According to Donald Trump, June is National Homeownership Month, National Ocean Month, African-American Music Appreciation Month, and Great Outdoors Month.
Missing from that list? Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.
For each of the last eight years, President Barack Obama — for whom we both worked — proclaimed June as LGBT Pride Month. In so doing, President Obama and his administration celebrated and affirmed our community.
While proclamations may seem pro forma, they go through meticulous review. With our colleagues from across departments, we sweated over the finer points of every proclamation, making sure to get the framing and language just right. They needed to be substantive but also easily digestible to readers who weren’t steeped in policy. Each was a labor of love, an attempt to be as inclusive, comprehensive, and progressive as possible.
Over the eight years of the Obama administration, our community saw the progress that we had long been denied. Each year, we had more to celebrate — and so the LGBT Pride proclamation grew wordier and longer. By his last year in office, President Obama’s Pride proclamation included a full three paragraphs that attempted to cover the depth and breadth of this progress, from marriage equality to international human rights, from prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors to opposing the horrific practice of conversion therapy.
These proclamations weren’t just words on a sheet of paper; they represented the word of the president, a hard copy guarantee of his support for equality. Each year, we printed more copies and shared them with visitors to the White House. We knew the power of these words, especially outside the sometimes-jaded confines of the Washington Beltway. Across America, LGBT community centers — even in the most rural and conservative regions of the country — posted these proclamations in their windows. Advocates and activists who had labored for generations to secure legal and political change framed and proudly displayed these documents in their offices and homes. Young people would stumble across the president’s words on social media and feel not just proud but affirmed, knowing that their lives were valued by the president of the United States.
Donald Trump has nothing to offer them.
In fact, despite his campaign pledges to be a friend to the LGBT community, Trump’s administration has shown open hostility to the rights of LGBT Americans. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos yanked back historic guidance that clarified the rights of transgender students. President Trump nominated an Army secretary who once said transgender people have a “disease.” In the face of horrific violence against men believed to be gay in Chechnya, the Trump administration has been mostly feckless. And where we previously had many out and proud LGBT appointees across the federal government, we now have far-right and alt-right social conservatives who are systematically gutting the policies and protections LGBT people rely on.
Indeed, given his track record thus far, we would have been more surprised if Donald Trump had issued a Pride proclamation. More empty words from an administration that is fundamentally hostile to our existence and rejects our equality would be poorly received by a community that knows its worth and power.
Our community’s march toward equality, like the struggle of other oppressed communities, has always been a long-term proposition. For eight years, we were lucky to have an ally in the White House who used every tool at his disposal — from pressing Congress to executive actions to speeches and proclamations — to advance our cause. But for however long Donald Trump occupies the Oval Office, we will continue our march unabated and heed this reminder from President Obama’s final LGBT Pride Month proclamation:
There remains much work to do to extend the promise of our country to every American, but because of the acts of courage of the millions who came out and spoke out to demand justice and of those who quietly toiled and pushed for progress, our Nation has made great strides in recognizing what these brave individuals long knew to be true in their hearts — that love is love and that no person should be judged by anything but the content of their character. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, as Americans wave their flags of pride high and march boldly forward in parades and demonstrations, let us celebrate how far we have come and reaffirm our steadfast belief in the equal dignity of all Americans.
We will continue to wave our flags of pride high and march boldly forward. We hope you will join us.
SHIN INOUYE (@Shin_Inouye) was director of specialty media in the Obama White House Office of Communications, where he handled LGBT issues, from 2009 to 2014. GAUTAM RAGHAVAN (@gauragDC) was LGBT liaison and advisor in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement from 2011 to 2014.