Twenty-Six Months Later…: A Blog by Hank Trout

A Follow-Up to “Fighting for Our Lives — Again!"

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On 11 November 2016, two days after the presidential election and one day after I attended an anti-Trump rally and march here in San Francisco, A&U published a blog I wrote, “Fighting for Our Lives — Again!” In that blog, I celebrated the rally and march, organized by my friends Cleve Jones and Gregg Cassin—a 10,000-people-strong demonstration of our frustration at the outcome of the election. LGBTQ folks, women, undocumented immigrants, drag queens and leathermen, elderly straight folks, young kids, African Americans, Latinos—all of us, the marginalized people who most feared the coming administration. I remarked how reminiscent it was of all the times, all the many, many times, over the last thirty-five years I have marched down Castro Street, “chanting, fighting for money for research into AIDS, fighting for access to life-saving medicines, fighting for OUR LIVES.”

I also detailed what I believed to be all the reasons to fear the Trump/Pence cabal—their stated opposition to marriage equality; their plan to pass “religious freedom” laws; their opposition to the repeal of DADT, to the repeal of DOMA, to ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), to AIDS funding, to including sexual orientation in hate-crime laws, to the ACA (which eliminated discrimination against HIV as a “pre-condition”), and to LGBTQ folks serving in the military.

At the time the blog was published, about half the response was along the lines of “Oh, Trout, you’re such an alarmist! Things can’t get that bad! No one would allow it.”

It gives me no pleasure to assert that I was right. I assure you, I heartily wish I had been wrong.

Consider —

In July 2017, Trump issued, via Twitter ferchrissakes, his first ban on transgender folks serving in the military. In August 2017, the White House finalized the actual policy behind those tweets. The administration would return to the pre-2016 era in which trans troops could not serve openly. It would also ban the military from paying for gender-affirming surgeries. After several court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court—with two Trump appointees, who are among the most draconian conservative judges in the country—permitted the anti-transgender policy to remain in effect while other cases challenging it proceed through the courts. And as of this writing, the armed services, under order from the orange fascist, are purging HIV-positive service members. It is a pogrom based entirely on fear, bad science, and bigotry. Of course—it’s a Trump policy.

In August 2018, the Trump/Pence/Sessions Department of Justice announced the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force. The cabal has also lent great support to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. With increasing frequency, we are seeing individuals and institutions claiming a right to discriminate—by refusing to provide services to LGBTQ people—based on supposed religious objections. The administration filed “friend of the court” briefs in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in favor of the baker’s “religious right” to discriminate against gay couples, as well as in other discrimination cases in federal courts.

This cabal hasn’t even tried to hide its anti-LGBTQ actions. These actions include rescinding Obama-era nondiscrimination regulations that provided some protections to LGBTQ people and federal LGBTQ workers, appointing anti-LGBTQ judges, promoting religious refusal discrimination against LGBTQ people and same-sex couples through executive branch actions, throwing out HIV-positive members of the service, attempting to repeal and undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—which cut the uninsured rate among LGBTQ people in half—and many other actions which will undermine LGBTQ people’s health and well-being.

[For a full examination of the Trump/Pence cabal’s anti-LGBTQ actions, I refer you to Boston’s Fenway Health’s report “One year in, Trump Administration amasses striking anti-LGBT record” at https://fenwayhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Fenway-Institute-Trump-Pence-Administration-One-Year-Report.pdf.]

This most bigoted and petty of presidents has even refused to recognize June as Gay Pride Month as presidents have done since the 1990s.

There can be no doubt, no argument, that this petty, hateful, dishonest, vengeful, purposely ill-informed, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, womanizing, and in every other way that I can imagine despicable president must be driven from office—through impeachment, through resignation, through the 25th Amendment, I don’t care, he must GO AWAY.

And yet, as much as this president worries and frightens me, as much damage as he has done and continues to do to the country and its citizens, he looks absolutely saintly compared to our dissembling, bigoted, insanely religious vice president.

