By Elise Schoening
Chloe Sklans, a sophomore psychology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major, followed the election coverage on CNN until the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 9. The TV in Sklans’s Campus Town apartment hummed with voter turnout updates and swing state predictions. Seated beside her on the couch was Sklans’s girlfriend.
“We were laughing and talking and hanging out,” Sklans said. “Until, all of a sudden, we saw the electoral numbers start to shift with huge numbers on the Donald Trump side… We sat there in shock.”
The couple watched together as the electoral college count climbed in Trump’s favor. Disbelief turned to dread as the reality of a Trump presidency set in.
“Once we saw that it was over and there was no way (Hillary Clinton) would win, we turned to each other and cried,” Sklans said. “It just felt like the celebration we had two years ago of finally feeling like we mattered and our rights were the same as the rest of the population was shattered.”
While watching the results roll in, Sklans wondered how her life would change over the next four years. Would she lose the right to marry her girlfriend? Would it be unsafe for them to hold hands in public?
Sklans and members of the LGBTQ+ community on the College campus and across the country worried in the wake of the election that LGBTQ+ progress would be rolled back under a Trump and Mike Pence administration.
“I went to bed having lost any fragment of hope I had left for a Clinton win,” said Jordan Stefanski, a senior nursing major who identifies as gay. “When I drove back to school the next day, the atmosphere had completely changed. Everything just felt heavy and sad, even to the point of walking into my nursing lab class and people were so quiet… it almost felt like a funeral.”
Fear over the election results within the LGBTQ+ community goes beyond the struggle for same-sex marriage. Transgender rights are also up for debate, and people across the LGBTQ+ spectrum expressed concern that discrimination and violence against the entire queer community might result from the Trump campaign.
“Knowing that I could easily be attacked or killed for expressing my sexuality in public… that is more than a bitter pill to swallow,” Stefanski said. “In the coming years, will I have to worry about getting evicted from an apartment if my future partner and I decide to move in together? When I apply for jobs, will I have to worry about staying in the closet as a matter of job security? These are the important questions that even moderate Republicans don’t seem to want to ask, but are a reality for all LGBTQ+ people nationwide.”
At this time, the future of the queer community remains uncertain. Trump’s views on LGBTQ+ rights shift frequently. Meanwhile, Pence remains an outspoken opponent of the queer community.
On Sunday, Nov. 13, Trump said he supported same-sex marriage and that the issue had been settled by the Supreme Court. During the “60 Minutes” interview, Trump said he was “fine” with it.
The recent remarks contrast previous statements by Trump in which he called himself a supporter of “traditional marriage” and said that if elected, he would “strongly consider” appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Pence, on the other hand, has often acted against the interests of LGBTQ+ individuals.
In 2000, Pence proposed diverting funds for HIV prevention to conversion therapy programs. He later opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and discouraged repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ban for military personnel. Last year, Pence signed the Religious Freedoms Restorations Act into law, allowing Indiana businesses to legally discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Trump at times has claimed to be a candidate for the LGBTQ+ community, (but) I do not think he has once backed up that claim,” said Rosie Driscoll, a junior history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major. “Trump’s choice of Pence makes it clear that LGBTQ+ rights are not and have never been a priority of his campaign.”
Driscoll and many members of the LGBTQ+ community see Pence as a threat to their rights.
Trump supporters, however, trust that the president-elect will stand by LGBTQ+ rights, as he promised to do in an address following the Pulse nightclub shooting.
“As president, I will do everything in my power to protect (LGBTQ+) citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” Trump said.
Many Trump supporters expressed the belief that LGBTQ+ rights are fundamental rights and as such will not be repealed during Trump’s presidency.
“It has been said many times that gay rights are human rights, and I fully believe that,” senior nursing major Katie D’Auria said. “The LGBTQ+ community is just as worthy of the dignity, respect and rights of any other American citizen.”
D’Auria does not think LGBTQ+ Americans will be negatively affected by the president-elect.
“(Trump’s) entire platform is based upon uniting the citizens of this country, and it would be negligent for one to assume he would exclude the LGBTQ+ community,” D’Auria said.
Supporters of Trump and Pence can even be found within the LGBTQ+ community.
“I support Donald Trump and am quite happy to see him elected,” a junior computer science major who wished to remain anonymous said. “I think that he truly has the best interest of the American people at heart. I identify as bisexual and don’t believe my or any LGBTQ+ rights will be affected.”
The 2016 presidential election has proved divisive for the American people, and the LGBTQ+ community is no exception.
“Many (LGBTQ+) people have voted for both candidates,” said Scott Borton, a freshman international studies major who identifies as gay. “The community itself, while united in a common desire for equality, is very diverse with many opinions differing within it.”
Both Trump and Clinton supporters in the queer community stressed the importance of remaining hopeful and resilient for years to come as the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights continues.
“The queer community will persist,” said Max Nazario, president of PRISM and a junior chemistry major. “We’re not going anywhere.”