The Queerness responds to Donald Trump’s election win and Brexit, and discusses what it means for LGBTQ+ rights as well as where we go from here.
Steph: In hindsight (always a wonderful thing!), I don’t really think that we should be surprised about how things have turned out. Europe has definitely been going to the right for some time, and progress is always met with a backlash. This vote, the vote on Brexit and the upcoming election in France isn’t about sticking it to the establishment, but about handing power back to the privileged. It’s a backlash against the progress of LGBTQ+ rights, about challenging racism and better migrant rights. I remember in France a few years back, the biggest protests the country had seen in decades had been because of the same-sex marriage law. It’s all part of the same thing: going after the progression of rights and any attempt to bring equality.
It’s not class, as much as many may like to think so. It’s about identity and nationalism. It was about taking back rights from people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, Muslim people and migrants. Let’s not forget that the Trump news buried the UN slamming the UK government for its treatment of disabled people. Trump didn’t promise better worker’s rights, he promised to stop Mexicans from getting white people’s jobs. Marginalised people are under attack.
Marcus: I quite agree. What we have learned in recent months is how when oppressed groups come under attack, we ALL suffer, which is why I was rather unimpressed by “#GaysForTrump”. We saw how, post-Brexit, LGBTQ+ hate crime soared 147%. Bigots felt that Brexit legitimised open hostility to migrants, Muslims and people of colour, some of whom who are of course LGBTQ+. But also those same people likely to harass or intimidate those groups also felt emboldened to attack LGBTQ+ people of any background.
This vote, the vote on Brexit and the upcoming election in France isn’t about sticking it to the establishment, but about handing power back to the privileged
Much has been made of the disenfranchised white working class which is misunderstood by the “political elite” which while there may be an element of truth, does not excuse hate crime in any shape or form, and there are POC and migrant working class people who face greater struggles. Study after study has shown the positive impact of migration. Our “political elite” are guilty of appealing to misinformed populist sentiment – I have heard people repeat utter nonsense about migration they have clearly read in the Daily Mail as fact – and by extension throwing minorities, including LGBTQ+ people, under a bus. Trump’s election is more of the same on a grander scale, and his choice of Mike Pence, as homophobic vice president who advocates for conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people means our American LGBTQ+ friends are in considerable danger. Yet already we are seeing mostly cis straight people in the media downplay this danger and suggest it won’t be so bad. The straightsplaining is horrific.
Karen: I do think it’s important to separate the specific dangers LGBTQ+ people in the UK face, and those in the US. Of course one hate crime is one too many, and many clearly felt empowered by the Brexit vote to play out their fear of the “other”. For some the move towards equality has been seen as a threat to some mythical “simpler times” and even the existence of visible LGBTQ+ people is somehow seen as a threat to how they believe the UK should be. However the situation in the US is not just on a grander scale, but a completely different level of threat. We have one of the most right-wing governments of modern times, but the very idea a minister would decide how LGBTQ+ people would be treated by the NHS is inconceivable. It must be remembered that it is American medical associations who have led the way in banning conversion therapy, we lag very far behind. They also led the way in self-identification of gender, and moving from a purely pathological model of treatment for trans people. Despite this Pence believes, using religion as his justification in ignoring medical evidence, scientific research, and the membership of a number of different regulatory bodies.
Steph: I think there is a difference between the UK and US but it’s overlapping. Those who voted for these changes may not like to think we live in a globalised world but we do. The consequences of our actions have much greater impact across the globe than ever before.
Our “political elite” are guilty of appealing to misinformed populist sentiment – I have heard people repeat utter nonsense about migration they have clearly read in the Daily Mail as fact – and by extension throwing minorities, including LGBTQ+ people, under a bus.
The US is largely following our trend of hate crimes post nationalistic vote, but we’ll only see how closely in a few months. The other thing is that the US has a pretty good idea of where it’s going but the UK does not. The EU brought us a lot of our rights, and it has especially upheld non-discrimination laws – when the Tories cry for cutting red tape they often mean “get rid of quotas, allow people not to bake gay cakes because of their religion, allow people to live according to conscience”. What’s left may well be something far more insidious than even LGBTQ+ UK Remainers believed would happen.
I think Marcus is absolutely spot on about straightsplaining too. Both heterosexual and cisgender people have kept urging for calm but their lives aren’t the ones on the line.
The Republicans will have to fight to overturn a lot of measures, this will be relatively straight forward (no horrific pun intended) but they will have to go through the legal faff of getting rid of rights. Whereas, with us, a lot of rights will simply cease to exist in the UK and they will have to be reintroduced and voted upon. The UK left has always been pretty weak to stand up to abuses. We’re disorganised at the best of times and it doesn’t feel like a safe space for many marginalised people but there’s a real risk that quite a lot of protections could be taken away without any fight whatsoever.
Globally, both the UK and US has completely failed LGBTQ+ migrants. We’ve stirred up major tension in the Middle East so that people are forced to leave their homes. Climate change is another massive factor in terms of migration and we’ve helped fuel that, and yet both of our records on LGBTQ+ migrants are frankly shocking, and now we’re going to be even more hardline.
