AttackHelicopters.” This is a now well-known meme meant to mock sexual and gender identity.
A lot of the tweets came with images of Pepe the Frog, now a symbol of anti-Semitism among the alt-right, and many came with images of crying babies, mocking me for supposedly complaining. The onslaught was instructive, as many used the word “triggered,” sometimes just sending a tweet with that one word, or telling others, in describing me, “He’s been triggered.”
This is of course an expression of Trump’s attack on “political correctness,” mocking the language of college campus diversity codes and “trigger warnings.” The irony of this is that they are the ones who were triggered by a mere tweet, and, like most bullies, they’re so insecure and small that it drove them to engage in a hatefest.
Their own egos, like Trump’s, are so fragile, their own sense of masculinity so threatened, that they engage in acts of domination to be big again. They’re feeling completely empowered to do so by the bully-in-chief, Trump. And that was just the men. The few women who wrote aped the guys, sometimes sending out even nastier barbs, as if they’re trying to prove they can be just as ugly.
The anger and animus toward LGBT people from these Trump supporters – many of them young – belies the idiotic and dangerous media narrative that posits Trump as “more accepting on gay issues” than other Republicans. (To these Trump supporters, any mention Trump makes of “LGBTQ people” is acceptable, laughable pandering to win the election, as he wink-winks and nudge-nudges to them, as he has on other issues, from deportation to birtherism.) Some of the alt-right anti-LGBT haters’ imagery is bizarre, grotesque and fascinating at once. “Animal Cracker,” whose timeline includes tweets mocking gender neutral bathrooms and inclusiveness of LGBT people, has as his Twitter background (depicted at the top of this post) a swatstika in the colors of the rainbow flag, emblazoned within a circle of Jewish stars, all resting in the middle of a rainbow confederate flag.
“Boy Goy 14/88 Now,” while telling me that I consume “lengths of tube steak” ― derogatory military slang for a penis ― sent along an image depicting what he called, “The Evolution of Gay Rights,” which clearly exemplified the backlash against LGBT equality fueled by the very same resentment, anger and fear about a multi-cultural society that Trump has tapped into among millions of white Americans about immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women and others.
There is no question that many of the people who may very well elect Donald Trump ― particularly if third party candidates siphon off enough votes of millions of young people ― are as hellbent on rolling back LGBT rights as they are about rolling back much else. To them, making America great again also means shoving LGBT people back into the closet. And their zealousness shows they’ll do what they can to make sure Trump includes that in his radical, frightening realignment of the nation.