I recently had the opportunity to talk with the progressive hosts of the ChannelQ (Q for Queer) radio Let’s Go There, where the topic of conversation quickly moved from Twitter’s obligation to free speech to a fairly shocking and fascinating panel interview on why I, a gay person, supported Trump.
Although time was short, and I was outnumbered, I found the absolute confusion, and a level of judgment, interesting. There was a vocal pro-Trump LGBT movement that helped elect the president in 2016, strong supporters in media and in the president’s own leadership circle, and even a change in stance of support from the largest Republican LGBT group in the country. Yet the left is still perplexed.
The belief that President Trump is “anti-LGBT” is so deeply embedded in the national conversation that gay and trans people on the right are constantly being asked to justify their support. LGBT Trump supporters are held with deep suspicion.
This comes down to a very powerful, but conflicting narrative, repeated in leftwing and LGBT media, that the Trump administration has been dedicated to undermining LGBT progress. GLAAD, one of the oldest and most influential LGBT advocacy organizations, provides a list of over 100 examples of Trump’s “attacks” on LGBT Americans since becoming president. This is despite the efforts of many, including myself, to debunk these accusations, regardless of political support of the president.
Pro-Trump LGBT supporters do not necessarily base their support on how the progressive left defines “pro-LGBT” criteria. In fact, many view the accusations as intentionally misleading, arguing that the left’s position is the exact opposite of the truth.
Chris Barron, who co-founded gay conservative organization GOProud and who was previously the national political director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told me, “Donald Trump is the most pro-gay President in history. For Trump, this is nothing new, while Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden we’re supporting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, Trump was busy hiring, promoting and protecting his LGBT employees.”
"Donald Trump’s outspoken support for the gay community is unprecedented for a Republican president,” the former President of the Log Cabin Republicans, Gregory T. Angelo, succinctly explained, “and it defied what was considered accepted political convention. Before President Trump, engaging on gay issues was considered risky for Republican politicians, especially those seeking higher office. Trump flipped the script, and in so doing largely neutralized culture wars around issues like same-sex marriage.”
In contrast, Brad Polumbo, Deputy Opinion Contributors Editor for the Washington Examiner, told me "I was anti-Trump in 2016 and don't know if I'll vote for him in 2020 or not, partly because I'm not satisfied with his handling of the debt or trade. But,” he continued, “I really appreciate the way he has turned a new leaf on gay rights and gay acceptance in the GOP. He represents a new kind of Republican, and opens the door for people like me to belong in the party."
Like Polumbo, I was not a Trump fan in 2016, nor were The Log Cabin Republicans who did not endorse him that year. But The Log Cabin Republicans have changed their position, as have I and many others on the conservative side of the party.
The question to many, including my friendly, but confused progressive counterparts, is why?
Trump’s LGBT stance was not controversial to me in 2016. He is the first president to campaign and enter the White House while casually supporting same-sex marriage and general LGBT equality.
He appointed Richard Grenell, an openly gay man, as the ambassador to Germany and the acting Director of National Intelligence. He awarded Officer Crystal Griner, a lesbian woman, the Medal of Honor for saving Republican Congressman Steve Scalise’s life during a terrorist attack. He appointed and fought multiple Democratic efforts to confirm gay Patrick Bumatay to 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Trump has been vocal on the global persecution of LGBT. He launched an initiative to end the criminalization of homosexuality and he another to end HIV within 10 years, providing free prevention drugs nationwide.
All in all, for me as a gay person, Trump has been more than just a talking head spouting slogans and virtue-signaling soundbites. He has been active in not only positive advances for gay people but treats gay people in everyday life exactly as everyone else. True equality. There is no question he is a pro-gay leader.
But LGBT Republicans demand more from their leaders than just being advocates of LGBT-specific issues. The Log Cabin Republican website features pro-2nd Amendment advocacy, Jobs and the economy, Taxes and national security. For me, this is what switched my vote.
While I was suspicious of Trump as a conservative leader in 2016, moving towards the 2020 election I have seen him be a good president and a good leader. For advocates of Republican policy, Trump has largely been a strong and refreshing president. The president and the vice president, for the record, have never been a threat to LGBT Americans, but in truth, have advanced positive policies for all Americans equally.