Local and regional LGBTQ leaders hosted a press call last week to discuss President Trump’s continual attempts to sabotage LGBTQ civil rights.
The group included Democratic Party LGBTQ Caucus Chair Sean Meloy, Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims, Erie City School Board Vice President Tyler Titus, community health organizer and trans activist Deja Lynn Alvarez, LGBTQ business and political advocate Jonathan Lovitz, and Anne Wakabayashi, chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs.
“For a presidential candidate that gave lip service to the LGBTQ community with an upside-down Pride flag, we knew that Trump’s true colors were not for us,” Meloy said on the call. “Whether it’s choosing one of the most anti-LGBTQ running mates in Mike Pence to immediately removing any mention of the LGBTQ community from the White House and other government websites, we’ve known that he and the Republicans have been actively working to undermine our successes and our ability to gain full equality and freedom.”
Trump’s actions since taking office have made clear his feelings toward the LGBTQ community. According to the Human Rights Campaign blog, his administration has reversed previous workplace non-discrimination protections for transgender and nonbinary people, barred trans folks from serving in the military, proposed a federal regulation that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to turn away members of the LGBTQ community, and moved to propose a definition of sex that essentially erases trans and nonbinary individuals. Most recently, the administration finalized a rule that enables healthcare providers to discriminate against queer and trans individuals.
“Donald Trump began attacking the rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans very early in his career as the president — right after the inauguration,” Sims said. “In areas specifically of healthcare, employment and education, with a very particular sort of heinous focus on specifically trans Americans.”
Although the main focus of the call was to highlight Trump’s attacks on LGBTQ communities and discuss ways to counter them, Alvarez pointed out that systemic bigotry, especially toward queer and trans people of color, has been occuring beyond the current administration.
“This country has demonstrated that it does not truly represent what it claims to represent, and that is justice for all, liberty for all,” Alvarez said to her fellow LGBTQ advocates. “That would include Black and Brown people, citizen and immigrant, straight and gay, trans and cis. Quite frankly, [Trump] didn’t bring anything new; what he did was heighten it, and we finally got to see it in the highest office in this nation.” Alvarez also said that it was imperative people not just fight to take back the status quo, stating “We cannot afford to do that any longer…”
Titus spoke about Trump’s revocation of Obama-era guidelines dictating that schools treat trans students according to their gender identities.
“These attacks on our schools and our students are disproportionately impacting queer youth, especially those youth with multiple intersections and minority identity status,” Titus said. “Queer youth of color, queer youth who are differently-abled, or queer youth who learn and process differently are now even more at risk than they were before.”
Lovitz, senior VP of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, talked about LGBTQ equality in the workplace and acknowledged the recent Supreme Court decision that includes sexual orientation and gender identity within the definition of sex discrimination. However, he cautioned that the LGBTQ community still has a long way to go in terms of achieving full equality, especially when it comes to legislation.
“We simply must pass the Equality Act [in Congress] and make sure that this patchwork of laws is not defined by state borders, but is a 50-state solution to full federal equality not just in the workplace, not just in our public accommodations, not just in voting rights, but in every aspect of what it means to be an American.”
In response to a question regarding what actions can be done on the state level to thwart Trump’s anti-LGBTQ attacks, Meloy said, “If we have Democrats in charge of the state House, we can pass comprehensive nondiscrimination…if we take the state Senate, we can have that legislation move forward.”
Wakabayashi, who chairs the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, addressed the need for diverse political representation, stating “the folks that have taken the brunt of these attacks are the ones that sit at the intersection of many identities, including the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ immigrants, LGBTQ women, LGBTQ folks of color, and especially our trans women of color that are in need of advocates and in need of being in office themselves…that’s why it’s more important now than ever to be sure that we are electing LGBTQ folks to office.”