An exclusive extract from Chad Felix Greene's new book, "Without Context: Evaluating the Anti-LGBT Claims Against the Trump Administration." Order the book now.
On any given day, on any given topic related to LGBT, or the President, the following sentence is likely to be included in its many variations and forms, "The White House statement is consistent with the Trump administration's anti-LGBT actions, such as the transgender military ban, withdrawal of guidance to schools assuring transgender kids have access to the restroom consistent with their gender identity and actions taken in the name of 'religious freedom' seen to undermine LGBT rights." Each interview with a prominent LGBT advocate or leader inevitably includes a statement decrying the anti-LGBT motivations and actions of the Trump presidency.
It has become so intertwined with LGBT advocacy in the last four years it has become indistinguishable from all of their other causes. They appear to exist to oppose President Trump as their sole purpose. Whether denouncing the president for failing to recognize LGBT, recognizing LGBT, or even celebrating LGBT, the response is always the same. This singular mindset has driven much of the conversation surrounding LGBT experience in America and abroad and it defines the LGBT movement.
But is it a true and accurate perspective for the movement to have? With such a universally accepted narrative, there must be something to it, it would seem. The whole of the LGBT community couldn't possibly be this consistently outraged over nothing. This is the power of media and social media in particular, where a misleading headline can gather thousands of shares before a single person finishes reading the article its linked to. Fear, paranoia, and a movement built on opposition to Republicans and conservativism fuel this confirmation bias as a steady stream of validation.
Every LGBT media outlet confirms their worst fears. Every LGBT leader and activist repeat the same accusations, presented as facts, until they feel as though they must be true. Hundreds of thousands of LGBT individuals across social media share, like, and respond in outrage, horror, and cynical expectation to each headline, regardless of how false or misleading it might be. Scrolling through the comments on any given LGBT article on Facebook reveals an astonishing level of outrage, emotional distress, and lack of critical thinking. People simply respond to what they believe must be true and their collective outrage bonds them together as a community.
As each new story fades away to the newest outrage, all the individual can remember is how they felt each time they experienced it. Over time that memory becomes knowing and the individual finds themselves confident in their belief that it must be true. How could it not be with so much overwhelming evidence to support it? Haven't you seen the dozens and dozens of stories confirming it to be true for years?
Fighting back against the endless waves of narrative and rhetoric is like taking buckets of water from the ocean. It seems to simply never end. For the person who takes the time to read the article, the outrage can seem obscene and ridiculous on its face, but they quickly find reason and facts mean very little in our age of instant reaction and emotional validation. But for many, the truth does matter, and "truth" is more than a personal value or way of seeing the world. It's objective. It has context. It has real value.
As can be seen in a 2013 article by the Advocate, an LGBT magazine, titled "Have We Got Matthew Shepard All Wrong?" by Aaron Hicklin, who was reviewing a controversial book by gay author Stephen Jimenez, titled The Book of Matt. The book was a breakthrough in the Shepard narrative, revealing through extensive interviews and research that Shepard was likely the victim of a drug-related crime with men he had previously engaged in sex with, rather than the brutal anti-gay hate crime immortalized in his name.
Hicklin says, "All that soul-searching may have felt necessary, especially in light of the legislation the case inspired, but was it helpful in getting at the truth? Or did our need to make a symbol of Shepard blind us to a messy, complex story that is darker and more troubling than the established narrative?" He goes on, "There are valuable reasons for telling certain stories in a certain way at pivotal times, but that doesn't mean we have to hold on to them once they've outlived their usefulness."
Often what is true is less important than what matters to the larger story. Whether its misrepresenting the murder of a transgender person to touting a deeply flawed study with favorable results or openly lying about a legislative endeavor, LGBT media and advocacy seem perfectly comfortable with flexible ideals of facts and truth as long as it gets their larger argument across. The 'win at any cost' mindset dominating progressive thinking allows such flexibility and because they believe they are fighting for justice, it is, indeed, justified for them.
To understand how this mindset influences all areas of LGBT advocacy, and what the claims explored in this book are based on, I have included several underlying issues that underscore the reasoning behind the accusations of anti-LGBT motivation in the Trump administration. In each we see how the outrage has built up over time to where unfounded demands so often espoused by LGBT activists became viewed as common knowledge and self-validating. Every time LGBT issues are discussed, in LGBT media and mainstream media, we see common assertions that LGBT are "disproportionately impacted" or are "overwhelmingly harmed by" or most insidious, "more likely to experience." I explore how these myths became so pervasive.