Words can have such a powerful influence on people and events. In the simplest of terms, you can say the wrong thing to someone and they become upset and inturn can color their interactions towards you and their lives. On a larger scale, people who exert power and influence can say things that thousands of people take to heart and commit action towards. Whether they are written or spoken, the outcomes of words can reach far and wide. With the Trump administrations, we see the negative side more than we often focus on the positive.
Its not new to hear people saying things like we are pushing a gay agenda or we are shoving our way of life down others throats or we are pushing our beliefs on the masses. These are words that can have far reaching scope of damage. So what constitutes us shoving our lives down others throats. Walking down the road holding the hand of our significant other, if we share a kiss, if we ask for protections under the law, or fly a flag in remembrance of the many transgender people we have lost their lives to violence. These things are exactly the same that our heterosexual counterpars take part in daily. Flags are flown to remember vets that have lost their lives. You cannot walk down the street without seeing a heterosexual couple kissing or holding hands. And hate crime definitely needs to be addressed under national protection. Setting up laws to prevent being fired because we are LGBTQ is as normal as making sure women aren’t fired for being women.
In some cases we do get to see small acts of retribution, take the October 2018 case of a gay employee of the Spokane Parks and Recreation department being harassed by his supervisor for being gay. Adriano Eva was demoted after making remarks to Conor Wigert, by December Eva was demoted and laid off. Eva then filed a lawsuit with the Civil Service Commission and in April was reinstated to his job with a $100,000 settlement. So much for following employee handbook regulations. Eva had made remarks to Wigert about how the bible said homosexuality was a sin and that Eva had known a gay couple who molested young boys. He further demoralized Wigart by asking how he could possible be attracted to men and referring to him as his “gay assistant.” This is what we see all to often in our country, those who target and harass those that are different from them are held up as a beacon by those of the far right.
Even presidential candidates are not above the sting of words. Dave Daubenmire, who is a conservative commentator and has been the keynote speaker for GOP events, has said that it is “beyond wicked” to elect Pete Buttigieg as president because of his “immoral” and “unnatural” sex life. He has gone so far to refer to him many times in demeaning names. In a recent video, Daubenmire even went so far as to say that Donald Trump sleeping with a 1000 women is far less of an issue than Buttigieg and his immoral, unnatural crimes against nature. He considers Buttigieg confused, saying “if a man cannot figure out what to do with his sexual organs, he has no business being in the White House…” Daubenmire has also been quoted saying, “We need to make homosexuality inthinkable again. It needs to go back into the closet.” These are not the only antigay remarks Buttigieg has had to battle from the far right Christians. He has been accused of flaunting his sexuality by acknowledging his husband in public. Pete is just as quick on the draw, in response to these remarks he has said, “The good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God. But the Iowa caucuses are up to you.”
The removal of words can be as damaging as using them in public venues. Since the swearing in of Trump, we have seen systematic changes to government web pages. According to the Web Integrity Project, “57% of the LGBTQ-related government sites had significant alterations to LGBTQ-related terms.” In 2018, the HHS had taken down information for gay and bisexual women. The Sunlight Foundation, who oversees the Web Integrity Project, identified two trends: the removal of access to resources about discrimination protections and prevention and the removal of resources containing LGBTQ community-specific information. A sweeping trend is the erasure of terms related to transgender. Even the CDC has went so far as to replace LGBTQ with just LGB. The Department of Health and Human Services has switched to using religious-freedom terminology instead of those that include indentity, gender, or transgender.
So you are probably thinking that I post a log of negativity around issues without much in the way of a bright light at the end of the tunnel. So I give you this, these situations seem daunting and insurmountable, but they can be changed. It requires us to rise up, rebel against the norms, and resist those that would force us into silence. It requires each and every LGBTQ person to register to vote and vote every time there is an election. We must be mindful of every topic that faces us, even in the smallest of ways. We need to make sure we are supporting the candidates that are working for the changes we need. We need to be writing our elected officials and holding them accountable for the actions they take and the words they use. Remember that words do have power, but only as far as we let them exert that power. Be the change you want to see.