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Queer Love in the Time of Trump

in Campus Journal by

I grew up in San Francisco, the capital of peace and love in America. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the 2016 election and its aftermath. And no, I don’t just mean the fact that the most powerful person in the country is now a human Cheeto with no moral compass or intelligent, sustainable plan. I mean the sudden outpouring of love from all sides of the anti-Trump resistance.

Ever since someone first came up with “Love Trumps Hate” I have seen nothing but declarations of love, mainly from middle-aged, economically advantaged white women. It reminds me of the oh-so-original “Love is Love” signs that these same women carried around just before same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states. At the time, I had noted that none of the queer people I knew had those signs. Where do we stand now? What is the role of queer love in these times, considering it may be threatened by the administration? As a group menaced by Trump, what should we do with all of this love being thrown at us?

Disclaimer — as a cisgendered white person, I’m very safe and well off compared to many transgender folk or queer people of color. I’m more worried about my future as a woman than as a queer person. Yet when I went back to my old high school during winter break, my old classmates gave me long, worried looks, and asked me in hushed tones how I was doing. It appears many straight “allies” have convinced themselves that the loss of same-sex marriage is imminent, and that the queer community will collapse when that happens.

“Marriage is a concern because it’s something that a lot of people strive toward…but it’s not the most important thing to me,” explains Maya Henry ’20. She expresses more concern about the possibility of healthcare becoming less accessible and more expensive. She isn’t the only one to distance herself from the issue of same-sex marriage. Will Marchese ’20 expresses his annoyance that it has been made such an issue, pointing out that gay marriage only provides benefits such as healthcare to the married couples. That leaves many queer people without an economic or health care safety net, especially considering how the LGBTQ+ community is disproportionately affected by issues of poverty. But, of course, economic hardships and lack of health care make for a much less emotional photo-op than attractive same-sex couples getting married on the beach.

Forget about marriage. What matters more is queer relationships, in and of themselves. I have both been encouraged to be out and proud and to hide any same-sex relationship I have, out of fear of being attacked.

“It’s important to celebrate our love … But also keep in mind people might need to go back into the closet for … personal safety … I feel like there’s gonna be an increase in violence,” believes Gretchen Trupp ’18.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity in terms of what the climate will be like for queer relationships,” Henry adds.

Not the most positive picture. It makes me wonder what, exactly, we can do with all this gratuitous love being thrown at us. What about our love? Is there now some sacred responsibility to love everyone and be above all the hate? Trupp firmly disagrees with the notion of having to love everyone, especially people who fundamentally oppose who we are at our core — people such as Milo Yiannopoulous, an openly gay Breitbart journalist who loudly supports Trump and the alt-right. His scheduled appearance at the University of California, Berkeley caused a riot and was cancelled for security reasons. There wasn’t much love being directed at him there. The queer community is divided — some of us voted Trump, or care little about what he does until it affects us directly.

Straight people, just a heads up: queer people can be jerks too. Direct your love towards those who really need it. As Marchese points out, those that really need love and support are those we don’t hear about often, such as transgender people of color or undocumented queer people. They may not be commonly represented in mainstream LGBT+ discourse, but their struggles deserve attention, respect, and support.

Let’s discuss that term, “love.” It’s a laudable intention, but what can we do with it? How will having the love of some random “ally” help in the time of Trump? Marchese archly points out that, while love is crucial for self-preservation in our communities, “Love does NOT trump hate; direct action and militant anti-fascism do.” This love won’t be especially useful if it doesn’t become concrete action.

“[Love is] relevant as we … draw strength from our community and allies … but … it’s very clearly not enough,” Trupp says.

“The love trumps hate thing makes me roll my eyes sometimes, but at the core of it I think it’s a way of standing with people whose struggles you may not fully understand, but being there to advocate for them,” admits Henry.

So, allies, thank you for your love. It is appreciated. But we don’t just need love. We need actions to back it up. And more than that, we need respect. Understanding. We need you to look out for communities that you may have forgotten about, to remember that the queer community does not start and end with rainbow flags and “Love is Love.” We need you to listen when we point out why pussy hats or the overrepresentation of wealthier white women in the Women’s March are exclusionary and should be critiqued for all the good intentions behind them.

Love is something valuable and not that uncommon, that you give the people you feel closest to — the ones you would fight to protect and help. So don’t say you love everyone if you’re not willing to fight for them.

“I don’t think you have to love everyone, but trying [to understand] each other is important to me,” Henry concluded.

We’re not that desperate for love, people. We’ll take listening and respect.

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