America just elected a homophobe-in-chief.
Over the past few years, LGBTQ Americans have seen our rights advance, with the passage of marriage equality, the end of the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and heightened visibility for transgender people. Now, all that could be reversed with the election of Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence.
There’s a lot of confusion about President-elect Trump’s views on queer issues. In his RNC speech, he said he “will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens,” yet his statements in interviews over the past year contradict this claim. On marriage equality, Trump said in a January interview that he could “see changes coming down the line” with the Supreme Court and, over the summer, he said that transgender rights should be left to the states to decide, a la North Carolina.
Then there’s Vice President-elect Pence. During his time in office, Pence signed off on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that made it permissible to discriminate against queer people on the basis of one’s religious beliefs. In 2013, he even signed a bill to make it felony for same-sex couples to marry in Indiana. Most frightening, though, is his support of conversion therapy, a practice that aims to “cure” homosexuality and has been disavowed by every major medical organization in America.
LGBTQ people are your daughters and sons. We are your siblings and cousins. We are your co-workers and friends. Even if you don’t think you know an LGBTQ person, you know an LGBTQ person. Now, with a Republican-controlled Congress and vacancy on the Supreme Court, there is a real threat that our victories will be reversed and our rights will be walked back.
Yet, you don’t have to wait for Trump’s administration to take office to roll up your sleeves. There are concrete and practical steps you can take to support queer people starting today to ensure our physical safety and to make sure that organizations will have the resources to fight discrimination and to educate others about what we’re up against.
Be physically present for us. Gender nonconforming and transgender Americans already face disproportionate violence and criminalization across the country, which has been exacerbated by laws dictating which bathrooms they can use. Similarly, those of us in same-sex partnerships still face violence and harassment when we are together. You can offer to accompany LGBTQ people to the bathroom, walk with us outside, sit next to us on the subway and stand beside us in other spaces to ensure that we have an ally who can provide a physical presence in unsafe spaces.
Donate to LGBTQ organizations and people. If Trump and Pence do what they say, queer organizations will be gearing up for legal battles. You can ensure that these organizations can do this work by throwing them some coin. Check out Lambda Legal, the New York City Anti-Violence Project and the Lorena Borjas Community Fund, which provides funding to bail out queer detainees. If you want to donate directly to LGBTQ people, you can search GoFundMe for those raising funds for transition-related healthcare, which is not covered by most insurance.
Get involved with your school board or PTA. Parents, this one’s for you. The Supreme Court will hear its first transgender case this spring about Gavin Grimm, a 17 year-old transgender boy who is fighting for the right to use the male restroom at school. Grimm’s case will decide the fate for transgender young people across the country, while Trump has said he would rescind existing guidelines that advise schools to allow trans kids to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. But, you don’t have to wait for that to happen. Agitate on your PTA committees and before your school boards about their policies for transgender students. Are there gender-neutral restrooms at your school? What are the policies for locker rooms and sports teams? And, are teachers and administrators actively supporting LGBTQ student alliances? Even if you don’t have an LGBTQ-identified kid yourself, you can help bring attention to their safety.
Recognize that queer people also face racism and other forms of discrimination. Trump has used racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric during the duration of his campaign, which has resulted in an uptick in hate crimes. LGBTQ people of color face homophobia, transphobia and misogyny that is racialized, meanwhile queer Muslims face profiling as both Muslims and LGBTQ people. We can amplify the voices of queer people of color by sharing their stories and statuses and centering them in LGBTQ spaces. Learning about intersectional identities is just one click away.
Become LGBTQ culturally-competent in your field. If you are a doctor, lawyer, teacher, waiter or in virtually any field, you can educate yourself to provide competent care to queer people, use the correct language when coming into contact with us and volunteer your skills to help us. It is difficult to find doctors who can meet our specific healthcare needs, but there are resources you can use to educate yourself. If you are a lawyer, you can volunteer your legal skills to help us navigate the criminal justice system or to acquire accurate documentation. And, if you work in any field, you can educate yourself about correct terminology and always be on the look out for bullying, harassment and violence.
Contact your local lawmakers. The backlash against queer rights isn’t just happening federally. North Carolina’s bill, which walked back LGBTQ protections and made it illegal for trans people to use the appropriate bathroom, was a bill passed by legislators who were elected at a local level. Find out who your local representatives are and where they stand on LGBTQ rights. Then, give their office a call.