Trump's Special Snowflakes

Co-authored by Anne Balay PhD, visiting assistant professor, Haverford College.

Following the Orlando massacre's call for blood donations, there's a re-evaluation of restrictions on blood donations by gay men who, in shock from the loss of friends, loved ones, and LGBTQ community members, were unable to share their most personal and meaningful resource -- their blood.

Blood donation is one of many disproportionate governmental restrictions on poor and queer folks.

Government oversight is uneven -- poor people, blue-collar workers, and queers are subject to much more surveillance and regulation than more privileged humans. We see the current attempt to modify the donation rules for gay men as an attempt to shift them from a stigmatized group to a valued one.

We study truck drivers and other working-class queers, and though it feels good to see gay men upgraded, we hope the Orlando massacre fuels a broader revolution. This massacre targeted young Latinx queers -- it would be cruelly ironic if its main beneficiaries are relatively privileged white gay men.

Blue collar and queer people are subject to disproportionate, inhumane amounts of government oversight. We have written about how truck drivers are managed by a complex web of regulations. It seems like every week, the Department of Transportation considers adding more surveillance, such as driver-facing cameras, medical monitoring, and sleep scheduling technologies. Queer people (who as a group are disproportionately poor) also face excessive legal oversight over such categories as sex work, HIV/AIDS, and now marriage.

Because they already feel the strong hand of the government exerting itself in all aspects of daily life, these people often reject social movements -- gun control, welfare, free college, and restrictions on business and trade -- that increase government oversight. Trump speaks to these blue collar and queer people by invoking the neoliberal legacy of Reagan: personal responsibility replacing government regulation.

Perhaps the Democratic party and progressive liberals would understand why Trump appeals to 13.8 million individuals if they understood that not only are blue collar and queer people disproportionately affected by government oversight, but also that they are passed over by government policies that are protectionist. Policies like affirmative action and gay marriage feel like "special rights" extended to "special snowflakes." Trump appeals to this resentment by mocking demands for "political correctness."

Bathroom bills are the perfect example -- trans people and their allies hope to protect gender variant people who seek to use the bathroom of their choice. Others see this as an attempt to protect a few spoiled people who think their right to "expression" outweighs the comfort and safety of everyone else.

Even dogs have more social capital than truckers. You cannot leave a dog in a closed vehicle but you can truckers. Legislation forbids truckers from idling their engines, so to be safe they have to sleep with closed windows and no air conditioning. Some die.

Trump speaks both to people who feel that the government increasingly protects minorities and freaks, and to people who experience exaggerated amounts of government oversight and therefore resist any more.

To be clear, we agree with the policies that we've discussed and support Affirmative Action, gay marriage, etc. but seek a new way to protect and not interfere with the lives of blue collar and queer people.

This is where Trump gets it wrong. Trump makes working people and others who are disenfranchised feel like "special snowflakes" too. They have felt invisible and devalued, and he assures them that others will no longer corrode their rights, their jobs, and their way of life.

But that "rights discourse" only goes so far. What if the Orlando massacre opens up blood donation to gay men? This so-called progress would fail to change underlying structures: other groups unable to donate blood would have to mount their own rights battles. And attacks like the Orlando massacre may still occur because we haven't addressed the underlying anger that fuels them.

Extending rights to a disenfranchised group is not wrong . . . but it is not and will never be enough. The experiences of blue-collar queers suggest that we need instead to examine both who the government protects and who it regulates, and radically redistribute both. If we don't rise to the occasion, Trump will.

Anne Balay, a visiting assistant professor at Haverford College, is the author of "Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers" and a former long-haul trucker.

Mona Shattell is the chair of the department of community systems and mental health nursing at Rush University College of Nursing, Chicago, IL.