In terms of foreign policy, the UK has a very delicate position. If Trump sides with Putin then that endorses a massively anti LGBTQ+ platform globally. If we are weak and side with them, then we can’t possibly push for better global LGBTQ+ rights in any meaningful way. The UK’s reaction to Trump will say as much about us as Brexit did, and unfortunately, I just don’t see us doing what’s right.
Marcus: I feel our rights are fragile and can be discarded to suit political machinations at a whim. I feel there is a renewed attitude from cis straight people in the media that they can be offensive as they like about us. Recently we’ve seen attacks with PrEP being described as a “lifestyle drug” and NHS England taking the unusual step of listing treatments that could lose out due to its funding. We’ve seen a high court judge described as “openly gay” in the Mail as though that is relevant to his decision with regards to Article 50. And we saw a straight British journalist logging onto Grindr to potentially out Olympic athletes for the clicks, and worst of all, the vicious attack on the Mermaids UK charity for trans youth. As we have same-sex marriage, our media can point to it with one hand and drag us through the mud typing an article with the other. As our media and politics move rightward, some feel emboldened to say what they like without a care whether it is oppressive or not.
Lee: If anything, the events of the last year have really taught us an important lesson about how none of us can afford to rest on our laurels and take what we have achieved for granted. This wave of right-wing populism sweeping the western world is a real and present danger to the civil rights and personal safety of millions of people. Yes, it’s a hideous situation but there really hasn’t ever been a more important time for people to organise; join a political party, stand for public office, protest, become a trade union activist. It’s not going to be an easy fight but it certainly isn’t one that any of us can just ignore.
In terms of foreign policy, the UK has a very delicate position. If Trump sides with Putin then that endorses a massively anti LGBTQ+ platform globally. If we are weak and side with them, then we can’t possibly push for better global LGBTQ+ rights
Steph: I think that’s massive, Lee, that people really are seeing that we have to actually bloody do something. I think complacency got us here. A lot of people saw that we had better rights and thought ‘that’s it, job done’ and now they are all under threat. The reaction to liberalism I have seen has been particularly interesting. Is it sincere or is it gatekeeping?
I have to admit though, that with Labour especially, I’ve lost a lot of faith in party politics. Corbyn (and Sanders) have been pandering to the anti-establishment narrative and I’ve lost a lot of faith. To me that shows that marginalised people have reason not to be fully confident in the movement. I can’t believe in a left that says that this is bad, but ignores why and secretly seems to consider any anti-establishment vote some kind of victory.
People do have to take action and get organised in any way that they can and our reach can go far beyond party politics. Protests can be expensive and inaccessible (not to mention many are not safe for people of colour and trans people) so come up with a way to do something from home whenever you’re well enough, no matter what it is. Letter writing, social media campaigns, whatever. We need a cultural revolution too. If you’re an aspiring writer, mathematician, artist, actor, whatever…if you like to play with yo-yos, it really doesn’t matter. Whatever your passion is try to blend it to challenge the fascist narratives that are starting to take root in our mainstream.
If anything, the events of the last year have really taught us an important lesson about how none of us can afford to rest on our laurels and take what we have achieved for granted.
Marcus: I too am disappointed in the responses of both Corbyn and Sanders. White people in the US across all income groups got Trump elected, so the narrative of the “left behind” working class facing economic anxiety is not the full story. And the situation for people who are working class but happen to be any combination of LGBTQ+ (particularly trans), of colour, Muslim or disabled is somewhat graver. 94% of black women voted for Clinton and their economic position is far behind that of white women – for many, Trump’s racism, misogyny, Islamophobia and ableism was not a deal-breaker.
I’ve talked to some people who have the means to attend protests and they feel jaded, even bringing up the failure of the Iraq war protests of 2002-2003. While I do think it’s important to get out there if safe and accessible, there has been denigration of social media campaigns and the idea that people only talk to an “echo chamber”. However our echo chambers are watched by mainstream media and our thoughts and ideas get lifted and picked up by them.
I’m seeing critical articles, for example, about white supremacy and the so-called “alt-right” (i.e. neo-Nazis) in mainstream outlets, conversations that weren’t taking place before. Unfortunately it took a Trump win for that to happen, but instead of sanitising neo-Nazis, the conversation I feel is becoming a little more transparent at the risks we face. It’s late in the day and echoes what’s been discussed on social media for years, but it’s having an impact.
Michael: Unfortunately, Sanders has expressed his support for Trump if he is willing to address the issues of corporate corruption and, subsequently, income inequality. In doing so, he is showing that he subscribes to Marxist ideologies over all else, as he is apparently willing to relegate issues of race, gender, and sexuality to a position of inferiority in comparison to class. Many so-called white “progressives” and/or “liberals” have seemingly done the same, portrayed with their willingness to rest on the sidelines or “give him [Trump] a chance” rather than stand against white nationalism/fascism prominently. Although, as Marcus stated, it is important that conversations are occurring within mainstream media outlets about the “alt-right” and its disastrous implications for the country. I just hope that these discussions will produce effects that ensure a strong unified force (minority groups as well as white progressives) against Trump’s presidency. Either way, it is going to be a tumultuous and dangerous four years ahead.