For a State of the Union to Be Taken Seriously, You Need to Be a Leader for All People

For A State Of The Union To Be Taken Seriously You Need To Be A Leader for All People

Tuesday night, Donald Trump went before Congress and delivered his first State of the Union address –– I didn’t watch. What good does it serve to watch a man read off a teleprompter a few sweet-sounding words about unity after he has spent his political career trying to divide us? Trump has called neo-Nazis marching with torches “very fine people,” labeled Mexican immigrants as rapists and gang members, and called African nations and Haiti “shithole countries.”

Trump is a sexual harasser and abuser, a racist, and a white supremacist. He is erratic, dishonest, and antidemocratic. He works to ignore or undermine the Constitution he is sworn to uphold. Trump has morally and ethically vacated the office of the president.

Trump’s ability to read nice-sounding words and look kindly into the camera doesn’t change the fact that he has vacated the responsibilities of the presidency. He walked away from his duty to protect transgender students in our schools and transgender service members in the armed forces. He has neglected his duties to devote resources to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, leaving thousands of Americans without water or electricity.

Instead of working to unite this country, he is actively looking to tear us apart with his push to give every right-wing bigot a license-to-discriminate against any member of the LGBTQ community.

Trump isn’t acting presidential, and we can’t pretend he is; that’s why last Friday, during the Creating Change conference State of the Movement speech, I announced that the National LGBTQ Task Force will no longer refer to him with the title of president. We will refer to him as Trump, or businessman Trump — maybe some other things — but he has simply not lived up to the responsibilities or role.

Trump’s bigoted actions matter, his ignorant words matter, and he is encouraging a climate that has serious consequence. On January 22, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, in its 2017 annual report, noted that it had recorded 52 hate related homicides of LGBTQ people and people with HIV — an 86 percent increase from the year before and is the highest number ever recorded by the report. That is a rate of one murder a week of someone in our community. Twenty-two of these homicides were of transgender women of color, and 71 percent of the murders were people of color.

From activists in Massachusetts and Anchorage, Alaska, fighting against ballot initiatives that would strip away the rights of transgender people to the Supreme Court deciding whether a business can deny us services, too many are trying to drag us back. Since the National LGBTQ Task Force was founded in 1973, we have fought against bigotry and worked for liberation. Now, 45 years later, we want Trump to know, we are here, we are queer, and we are not going to let this country go backwards.

Our job as LGBTQ people is to create the community we want to see in the world.

While Trump’s State of the Union will be the story of the day, our job is not to be be distracted by it or by his latest tantrum, lie, tweet, or legal issue. We need to stay focused on the real threats to our LGBTQ and progressive progress from both the Trump administration and actions at the state and local levels.

Now more than ever, to ensure a future for freedom and justice, all politics is local and the personal is political. Each and every one of us can make change for ourselves and our communities. Where we are able, we can be visible as out, loud LGBTQ people. We can help each other to register to vote, and we can run for office ourselves, like Del. Danica Roem in Virginia and Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins in Minneapolis. This year’s midterm election will be truly historic, and it’s up to you and me to ensure that our lives are taken into account and our vision for full freedom, justice, and equality is realized. That’s true leadership.

REA CAREY is the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, and you can find her on Twitter at @Rea_Carey.

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