“Love it. We can say Fag again.”
That comment, from “Tired-n-Ariz,” was posted on a CBS news story about the disappearance of the LGBT rights page from WhiteHouse.gov shortly after Donald Trump took the oath of office on Friday. In fact, everything on that site was moved and archived on a new Obama website, and was replaced by the Trump site, which includes no references to LGBT rights. (Or civil rights. Or climate change.) It’s clear that there’s a new sheriff in town, and that LGBT rights aren’t on that gunslinger’s list of priorities.
It’s dispiriting that despite Trump’s campaign promise that he’d be a “better friend” than Hillary Clinton to the LGBT community, Day One of his presidency had a different headline: “Gays erased.” Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court marriage equality case, was deeply disheartened. Trump and the GOP “will pretend that we don’t exist while they work tirelessly to strip away all the gains we’ve made toward being equal citizens of our nation,” he said.
Even worse, news articles that pointed out the disappearance of the page prompted a flood of inflammatory comments like Tired-n-Ariz’s. It seems that many Trump supporters know they don’t need a filter anymore; they’re now empowered to name-call and deploy slurs once considered unacceptable.
“Saturday Night Live” host Aziz Ansari captured this new zeitgeist in a biting skit last night. Referring to Trump supporters who “have gotten way too fired up … for the wrong reasons,” he continued: “As soon as Trump won, [these people were] like, ‘We don’t have to pretend like we’re not racist anymore! …We can be racist again, wooo!’ ” Or anti-LGBT. Or misogynistic. For those folks, Ansari had a message: “Please go back to pretending. You’ve got to go back to pretending.” Exactly. Civil behavior is about your actions, your language — not your most deeply held beliefs.
Here are a few of the other provocative comments I saw in the CBS news story I mentioned earlier:
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Men marry women or you wont (sic) be with us” — Hicktick
“Absolutely hilarious! It appears that the decade of the Homo may be drawing to an end” – Damarco
All this reminds me of one of Trump’s most incendiary lines from the campaign: “I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.” Michelangelo Signorile, author of “It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality,” sees things in a similar light, telling me that Trump’s “attacks on so-called ‘political correctness’ have given license to people to express their bigotry.”
Indeed, many of those commenting on the CBS news story returned repeatedly to the idea that the drive for LGBT acceptance and equality is a result of “all this politically correct crap,” as “boogerhillbill” posted. (He also asked, “Why should there be a pervert [web] page to begin with?”) “Prouduspatriot” added: “Tired of being told what I have to believe and if I don’t think the way some do I am a bigot. Wrong.”
Here’s what I don’t get: Do you really need to call me a “fag” or “pervert” to make your point? Why is it “PC” to refer to me as a “gay man?” And why can’t we treat all people with respect and still work to reduce income inequality and help those who have been left behind?
The online outcry also highlighted — again — the great myth that LGBT people seek some kind of “special rights” or “extra rights.” “Why does the White House need a special page devoted to LGBT rights?” wrote David Justin Barret on Facebook. “Everyone in the U.S. is covered by the Constitution, EVERYONE’S CIVIL RIGHTS are equal.”
I try to listen and to be open-minded. But the right to marry the person you love and take on the rights and responsibilities that come with the marriage contract is not a special right. Nor is the right to create a loving family; the right not to be fired from your job because of your identity; the right to visit your spouse in the hospital and make medical decisions on their behalf when necessary. These are the basic rights that heterosexuals currently enjoy; we don’t want more, but we do we want the same.
Some of you will agree with this fellow who posted, “Who cares??? The economy stinks for most Americans, because of Obama, and you’re worried about a website.” But sometimes a website is more than just a website. WhiteHouse.gov is a reflection of the new president’s values, policies and priorities, and the erasure of LGBT issues from the site is a warning to us about our exclusion from his worldview. Of course, Trump could heed the advice from Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin “to reinstate the pages immediately.”
Let me leave you with the words of 21-year-old Elizabeth Hadfield, who lives in Durham, N.C. She told me: “As a trans woman, I am rendered worthless and invisible by those who I make uncomfortable via my very existence. The disappearance of the LGBT page from the White House website is just another attempt to render us invisible.”
As I said, sometimes a webpage is not just a webpage.
Agree or disagree with my perspective? Let me know in the comments section below. And join me for my next live chat on Jan. 24 at 1 p.m. ET.