LGBTQ Trump supporters may seem like unicorns, but they do exist.
In fact, according to exit polling, 14 percent of our community voted for him in the 2016 election. While that number is down from what the GOP managed to take in previous presidential elections, where they managed to absorb between the low to high 20 percent range, it still represents a not so insignificant number of people.
Speaking with several LGBTQ individuals who maintain support for President Trump, as we hit the first 100 days in office benchmark, a few things became clear.
For one, they know they baffle many of you, and being both openly LGBTQ and a Trump backer can be a difficult stance to maintain.
For some, that conflict has been more pronounced than for others. Arguably, it hit hardest this election season for Dewey Lainhart and his partner at the time, Cody Moore. An interview for The Wall Street Journal with the pair at a Trump rally in Cincinnati went viral, resulting in a barrage of insults and even death threats.
“You know, there was a lot of death threats, a lot of hate mail,” Lainhart said, reflecting upon the aftermath of the interview gaining widespread attention. “For probably about two months it was at least 20 a day.”
Lainhart, 32, has been laying low, avoiding requests from media since just after the onslaught of death threats, which he told The Wall Street Journal at the time wasn’t worrying him too much, because, as he said, “I love the Second Amendment.”
Yet the stress proved too much for Lainhart and Moore’s relationship to hold up under.
“We tried not to let it bother us, but eventually it just took its toll on me and him both,” he said, sharing that the two are no longer together.
He agreed to speak with LGBTQ Nation because he said he feels it’s time for someone from the LGBTQ community to “step up and be a part of it.”
He said he still believe that Trump can bring back jobs, and put a stop to the influx of steel from China coming into this country. And yes, he is aware that Trump used Chinese steel in some of his construction projects.
“I’ve heard that one so many times,” Lainhart said. “But, on his part, you know, he’s a businessman. You’re going to do whatever you can to get the cheapest, I understand that. Any man, or woman, that owned a business would do that. But if he’s going to get in there and regulate things, like where steel comes from, make sure it’s made here in America.”
When asked if he had heard about Trump backing away from claims China is manipulating currency and dumping cheap steel on the U.S. market, upsetting many in the steel industry, including the United Steelworkers union, he said he hadn’t. He noted that he had been working 12 to 16 hour days and hadn’t had time to keep close track of the news.
He is only now re-emerging from self-imposed social media exile following the backlash he received following The Wall Street Journal interview.
“I ended up deleting Facebook and I actually just got it back, probably like two weeks ago,” he said. “It just got crazy. I had to kill it for a while. I mean I still get it now, but it’s like one or two a day, or every other day, it’s nothing like it was.”
Lainhart has also found a support system of like-minded individuals via Facebook as well, however, having started an LGBT For Trump page well before his video interview made him a semi-public figure.
“I was on those Trump pages, and yes a lot of Trump supporters are not LGBT-friendly. Well, that goes both ways, I guess. So I decided to make a page for just LGBT people to show them that they’re not alone. That there was other Trump supporters out there,” he said.
The group represents members from all over the country, he said, and represents a sort of “Trump brotherhood or sisterhood.”
“I picked who I thought was right for me,” said Angela Harville, 36, who is another member of the aforementioned Facebook page, and reported being raised by Democrats. Both she and her wife voted for Trump, whom Harville said she liked in part because, in her estimation, “He’s loaded and he had nothing to gain from being president.”
“And I think with our community, they’re all the time calling people bigots, and by definition a bigot is a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions,” she added. “So it’s kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.”
“It seems like the LGBT community wants respect and understanding from those who do not live our lifestyle, but refuse to accept anyone else that has a different viewpoint or opinion. I can’t understand how you can expect people to take you seriously and listen to you when you refuse to listen to them,” she continued.
Harville is aware that some of Trump’s Cabinet members, like Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, have histories of anti-LGBTQ statements and/or voting records. That doesn’t concern her, however.
“For the LGBT community, I don’t think he’s a threat to us at all, because I don’t think that’s in his worries. I think there’s bigger issues that he’s worried about,” she said. “If you have children, you want that, you would understand you need to make the world better and safer. Sometimes you can’t be selfish and having everything your way.”
“I think he’ll direct (his Cabinet) away from (going after LGBTQ rights),” she added. “I don’t think he’s building a panel to be against all LGBT people. I think he’s building a panel that he sees best that’s going to benefit our country. I don’t think his concern is with LGBT at all.”
“I’ve said for a long time that it makes much more sense for trans people to work to educate Republicans, and get them on board, because the Democrats are already there,” said Amanda Murphy-Venezia, a 50-year-old transgender woman who, like Harville, lives in Tennessee. “So why waste my time trying to convince somebody to support me who already does?”