For all his calm, subdued, grandfatherly demeanor, Mike Pence is one of the most hateful anti-LGBTQ bigots in the country. In my earlier blog, I detailed how, as Governor of Indiana, Pence closed five Planned Parenthood clinics, leading to a completely preventable outbreak of HIV since the PP clinics were the only places to get HIV tests. I detailed also how when Pence was in the House of Representatives, he fought to DEFUND the Ryan White CARE Act—which effectively would have killed ADAP, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which I and nearly 250,000 other U.S. citizens depend upon for our lives. To make matters worse, he proposed diverting the CARE Act money to “those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior”—in other words, to pay for the highly discredited, cruel, unusual, and punitive fraud of “conversion therapy.”

Absolutely horrifying to me is the fact that Pence is one of the country’s most public Christian Dominionists. Dominionism, or Dominion Theory, consists of Christian political ideologies that seek to institute a nation governed by Christians according to their interpretation of scripture. As if that weren’t enough to scare the bejeebus out of you, Christian Dominionists are also known for gleefully looking forward to “the Rapture,” the “End Times,” when all of Earth will be destroyed and the good Christians will all be sucked up into the sky to “Kumbaya” with their imaginary friends—or something like that. There is every reason to believe that Pence, a Dominionist to the core, is behind the creation of the Religious Liberty Task Force and behind the cabal’s amicus briefs in support of religious discrimination. As president, he would surely go further if allowed.

It’s no small matter that Karen “Mother” Pence, the country’s “Second Lady,” teaches at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia, the religious school where the Pences sent their daughter. Immanuel denies admission to LGBTQ students, to students with LGBTQ parents, and to anyone who even condones “sexual immorality, homosexual activity, or bisexual activity.” The school’s employment policies are equally outrageous, requiring that employees prove that they oppose “homosexual or lesbian sexual activity” or “transgender identity.” Their bigoted hatred is codified in their admission and hiring policies—and the Pences are among their most vocal supporters. The vice president called criticism of his wife’s teaching at Immanuel “deeply offensive to us”—oblivious to how deeply offensive to millions it is for the vice president’s wife to work for such a bigoted anti-LGBTQ institution.

For me, the three scariest words in the English language are “President Mike Pence.” The very thought terrifies me to the core of my being.

Imagine, if you can stomach the notion, a Christian Dominionist President Pence, with his bully pulpit and a compliant, complicit Republican Senate, enacting laws prohibiting LGBTQ men and women from teaching in public schools, or serving in the armed forces, or accessing needed medical care. Imagine a Christian Dominionist President Pence working to close every Planned Parenthood clinic in the country, attempting to defund the Ryan White CARE Act and PEPFAR and every other HIV-related program in the country. Imagine Christian Dominionist President Pence proposing federal laws that codify the right of religious wingnuts to discriminate at will against LGBTQ folks, repealing anti-“panic defense” laws, enacting federal laws that criminalize HIV, hardening policies that prevent HIV-positive men and women from serving in the military, removing protections for LGBTQ folks in employment and housing, enacting laws that protect schools and hospitals and doctors and dentists and accountants and cake bakers and venue managers and restaurants from charges of discrimination.

And most terrifying of all, imagine Christian Dominionist President Pence, who lovingly looks forward to the end of the world, controlling our nuclear arsenal.

Pence must never be allowed to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If anyone reading this rant thinks I’m being “alarmist,” I must concur—you’re right, I am being as alarmist as I can be. I mean to warn everyone to be on guard against the hatred and bigotry of the Trump/Pence cabal. In my 2016 blog, I asked, “Haven’t we learned by now never to underestimate the hateful vindictive bigotry of Republicans who get power?”

Trump and Pence have proven my assessment to be right. Our only alternative now is to fight them tooth-and-nail with every bit of strength we have. Here we are, fighting for our rights against the most bigoted, hateful, rabidly anti-LGBTQ administration in U.S. history. This is a fight that all of us must join – LGBTQ folks, African-Americans and all people of color, Latinos, migrants both documented and non-, the elderly, the very young, white-collar professionals and blue-collar laborers, HIV-positive folks and the doctors and nurses who care for us—we must fight as if our lives depend upon it.

They do.

Again!