He imitated a disabled reporter. He likened Mexican immigrants to rapists. He mocked a prisoner of war. He has referred to a female reporter as a “bimbo.” He has refused to disavow a white supremacist supporter. He has insulted the Muslim parents of a fallen soldier.
The imagination can only run amok, then, with what Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for president, must have said of that perpetual punching bag of the American rightwing: LGBTQ people and their families.
But like any good entertainer and reality star, Trump likes to keep it interesting:
“If two people dig each other, they dig each other,” Trump said, with beatnik coolness, after Elton John announced his engagement to longtime partner David Furnish.
“[Transgender people] should use the bathroom they feel is most appropriate,” he insisted, in response to the controversial North Carolina law passed earlier this year requiring people to use restrooms that correspond with their birth sex.
“I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” he told the crowd at the Republican National Convention last month. And then, after a smattering of applause from the gathered crowd, Trump added the following: “I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
Even the most casual observers of American politics should recognize how peculiar this is: rather than using LGBTQ individuals and their children as political fodder — as the rightwing has been doing for decades to turn out their base — the man sitting atop the 2016 Republican ticket actually seems to be courting our vote.
How is it that a man with a seemingly endless supply of vitriol for practically every other minority group also seems to be the most supportive Republican nominee we’ve ever seen on LGBTQ issues?
Of course, the feat of becoming the “most supportive Republican nominee” in history wasn’t exactly Herculean since the bar was set pretty low. Trump has still vowed to fight for the repeal of nationwide marriage equality, and stands at the head of a party that has made anti-LGBTQ policies a cornerstone of its 2016 platform.
Still, it is notable — historic, even — that a Republican nominee for president was willing to utter the term “LGBTQ” in front of crowd of social conservatives.
But it’s absurd to think that this blatant pandering would make any difference; even in some alternative universe, where Trump and his party did fully embrace LGBTQ families and our rights, we do not stand apart from our other identities. We are gay, and we are parents. But we are also Muslim or Mexican; we are raising daughters and caring for mothers; we live with disabilities, and have children with disabilities, too. An attack on any of these groups, then, is an attack on LGBTQ families as well.