Murphy-Venezia, who describes herself as fiscally conservative and socially “moderate to liberal,” noted that her efforts to change hearts and minds has taken the form of lobbying for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), showing up to Tea Party meetings, and handing out brochures at the polls on Election Day.
“I think it’s more productive being an influencer in local politics from the right, because then people are surprised. They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a Republican?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well, why?’ And then I tell them why I’m there, and why I’m pushing on these people, saying, ‘I agree with you on this, would you be willing to help me with having transgender rights be more accepted in the Republican Party?’” she said.
“It has an effect on people, because they accepted me initially as someone who was a part of their coalition, and then all of a sudden they realize that I was transgender, but I agree with them. It kind of helps them understand that not every trans person feels the same way, and that I might agree with them on something even though they might not agree with me on my rights to be counted in the Census or to have access to public restrooms.”
She added that she doesn’t worry about bathroom bills, as she sees them as unenforceable and therefore more or less irrelevant.
“I just think bathroom bills are ridiculous. There are no bathroom police to enforce them so it’s just the stupidest thing I think they could do and it makes them look ridiculous,” she said.
While she is aware of what she called the “grand assumption in the culture that if you are transgender that you’re automatically going to be a Democrat,” she pushes back against that thinking.
“There have been lesbians who have pushed trans women out of some of their political action groups because they felt like the trans woman was trying to take over and they wouldn’t be an authentic woman to be part of that particular political movement,” she noted. “So there’s plenty of disagreement within our community, just like every other community. There’s just no way you’re going to throw people together from all over this country, who just happen to have one or two things in common, that are going to agree on everything else.”
Ken Bleakley said that he is also familiar with that way of thinking, reporting that being a gay Trump supporter in Los Angeles, where the 27-year-old works as an assistant editor, is not easy.
“I go to a lot of social gay events, I go to West Hollywood all the time, and a lot of times I feel alienated or isolated,” Bleakley, whose boyfriend is also a Trump supporter, said. “People ask me my opinion on things, and I tell them it, and all of a sudden, I’m ‘a homophobic, racist, blah blah blah,’ and there’s no dialogue available with them. They’re very quick to attack me for things that we haven’t really discussed, or they have this judgmental mindset. Labels: You know, if you’re a Republican, you’re this. With Republicans that I have experience with, they’re really cool people.”
“When (Trump) won the election, I lost probably 200 Facebook friends simply because I voted for him,” he continued. “And these are people I’ve been friends with for years. They tell me I’m a ‘white male,’ and all these labels they attack me with, and it’s just unsettling, and it’s sad. I’ve not felt the discrimination I’ve felt with the right that I have with the left.”
Bleakley stressed the need to respect diversity of opinion.
“People are allowed to think the way they do,” he said. “And yes, there are going to be repercussions, but at the end of the day, embrace the difference. Show these people that gay people are just as cool. Don’t sit there and argue with them, that’s why we have problems.”
“While all these more left LGBT people have been protesting and rioting, and complaining about things that possibly could happen, or these what-ifs, I was out meeting with these Republicans. I was out making dialogue with people that I don’t necessarily agree completely with but I need to get to know to understand where they’re coming from,” he added.
While he said he isn’t happy about everything the administration has done, pointing to a failure to have something workable to replace Obamacare with, which he is in favor of repealing, Bleakley said overall he is pleased with Trump’s performance so far.
“We’re showing our military strength, which we haven’t really done in a while and it’s making me more proud to be an American than I have over the past eight years,” he said.
“Trump’s first 100 days in office have been something of a mixed bag in regard to LGBT issues, but that was to be expected considering his concurrent outreach to evangelicals and the LGBT voters during his campaign,” said Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo. The LGBTQ Republican group failed to endorse Trump during the campaign due to his having surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ advisers.
“While there are genuine reasons to look cautiously at Mr. Trump’s presidency, I’ve been incredibly heartened by a quite a few things. Trump was barely into his first week as President-Elect when he declared marriage equality the ‘settled’ law of the land; his proposed budget states that funding to combat HIV and AIDS are matters of “highest priorities” in his budget, he preserved the State Department position tasked with advocating for global LGBT human rights, and his administration took the recommendations of Log Cabin Republicans in maintaining maintaining LGBT non-discrimination in federal contracting as a matter of his administration’s policy,” he added.
The group will continue to work on him, and other Republicans working in this administration, to see the light on LGBTQ issues. Their level of success will become more apparent in time. So far, they have admitted to being disappointed with the Trump administration’s move to pull back from supporting transgender student bathroom use in schools.
Yet with the Republican Party controlling the White House and both branches of Congress, they may be our new best shot at keeping LGBTQ rights from taking any more of a backseat.