A report from NBC on Oct. 17 said that President Trump joked in the past that his Vice President Mike Pence “wants to hang” all gay people. This sparked a number of responses from the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTQ+ activists, but was largely swept aside in light of every other disaster that has defined this administration so far. The carelessness of the president’s comment and what this signifies for the LGBTQ+ community is not only terrifying — it is demonstrative of Trump’s inability to truly see America for what it is.

Between Trump and Pence, Pence fares worse when it comes to open opinions on gay people. According to a 2006 Congressional record, Pence said gay couples “signaled societal collapse,” and was one of the opponents of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” as well as the more recent Obama guidelines allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Trump’s most major statement against the LGBTQ+ community was this past summer with his decision to bar transgender troops from serving in the military and this most recent “joke” may well be the further proof of which side he’s thrown in his lot with.

The reason I’m bothered by this isn’t because I think he’s serious; I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Trump was serious about the fact that Pence said this or if Pence meant what he said. What really bothers me is the casual disregard for the lives of gay people. A joke like this is apparently acceptable from the office of the president, who is meant to stand for everyone. And even though our First Amendment right to free speech is arguably the most powerful in our political structure, there needs to be a line drawn somewhere when it comes to the president. Other politicians have a job to push their own agendas and if that involves not protecting LGBTQ+ people because they think it’s in the best interest of their constituents, then fine. And the president is allowed to have policies he or she favors as well, but this freedom to push an agenda should not include offhandedly joking about the deaths of a historically discriminated against population.

That’s the real hypocrisy from not only this office, but often with politicians in general. They say they want to represent and stand up for “everyone,” but does everyone mean everyone, or does it mean all the straight, white, well-off Christian people of America? Do they mean impoverished people who are homeless? Do they mean black people who feel unheard by everyone and targeted by police? Do they mean LGBTQ+ people who are still persecuted and discriminated against for who they are and who they love? Do they mean people who practice Islam who haven’t felt safe in this country since 9/11? If they do mean them, they should say it, specify it and promote it. Now more than ever it’s essential to make sure that those who need people in power to stand up for them have that support.

Because clearly this administration, with its disaster of a president and it’s homophobic VP, are no friends of people who are any different from them, which is crazy when you think about it. Our country is different and diverse in all it’s various regions, so why would you even want to govern a nation of people who are all different from you if you dislike diversity as a principal? It makes absolutely no sense to me, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, who is trying to find their footing in a country that continues to show open disdain at the highest levels of power for my community, it’s difficult to navigate. In the tumultuous time we live (largely manufactured by our current president), we need a leader who spreads messages of unity, acceptance and respect — not hatred, bigotry and casual homophobia. And as previous events of this past year have shown, it seems that the American people must once again step up and be everything their president is not, proving that there is still acceptance and kindness left somewhere.

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