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If Trump wants to know the real threat to queer and trans Americans, the president should get a mirror.
This article includes uncensored quotes that contain slurs against victims of anti-LGBTQ crimes.
After weeks of remaining silent on Pride month, President Donald Trump finally tweeted about LGBTQ people. But true to form, his acknowledgment of the Pulse shooting was in support of a dangerous anti-Muslim agenda that multiple courts have declared unconstitutional.
Monday, June 12, marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of 49 people at the gay Orlando nightclub, where a lone gunman opened fire on patrons celebrating the bar’s Latin night. Conspicuously missing, however, from Trump’s remembrance tweet were words like “queer,” “Latino,” or “immigrant,” as these communities have constantly been under threat by the policies of his own administration. “We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting,” the president wrote Monday afternoon.
This is yet another in a seemingly endless series of reminders that while Trump has billed himself as a “friend to the gays,” he only recognizes the existence of queer and trans people when he can exploit them for his base political ends. He’s a one-man hypocrisy generator. Trump has repeatedly pointed to Pulse as an example of the alleged danger Islam poses to LGBTQ people, but he has yet to say a single word about the atrocities committed by his own supporters. Recently released statistics show that 2016 was the most violent on record for queer and trans people. Under his administration, that hate is likely to spread.
Seventy-seven LGBTQ people were killed in 2016, according to a report released Monday by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. That figure includes the victims of the Pulse massacre, the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. But even without those murders, the number of queer and trans people killed last year would have been 17 percent higher than in 2015.
The year leading up to Trump’s inauguration was nasty, brutish for America’s LGBTQ community. A historic number of transgender people were killed in the United States in 2016, and the 27 murder victims were predominantly trans women of color. Many of the most horrific acts of violence increased following the election, as bigots emboldened by Trump’s upset victory viewed the election as a mandate to enact harm on minorities. Film producer Chris Ball claimed that he was attacked by Trump supporters in a Santa Monica Bar the evening of the election. Smashing a bottle over Ball’s head, his assailants allegedly yelled: “We got a new president, you fucking faggots.”
These attacks have not slowed in the new year. The same month that a gay man in Washington, D.C., was attacked by a group of Trump supporters wearing the president’s signature “Make America Great Again” hat, two gay men were repeatedly threatened in Key West by a man who crashed into them on his scooter. The assailant reportedly yelled, “I bet you faggots voted for that bitch Hillary” and “You live in Trump country now” prior to the February assault.
The connection between Trump’s election and the increase in violent hate is not merely anecdotal. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a national hate-crime tracking organization, reported in March that around 20 percent of the 1,400 bias attacks committed since last November were perpetrated by Trump supporters.
It took Trump weeks to speak out publicly about the rising violence against the U.S. Jewish population following a string of attacks on community centers, but he has yet to breathe a word about homegrown anti-LGBTQ hate. LGBTQ organizations in California, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have been targeted by vandals—who have busted windows, fired bullets into buildings, and even assaulted employees. The president found time to criticize Meryl Streep’s acting ability, praise daughter Ivanka’s Nordstrom line, and coin “covfefe” but has yet to take a stand on these attacks.
He probably never will. When Trump acknowledged the Pulse victims in the days following the tragedy, it was in service of the president’s favorite subject: about how awesome and how right he is.
The first tweets sent out through Trump’s personal Twitter account on June 12 patted himself on the back for “calling it,” a reference to the gunman’s Islamic background. Although the shooter was born in the U.S., his parents were Afghani. He pledged allegiance to ISIS in a 911 emergency call made prior to the shooting, although friends and family have questioned his connection to radical Islam, given that he didn’t appear to know the difference between the Islamic State, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Others claim allege that the shooter, who had been spotted at Pulse multiple times, was struggling with his sexuality.
Despite the shoddy evidence, Trump has continued to use Orlando to beat the drum for his failed Muslim ban. His plan to block entrants from six Muslim-majority nations was struck down yet again this week. During last year’s Republican national convention, he pledged to protect the LGBTQ community from the “oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” While speaking at Orlando during his December victory tour, he swore to keep “radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country.”
It’s telling that while that speech was delivered just miles away from Pulse, Trump has never visited the memorial site of the nightclub he has mentioned so often.
Instead of attending this week’s vigils in Orlando, he appeared at an anti-LGBTQ conference with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Vice President Mike Pence, and James Dobson. Dobson, president of the right-wing group Focus on the Family, believes that if you see a transgender woman in a public restroom, you should shoot her. Pence and Cruz are some of the country’s most virulently anti-LGBTQ politicians; Cruz once claimed that if trans people want to use the bathroom, they should wait until they get home. He also called equal protections for transgender people “political correctness on steroids.”
This isn’t even the first time Trump showed his “support” for queer and trans people by speaking at an anti-LGBTQ event during a Pulse memorial. On the two-month anniversary of Pulse, the president was at the Rediscovering God in America conference, spearheaded by a man who thinks the acceptance of gays is a Communist conspiracy. David Lane, president of the American Renewal Project, the group that hosted the conference, has also compared LGBTQ rights to slavery.
Here’s what Trump will never tweet: 2017 is set to shatter the record for mass shooting deaths. In the first six months of the year, there have been 191 acts of violence that target multiple individuals. At this point in 2016, there were just 179, according to data compiled by Mass Shooting Tracker. Most of these mass shooters will be the same people they always are: white males targeting vulnerable populations, whether that’s religious and ethnic minorities, women, or LGBTQ people. Queer and trans people are more likely than any other group of the population to be the victim of a violent hate crime.
Trump may earnestly believe that keeping out Muslims will solve the LGBTQ community’s problems, but if he wants to know the real threat to queer and trans Americans, the president should get a mirror.