With Buttigieg in the national spotlight, conservative Christians will ramp up their efforts to marginalize the LGBTQ community. The rest of us need to counter with more support.
Many liberals are excited about Pete Buttigieg’s early impact on the presidential primary. In the wake of the elections of LGBTQ like Jared Polis and Kyrsten Sinema to prominent political positions, my lesbian self is proud to see a gay man’s candidacy for president taken seriously and delighted that his campaign is centered around issues not related to his identity. For me, the point is not whether or not he wins (he is not my favorite candidate) but that he is accepted into the field.
However, excitement aside, unless we and our allies make a concerted effort, the impact of these successes in the political arena will be dampened by violence against our most vulnerable. After all, this progress takes place in a troubled time. President Trump’s military transgender ban is in effect. Our vice president hate-mongers against the LGBTQ community. Kids are being bullied to death in our schools. Transgender women of color are murdered with horrific frequency.
Buttigieg’s candidacy has already stirred up more hatred. Mike Pence complains that Buttigieg is attacking conservative Christianity when he speaks against anti-LGBTQ dogma. Franklin Graham is calling on Buttigieg to repent for his homosexuality.
Liberals are responding to these attacks with the usual litany of “what-about-isms.” What about the allegations of sexual assault against Trump? What about the children being separated from their parents at the border?
Pointing out the hypocrisy is a valid first step. We can’t let the injustices of the current administration become normalized. But the call-outs are not enough.
I guarantee you that the anti-LGBTQ messages of Pence and Graham will be echoed in some conservative churches this Sunday. The more success Buttigieg has, the more widespread and extreme these messages will become.
There will be LGBTQ kids sitting in those churches learning to hate themselves. Their parents will be further encouraged to punish their children for their identity. Homophobes everywhere will feel more empowered to commit violent acts. Some of them will even consider their violence patriotic — an attempt to save the country from Buttigieg and LGBTQ folks generally.
None of this means Buttigieg should temper anything about his candidacy. Indeed, the backlash proves how necessary his presence is. But whether you plan to vote for him or not, if you care about the LGBTQ community you cannot be content with the step forward without taking steps to protect our most vulnerable members.
To do this, we have to become more active in our local communities. Donate to the organizations that provide support and safety to LGBTQ youth. If you have children, teach them to stand against bullying. Support causes that stand for the rights of transgender people. If you’re a churchgoer, ask your religious leader to preach a message of acceptance. With Buttigieg in the national spotlight, conservative Christians will ramp up their efforts to marginalize the LGBTQ community. The rest of us need to counter with more support.
In 2015 when marriage equality became the law of the land, my social media pages lit up with rainbow colors and pronouncements that “love is love.” However, many of the people who celebrated with us then, the people who are on the front row of a pride celebration, have remained quiet as the Trump administration attacks the LGBTQ community. Fighting injustice is not as fun as celebrating inclusion.
That needs to change. Part of supporting a gay man’s right to run for the presidency involves a willingness to fight the inevitable backlash. Doing anything different implies that you believe the success of our equality movement is based on our achievement of our most included members, not the safety of our most vulnerable.
Anne Penniston Grunsted writes about parenting, disability, and family life from her perspective as a lesbian mama. She lives in Southern California with her wife and son. Read more of her writing at annepennistongrunsted.