Cassandra was no doubt the least popular person in ancient Troy and her poll numbers weren’t improved by the fact that she was right. We all prefer prognosticators who see a bright future and who manage to find glimmers of hope in even the darkest turn of events. That being so, get ready to hate me because I am not optimistic.
“We’ll survive this” is commonly heard these days. Gays are consoling themselves with such assurances as “same sex marriage is U.S. law now,” (which in fact it is not. It is based, nation-wide, on a Supreme Court decision and what the court does, it can undo.) “We’ll survive this” was often heard during the worst years of the AIDS plague but thousands of us did not survive it and that was a time when the president, Ronald Reagan, was not an active enemy. He simply ignored us. In many ways. Reagan and Trump are cut from the same cloth. Reagan was clever but anti-intellectual and only moderately intelligent, as is Trump. It is unlikely Reagan ever read any serious literature and it is certain Trump has not. Shakespeare, the ancient philosophers. The Federalist Papers, the great historians are all alien to people like Trump and Reagan. Their humanity is not cultivated by the wisdom of the past.
Both Trump and Reagan mastered the art of public appearance – of propaganda. It is in this field that their cleverness is most evident. Both are actors with considerable experience of “working” an audience. (You must forgive me if, in this essay, my definite articles get confused and I sometimes seem to be referring to Reagan as if he was still alive. His spirit is certainly smiling on the new president anyway.)
Beyond these similarities, however, there is a major point of departure. While Reagan ignored us and our suffering, Trump has surrounded himself with our dedicated enemies. Nikki Haley is an avowed enemy of same-sex marriage and transgender rights. Mike Pence is our worst nightmare. Bannon is an out of the closet white supremacist, racist and all that goes with it.
In fact every member of Trump’s team is avowedly anti-LGBT. For details, there is an online summary.
The U.S. government is going to be run by our most active enemies – people who have in every case gone out of their way to vote against, to block to decry our equality and to tear down our accomplishments. These are all people who hate us and who will stop at nothing to destroy us. It is entirely possible that we will not survive this. “Oh, you exaggerate,” I hear you saying. “After all, they aren’t going to round us up and put us in camps.” Don’t be so sure of that.
One of the people on Trump’s short list of potential Supreme Court nominees is on record as calling for a restoration of the sodomy laws and has said all gays should be put in jail. But even without resorting to round-ups, there are plenty of ways to destroy us as a community and as individuals and you can be sure Trump’s people will be eagerly looking at every possibility. The coming battles will be far nastier and bloodier that anything we have seen in the past and I’m not at all sure we can win.
Some of you who are young and have marketable skills might be wise to consider leaving this country, or at least reviewing your options and making some contingency plans. For example, did your grandfather immigrate from Ireland? If so, you are legally entitled to claim Irish citizenship and a passport. (Great grandfather? Sorry – that’s too far in the past.) Canada comes to mind at once but immigration there is not as simple as many suppose. You can be denied entry if you have a serious health problem, a drunk driving conviction or no obvious economic security. In fact, Canadian immigration policies are quite complicated.
“Surely, we should stay and fight” you might be saying. Well, I will because I’m too old, too set in my ways, and own FAR too many books to move. I saw the beginning of LGBT liberation and if there is to be an end, I guess I’ll be part of that as well. Most of you will have to do likewise. It won’t be because we want to be brave but because we just do not have any alternative. We may very well lose, but at least we won’t go down as cowards.
The era of timidly hiding who and what we really are is long past and is not coming back. No matter how many evil bigots Trump puts in office, that at least they cannot accomplish. History will record that much about us. Like the Sacred Band of ancient Thebes, though we may be defeated, we will not have lost our honor or been untrue to those we love.