It has been just over two years since President Trump first called for a ban on transgender service members serving in any capacity in our armed forces. Writing for Massachusetts’s CommonWealth Magazine in the aftermath, I praised our Republican allies who had the courage to speak out while denouncing those who I saw to be “fairweather friends.” These friends, I wrote, only cared to pay lip service to our community when it was politically convenient, all the while ignoring or openly advancing policies which would lead to our demise through “death by a thousand papercuts.”
I wrote from experience. As the only openly transgender elected official within the Republican Party and one such individual involved with Log Cabin Republican efforts to push the Trump administration on the need for a transgender student guidance, I saw firsthand the unique struggles of fighting for queer equality from the right. And while I maintain that lasting equality requires a genuine cultural shift buoyed by bipartisan support, I learned that acceptance within Republican circles takes two forms — a genuine respect for the individual to live their life free from oppression or a hollow politeness that extends only as far as your value.
During my time spent with Log Cabin Republicans, I’ve come to know many who share my views on finding success in unlikely places and the rightful merit in questioning cultural stereotypes. There exist many of us who wish to see acceptance take root in the Republican Party. However, with the news of our recent endorsement of President Trump for reelection, it seems that the “premier Republican organization for LGBTQ+ conservatives” couldn't care less about which form of acceptance qualifies as passable allyship and would instead willfully embrace an administration notorious for hollow words, fairweather friends, and a seemingly endless number of cuts for us to endure.
On the surface, this endorsement ignores the reality of what it means to be queer in our current political climate. It speaks more to a mentality of partisan tribalism than a sincere commitment to fostering inclusion within the Republican Party. With this endorsement, we turn a blindeye to the plights and fears of our colleagues in the queer movement and embrace an administration that has consistently antagonized the LGBTQ+ community through an endless array of rollbacks and rule changes.
We have alienated our peers and further marginalized our relevancy as a queer organization. As is already being seen, we have become increasingly ostracized since making the announcement and with it, our good faith ability to argue the merits of conservative and Republican-focused outreach — a form of outreach many of us see as vital in establishing lasting equality. We will be remembered for this endorsement well after Trump leaves office, and whether or not we want to admit the damage done, we have irreparably weakened our ability to contribute a conservative voice to the broader queer discourse of tomorrow.
In 2016, Log Cabin Republicans had no qualms withholding a formal endorsement of Donald Trump, citing “sufficient uncertainty” about what such a presidency would look like. In the past three years, we’ve now endured attempts to rollback our rights from the Department of Defence, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and numerous other agencies. Whether it be an outright opposition to the Equality Act, persistent attempts to implement a transgender military ban, or an endless slew of plans and proposed rule changes opening our community up to enhanced discrimination, we unquestionably know now what a Trump presidency looks like. With that, it seems that while we shun uncertainty, we have little objection to open hostility.
While I applaud the administration for wanting to put an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic within 10 years and pushing other nations to decriminalize homosexuality, these lofty goals hardly justify an endorsement when each month presents a new assault against our liberties. Whether it be intentional or mistakingly, we have allowed ourselves to be blinded by these claims while the administration appoints individuals and governs in a way contrary to actually satisfying these goals.
Even more alarmingly, we have missed an opportunity to coalesce around a respectable candidate with a proven track record of being a queer ally. During a recent trip to New Hampshire, President Trump exclaimed that voters would have “no choice but to vote for me.” This statement, while alarmingly authoritarian in tone, is also wholly inaccurate. We had another option. At any point in this process, we could have considered the endorsement of former Massachusetts Governor William Weld.
An endorsement of Weld would have not only allowed us to retain our ideological souls, but would have been consistent with the principles we once held dear. In 2003, Weld was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the New York chapter of Log Cabin Republicans for his work and, as of writing this article, is still described in our own official history as being an example of someone who “shares our vision.” He was supportive of stamping out discrimination in housing and employment as early as the '90s and established a commission tasked with defending the rights of LGBTQ+ students during his first term as governor.
In ignoring the occasion to endorse this early pioneer — or even failing to make a passing reference to him — we have missed the chance to showcase a candidate who has historically remained consistent with his support of our community during a time where the party flouted the issue. Someone who, in an October 26, 1996 poll released by The Advocate, had directly influenced how 44 percent of self-identified Log Cabin Republicans once described their brand of Republicanism. What type of message does this send to future empathetic candidates who might be considering seeking our endorsement long after the dust of the 2020 presidential cycle settles?
We are drowning in a political swamp where “owning the libs” is vastly more important than positively influencing the discourse. While we are quick to remind the world of our contributions towards repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” as well as our role in the fight for marriage equality, the truth of the matter is that the plight of our community has expanded to include issues that we simply don’t care to address. Instead of using this time to expand into new opportunities, we’ve chosen to remain stagnant.
We are not supposed to exist as a convenient shield, only to be used to validate the actions of those who do our community harm, yet this is exactly the message that we’re sending. I implore other members to ask themselves how is it possible for us to justify anything we've sought to accomplish in the past three years if we're so quick to endorse the man responsible for our need to advocate. I certainly can’t.
I know with certainty that I’m not alone in my feelings over this decision. I will never turn my back on those fighting for equality and I remain committed to inclusivity, but, in this moment, I no longer feel that we’re able to accurately say that such a thing is our priority. These words need to be said and to quote board chairman Robert Kabel himself, “This is not the party that I grew up in. If someone like me doesn’t stand up, we’ll have only ourselves to blame.”
Jordan Evans is an elected library trustee and constable in Massachusetts. Follow her on Twitter @jordarooski.