A 30-year-old Aussie recently approached me in Sydney and said the most ridiculous thing. After he proposed marriage and a move to the U.S. (not the most ridiculous part, incredibly), I mentioned the elephant in the conversation.
“But what about Donald Trump?”
“Actually, I’m a big fan of Donald Trump.”
His tone-deaf admission sent several shudders down my spine. How could he have brought up a visa exchange with that bombshell waiting to be dropped? If he were a few shades darker, he might not even be allowed into the U.S.
He didn’t stop there. He went on and on about what a pity it is that most guys like me are only visitors in Sydney.
Guys like me?
“It’s too bad that most black men you meet in Australia are only on holiday and don’t stay here,” he elaborated, clearly elated that I wasn’t one of “most.”
Seriously? Was he even aware of the immigration issue currently affecting the entire world and Trump’s role in it? Was he actually talking race and immigration in one sentence and Trump love in the next without even a hint of irony?
Clearly he was just a pretty face.
Despite the questions racing through my head, I didn’t ask him to explain himself. I didn’t argue with him. I just quietly dismissed him.
He was the fourth white Australian guy since the election who had pursued me in one breath and defended Trump in another. I’d probably never get used to them, but I was beginning to master the art of sending them on their way.
Despite the dismissal, the tough question lingered on my mind: How could a gay white man pursuing a gay black man praise Trump with a straight face? I had two possible explanations: Either a lifetime of white privilege had obliterated his better judgement, or his interest in black men had everything to do with sex and nothing to do with understanding where we’re coming from, both our struggles and our triumphs.
If you’ve never experienced true oppression because of something you couldn’t hide or force into the closet, if you’ve always been included in the immoral majority, if you are unable to see life outside of your own personal experience, of course, it’s easy to support someone who represents oppression and non-acceptance at its scariest. What do you have to lose?
I, however, have way too much to lose. As a gay man, as a black man, as the son of immigrants, as an immigrant myself, I consider Donald Trump to be the enemy. And his defenders are my enemies by default. I can’t just shrug my shoulders and say, “Support the President,” like Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, when he clearly doesn’t support me and so many people who matter to me.
(P.S. Anyone who knows anything about American history knows the role protest has played. Without it, gays still would be unable to marry, blacks still would be sitting at the back of the bus, women still would be unable to vote, and we would all still be British subjects. So please stop telling Trump’s opponents to shut up and just blindly support him and his actions because it’s the patriotic thing to do. “Freedom of speech” doesn’t only apply when it works in your favor.)
I couldn’t possibly have any kind of meaningful relationship with someone who can’t look outside of his own privileged existence and see what a danger Trump and his political cohorts are to the rest of us. As far as I’m concerned, “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump” is tantamount to “As long as I’m safe, who cares about everyone else?”
This is not about me hating people whose political ideology differs from mine. I’ve always side-eyed Democrats who shun Republicans just because they’re Republicans. I used to have a black acquaintance in New York City who was a Republican. I never agreed with a word he said, but I never came down on him for saying any of them.
I’ve heard much worse since then. How quaint our old complaints about George W. Bush seem now. Trump isn’t just a Republican. He is the antithesis of tolerant and accepting. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a Trump fan offer a reason for supporting him that didn’t involve fear, money or hating Hillary Clinton. I’ve never heard anything about his intelligence, his compassion, or his virtue.
I’ve gotten to the point where I’m able to tune them out without much effort. But when you are voicing your Trump support in one sentence and romantically pursuing me in the next, as if racial strife and racial oppression don’t exist, and as if Trump isn’t making both worse, then we’ve got a problem.
As the late, great Maya Angelou once said: “When people show you who they are believe them the first time.” Well, what about the second and third time? The 47th? Every time Trump appoints another racist or homophobic politician to a top post, he’s showing us exactly who he is.
When he imposes an arbitrary immigration ban on anyone entering the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries, he’s showing us who he is - and I believe him! I suspect Trump, who appears to think iconic 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass is still alive and well and building a social media following, has never even heard of Maya Angelou
I do concede that if you’re with Trump, it’s your prerogative to accept him, like him even. And it’s my prerogative to reject you for it, the same way your guy rejects pretty much all of my defining characteristics.
The one thing Trump has yet to take from us is the right to chose whom we sleep with – and I’m not so sure that isn’t coming. Until it does, love Trump all you want. But my lovin’? In the immortal words of En Vogue, you’re never gonna get it.