There's No Such Thing as a Silent Ally

Ivanka Trump

There is no such thing as a silent ally. But Ivanka Trump would like very much if you’d forget that. 

She and her husband, Jared Kushner, want credit for scuttling an anti-LGBT executive order that was under construction by her dad, the president of the United States. The Donald went through all the drama of drafting up an executive order that would've overturned President Obama's ban on discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.

Luckily, President Trump’s executive order never got signed. And the strong implication from news reporting is we’re supposed to thank Ivanka. “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Worked to Sink LGBT Order,” read the headline at Politico.

This is becoming a regular thing. During the transition, Al Gore praised Ivanka Trump for trying to raise the issue of climate change with her dad, who pals around with those who claim it’s a hoax. The first daughter got lots of good press, once again sparked by Politico, that seemed to distance her from Dad. Then the president chose a climate change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and his agencies began scrubbing government websites of information about it.

The media also has a habit of pointing out that Jared Kushner is an Orthodox Jew and that Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism to suggest the president ought to be immune from recurring accusations of anti-Semitism. It’s as if Donald Trump doesn’t have a conscience, instead he has a daughter.

This latest episode reminds me of when Trump mentioned LGBT people during his Republican National Convention speech. Trump told the crowd he opposed mass murder of LGBT people. Sorry if I didn’t jump up in my seat to cheer. I guess I didn’t realize my murder was an “issue,” with two sides.

No one is celebrating now as the president promises not to overturn the Obama order and instead focuses on whether to turn my marriage’s existence into a mirage. The Trump administration has drafted yet another order, this one on “religious freedom,” and again leaked it the press so everyone would know it happened.

This order won't ban same-sex marriage. President Trump can’t do that from the Oval Office. Instead it would make my marriage’s existence optional. Whether I’m married would depend on who I’m talking to in the federal government.

The way these “religious freedom” laws work is twisted. Basically, if you sincerely believe Jesus was a bigot, then you can opt out of recognizing that I’m married to my husband. So, if for example, I ever want to foster-adopt more children, I could go to Catholic Charities and — oops, not married. Instead, I could walk over to Extraordinary Families (the agency I actually used), and presto, I’m married again.

The right keeps adding categories of “deniers.” They’ve already got climate change deniers, and worse, Holocaust deniers. Now they’re marriage deniers.

Signing a "religious freedom" order would be several levels worse than undoing Obama's executive order. A queer solidarity protest was held Saturday outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Next weekend it’s our turn in Los Angeles, with an event held at the Black Cat, where a protest against police brutality 50 years ago led to the founding of The Advocate.

At the New York protest, no one was carrying a big “thank you” sign for Ivanka Trump. (And it probably goes without saying, she wasn’t there.) Let’s face it, Ivanka and Jared are no Sasha and Malia. President Obama credited his daughters when explaining why he’d evolved and supported same-sex marriage in the middle of a reelection campaign. Then the Obama administration joined LGBT activists in arguing for marriage equality at the Supreme Court. This Trump episode feel quite different. If it's true that family can affect policy, then Sasha and Malia made advances instead of merely stopping backtracks.

This Trump thing is a little like a bully threatening to take your lunch money, then wanting a pat on the back when he decides against it.

And that analogy really only works if your lunch money is worth as much as your civil rights. And if the bully still reserves the right to steal from you whenever he wants.

This whole shenanigan is reminiscent of what Betsy DeVos is trying to pull to get confirmed as Education secretary. Rex Tillerson tried it before her. Now he's secretary of State. Both relied on a weird PR strategy in which surrogates claimed they were overlooked as LGBT allies.

In our defense, it’s pretty easy to overlook allies who never say anything supportive out loud, in the presence of a reporter or recording device.

DeVos could have said something during her confirmation hearing. Senators asked repeatedly about her family’s donations to anti-LGBT groups. In response, DeVos said, “I fully embrace equality.” I guess we're supposed to take her word for it?

DeVos never said “gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender” or even the acronym “LGBT” during her entire confirmation hearing. The New York Times later published an odd story: “Betsy DeVos, a Friend of L.G.B.T. Rights? Past Colleagues Say Yes.” It came with a telling disclaimer: “Ms. DeVos declined to comment for this article.”

DeVos apologists point to her answer on conversion therapy. DeVos told senators she "never believed in that." 

Not believing in conversion therapy doesn’t make you an ally, it makes you a bystander. An ally would’ve said they support outlawing the use of conversion therapy on minors, as several states have already done.

Allies speak up for you, and they want everyone to hear it. If all your support happens behind closed doors, then you want credit where credit isn’t due.

Tillerson surrogates spread a story that he’d been a vocal backer of the Boy Scouts allowing gay troops and troop leaders. Never mind that Tillerson presided as Boy Scouts president over the dismissal of numerous LGBT people from the Scouts. When the policy changed, he'd already left the job. In none of these stories does anyone cite a public comment made by Tillerson. All lobbying was done in private. 

Tillerson, as CEO of ExxonMobil, actually led the company as it repeatedly voted against including sexual orientation in its antidiscrimination policy. He was CEO when the Human Rights Campaign gave the oil company an unprecedented negative score on its Corporate Equality Index. 

The media ought to let LGBT people define "ally." Only the mainstream is suckered into believing that opposing mass murder of LGBT people is progress. Only straight people are impressed that Trump hasn’t made our marriage licenses dependent on the eye of the beholder. 

I’ll be impressed when Tillerson goes to the United Nations and says “gay rights are human rights.” I’ll be impressed when DeVos issues guidance to schools that reiterates it’s wrong to force transgender kids to use segregated bathrooms. I’ll be impressed when Trump says he’s evolved and supports same-sex marriage.

If the first daughter wants to be seen as a hero for LGBT rights (and even that much is unconfirmed) then she ought to say something in public about how opposed she is to discrimination against LGBT people. She ought to say on the record that it’s immoral to fire anyone for displaying a wedding photo on their desk. She ought to support the Equality Act. Because without her father signing that legislation, it’s actually still legal in numerous states to be fired for being LGBT. It’s also legal to be turned away when trying to rent a home, and more. 

While the Ivanka-Trump-as-hero quotes were being leaked to the press, her jewelry and shoe lines were being axed from Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Activists are targeting a list of retailers that they want to stop selling Ivanka Trump’s wares.

Here is where being an ally gets difficult, especially if your last name is Trump. Showing support for LGBT rights won’t make activists suddenly OK with blaming Mexican immigrants for rust belt economic woes or blaming Muslims for the existence of terrorism. No one will forget that Syrian refugees are dying and that President Trump has barred the door.

LGBT people and our real allies won’t forget our principles. We’re for inclusion and against demagoguery. We’re against all incarnations of discrimination. We’re not shy about saying so.

If Ivanka Trump wants to be an ally, then she must at least say so. For starters, I emailed an interview request to the White House. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.

Lucas.grindleyx100LUCAS GRINDLEY is the editor in chief of The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @lucasgrindley or on Facebook.

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