Metro Weekly

Trump’s Homophobic Red Flags

As Trump tries to appeal to LGBT voters, the anti-LGBT attitudes of those closest to him matter more than ever

Trump at CPAC 2011, Original Photo: Gage Skidmore

Trump at CPAC 2011, Original Photo: Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump has been eager to paint himself as a “friend” to the LGBT community. As he pivoted from primaries to the November election, the Republican nominee had on numerous occasions reached out to LGBT voters to assure he would protect them — certainly more so than his opponent.

“As president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” Trump told the Republican National Convention in July. He portrayed himself as the only candidate who can stop terrorism, which to Trump is the greatest threat facing LGBT people in America — not the evisceration of their rights at the legislative hands of his Republican cohorts.

Unfortunately, Trump’s actions have stood in opposition to his claims of support. Just last month, he joined Sen. Marco Rubio at a conference of pastors in Orlando, one that took place two months after the Pulse nightclub shootings and featured a host of renowned anti-LGBT activists. It was enough of a warning sign that Gregory T. Angelo, leader of the Log Cabin Republicans, told the Wall Street Journal that he was “concerned” with Trump’s attendance. DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile and LGBT Caucus Chair Earl Fowlkes branded it “another example of the utter lack of judgment that makes Trump unfit to serve.”

Of course, Trump’s actions could be a direct result of those who have his ear. As he struggles from one crisis to another — attacking the Muslim family of a war hero, demanding that a baby be removed from his rally, his apparent ties to white extremists — Trump has continually shaken up his campaign team. His current group of cohorts, many recently hired, should be cause for concern for any LGBT person who thinks Trump will fight for their rights in the White House.

First, there’s new campaign CEO Stephen Bannon. The former chairman of Breitbart News — a conservative blog known for its anti-LGBT stances — has a long history of offensive statements. Just this week, Buzzfeed News discovered that in a 2011 interview Bannon called progressive women “a bunch of dykes.” Earlier this year, on Breitbart’s radio show, Bannon engaged in an anti-transgender rant, slamming Target’s pro-trans bathroom policy. He said that by allowing trans people to use a bathroom that matched their gender identity, Target was forcing children to “into a bathroom with a guy with a beard in a dress,” Right Wing Watch reports. At the time, he was speaking with Sandy Rios, who works for American Family Association — an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center deems a “hate group” for their extreme anti-LGBT attitudes.

As chairman of Breitbart News, he oversaw a publication that ran headlines including “Big Gay Hate Machine Closes Christian Pizza Parlor,” “Trannies Whine About Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard,” and “The Solution To Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off,” Attitude reports. The website also refers to LGBT groups as “The Gaystapo” and uses the term “Big Gay Hate Machine.” Bannon’s history of extreme comments and support of extreme headlines at Breitbart is exactly the sort of controversy the Trump campaign needs to avoid — something not aided by reports by Buzzfeed News that his ex-wife has accused him of anti-Semitism and a Politico article about an alleged domestic violence incident. Republicans are now distancing themselves from Bannon, with RNC chair Reince Priebus telling Meet the Press, “I don’t know Steve Bannon, to tell you the truth, very well.”

Trump’s new campaign manager, replacing the disgraced Paul Manafort, Kellyanne Conway has similarly distanced herself from the campaign’s CEO, telling Fox News Sunday that she reports directly to Trump. However, Conway is no stranger to anti-LGBT attitudes either.

As Media Matters reports, she has claimed that homosexuality is a “corrupting” influence and that people don’t want their children “looking at a cartoon with a bunch of lesbian mothers” — a reference to PBS’ Postcards from Buster. She also has ties to several anti-LGBT groups, including being a pollster for National Organization for Marriage and speaking at Values Voter Summit in 2014, an event organized by Family Research Council. Both groups have long documented histories of anti-LGBT campaigns and statements.

And then there’s that ever present thorn of former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann, founder of the Tea Party Caucus and as conservative as they come, is no stranger to anti-LGBT rhetoric. In 2014, she told conservative radio show Faith & Liberty that gay people “want to abolish age of consent laws, which means we will do away with statutory rape laws so that adults would be able to freely prey on little children sexually.” A 2011 investigation by ABC News found that Bachmann & Associates, run by Michele’s husband, was offering gay “cure” therapy to people, with footage showing a counsellor telling a man that he could be “totally free” of his “homosexual urges.”

Earlier this year, Trump announced the creation of an “executive board convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America.” Bachmann topped the list. A person who believes in conversion therapy and previously blasted the “sin-sick” culture of marriage equality in a radio interview last year is apparently advising Trump on evangelical issues. A person who last month told Christian Broadcasting Network that God made Trump the Republican nominee, while promising that she will work tirelessly to “make sure that Donald Trump becomes, ‘President Trump’ the first Tuesday of November this 2016.”

For any LGBT voter, alarm bells must be blaring. It gets even more concerning when Trump’s other advisers are included. There’s Roger Stone, who in 2008 created an anti-Hillary group called C.U.N.T. There’s Carl Paladino, who once bragged about boycotting a Pride parade. There’s failed presidential candidate Ben Carson, who has compared gay sex to bestiality. There’s Pastor Ramiro Peña, who earlier this year said that if Trump wasn’t elected, Clinton would hand the Supreme Court over to a “pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage philosophy.”

Trump might be attempting to appeal to LGBT voters, but scratch beneath the surface and there’s an awful lot of homophobia and transphobia in his campaign. If further evidence is needed, just look at the public face of Trump 2016. Katrina Pierson, the national campaign spokesperson, tweeted perhaps the most apparent statement that Trump — and the people who work for and advise him — won’t help LGBT people: “Gay is not normal, accept that.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly’s managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.