The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer published, “The Danger of President Pence” for its Oct. 23 issue. It was a long and thorough look at Vice President Mike Pence’s actions and role since becoming vice president and a hypothetical look into a world where Pence becomes president following a possible impeachment of Donald Trump.
One specific line from this interview went viral. Mayer spoke to an unnamed staff member from Trump’s campaign who gave a few examples of Trump letting Pence “know who’s boss.”
There were instances of Trump mocking Pence’s devotion to his religion and his stance on abortion, but what stood out most was his comment about Pence’s stance on gay rights. When the topic once again came up, Trump gestured at Pence and said “don’t ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!”
This statement is obviously a joke. While it could be factually accurate, in all likelihood Trump is exaggerating (or at the very least thinks he’s exaggerating) about the severity of Pence’s dislike for LGBT people. That being said, though, there’s something much more troubling about this being a joke than it being accurate.
This quote is dismissive, and it’s immediately clear that Trump disagrees with Pence’s stance on LGBT rights. While I was never one to praise Trump for being pro-
LGBT, I argued he was the best Republican candidate for LGBT issues in the 2016 election until he added Pence to his ticket.
Trump has historically shown indifference to LGBT issues. He wouldn’t be advancing any LGBT causes forward, but I didn’t expect him to slow down the progress of equal rights for LGBT people.
Then he partnered with the Indiana governor who I immediately recognized as the man behind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, one of the most anti-LGBT bills in recent American history.
Immediately, Trump’s indifference on LGBT rights seemed much more cynical. He didn’t care if same-sex couples could get married, but he also didn’t seem to care if they had any rights at all.
I took his indifference as a positive when contrasted with the anti-LGBT rhetoric coming from almost every other Republican candidate, but in reality, his indifference was much more dangerous. It made way for something worse.
Trump’s flippant remark about Pence wanting to hang all gay people reiterates and amplifies the darkness of his indifference.
Trump is selfish — that’s not news, but I couldn’t have fathomed the depths of his selfishness. I couldn’t have imagined him being selfish to the point where he could disregard the lives of entire demographics with an offhanded comment.
Some would argue this comment isn’t a big deal. That it’s a joke. That it’s not meant to be taken seriously. Some may even argue that it’s a pro-LGBT statement, since he’s shedding a negative light on Pence’s views of LGBT rights.
And, you know what? Maybe it is. Maybe that comment doesn’t show indifference. Maybe that’s Trump taking a stand in whatever meager way he does. That’s yet to be seen, though I expect his malicious indifference to
persist, but I want to take a moment to discuss the immediate impact of a statement like this.
When I was in middle school I took a home economics class that doubled as our class on sex education — “sex education” being a borderline hyperbole. Our teacher had a baby, so she was gone for a few months, and we had a substitute for the remainder of the year.
I only remember one day of that class, and it was the day our substitute talked about abstinence.
It was a Kentucky middle school, so it’s no shock that abstinence-only sex education was the norm. The substitute finished following along with the abstinence PowerPoint and started to walk back to her desk, but stopped and briefly, over her shoulder, said “oh, and don’t be queer….”
I don’t remember the specific phrasing of the last part of what she said, but I know she implied that gay people get diseases.
What I remember distinctly was it being offhand and dismissive. I can still hear, “Oh, and don’t be queer” clearly when I think about it.
There was no passionate plea or thought-out argument, there was only dismissal — dismissal that affected my journey with coming to terms with my sexuality, dismissal that made me hate myself because I heard it from so many people in my life. Dismissal is dangerous.
For LGBT youth worldwide, not just in America, hearing this political leader be so frivolous with the lives of LGBT people has to be horrifying.
A few years ago it felt like we were headed toward a more accepting world, a world where kids could grow up and be themselves and not have to deal with self-hatred on the way to self-love.
Now, one of the most powerful people in the world has been heard by millions of LGBT youth saying he doesn’t care if they live or die, and I desperately hope they don’t start to think that way, too.