By Alexa Salvato
Students’ Reactions, National Reactions
Shelby*, an Ithaca College student and officer of Spectrum, an LGBT student group on campus, sat cross-legged on the floor during the club’s weekly meeting as she recalled her feelings from Nov. 9, 2016.
“I think at first I was really numb,” she said. “And I talked to people throughout that week who shared the same feeling, where they were like, I really don’t believe it, and I really don’t know what to do with my feelings and I don’t know how I’m feeling.”
Shelby is one of many LGBT-identifying young adults who has been negatively affected by the election of Donald Trump. After speaking to every member of the club, about 20 individuals, Ithaca Week did not find a single student who expressed a positive or even indifferent reaction to Trump’s election.
This certainly reflects the national statistics. According to the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper based in Washington, D.C., 78 percent of LGBT voters nationally cast their votes for Clinton, 14 percent for Trump and 8 percent for other candidates.
However, there are still the 14 percent of LGBT voters who filled in the bubble for Trump at the polls. The Independent Journal Review interviewed two such men, both of whom were adamantly pro-Trump because they found his commitment to protecting the country against the threat of “radical Islam” to be the priority for all Americans, including LGBT Americans.
Christopher Barron, the co-founder of GOProud, an organization for politically conservative gay people, spoke to the Independent Journal Review about his beliefs. ““Radical Islam seeks to exterminate LGBT people across the globe,” he said. “While Donald Trump is committed to defeating these barbarians, Hillary Clinton is taking tens of millions of dollars from Islamic regimes that brutalize — and in some cases murder — their LGBT citizens.” He added that issues such as bathroom use for transgender individuals and businesses’ refusal to serve LGBT customers, for example, are far less important to him than what he described as national threats.
Choosing to Return Home Post-Election
Yet many LGBT individuals are affected by the smaller threats to safety that they find in daily life. Luca Maurer, the LGBT Education, Outreach & Services Program Director at Ithaca College, said he spoke to many such individuals who were worried about going home for Thanksgiving in mid-November.
“Thanksgiving is always wrought for LGBT students,” he said. “What is new is people’s fear, concern and anguish about political ideology,” he added, and how it will affect them directly.
He said that in the past, many students came to his office around the holidays for advice about coming out when home with their families for school breaks. This year, however, that was not mentioned as one of students’ concerns.
More common, he said, were people’s fear of a “terrible family member” or of returning to the culture of their hometown.
“For some people, family is good, and they feel safe there,” he said. “But their hometown is bad.”
Ithaca College, both institutionally and organically, worked to support students who felt unsafe about returning home for the holidays. For example, the college flew the LGBT rainbow flag the day following the election. In terms of individuals, one of many events was organized by Sam*, an Ithaca College senior, who planned a group called “LGBTQ Children of Trump Supporters – Support Group” that Maurer attended.
Maurer noted that he was also very moved by students’ offers to bring back to their families any student who had nowhere else to go, even if that student was a total stranger. Other students said that they were planning to stay at school to celebrate the holiday, and invited others to their homes in Ithaca.
Shelby is one student who chose to stay on campus for Thanksgiving break, but is worried about returning home for the longer winter break following finals.
“I have a grandfather who occasionally likes to get political on my Facebook, and I don’t want to deal with it, so I delete his comments,” she said. “It’s very upsetting, knowing I have to go see him at Christmas… I’m very uncomfortable about seeing my mom’s family. They’re all in Tennessee, and most of them are very conservative and very Republican. I’ve struggled with a lot of those relationships.”
Another source of support on campus, he said, was the allyship of the international student community at Ithaca College, who specifically reached out to the LGBT community to invite them to the Thanksgiving dinner they have on campus for international students who cannot get home for the break. This was especially powerful, he mentioned, because many international students also feel they will be affected by a Trump presidency.
An Ally’s Perspective
LGBT voters’ interests are often magnified by their allies, those who identify as straight but consider themselves supportive of the LGBT community. Julie*, a student at SUNY Purchase in Purchase, NY, considers herself to be an ally because of the many people close to her who identify on the LGBT spectrum.
Julie was planning to vote for a third party candidate in the election, but was unable to make it to the polls on Election Day. “I couldn’t make it to my hometown to vote. I’ll be completely honest and admit that I didn’t do an absentee ballot because I didn’t know much about the process, which is no one’s fault but mine,” she said in an email interview.
When asked about Trump, she said, “I hate his guts,” but also posted an article on the day of the election from Odyssey — University of Kentucky that she identifies with. The article, “I’m a Woman and I’m Not with Her,” has over 371,000 shares as of Dec. 6, 2016.
“ Starting with staying with a husband that cheated on you to now lying about your private email server, you do not deserve to be looked up to by the women or men of this country,” the article reads. “…I may hold our country to a high standard, but I do not think asking for an honest candidate is too much to ask for. You deserve to be in jail, not leading our country.”
Julie said she is “worried about [her friends] in the LGBT community and their rights,” although she is “trying to be optimistic.” She said she does not have an LGBT-identifying friends who voted for Trump, but she does know self-defined allies who did. “I do know multiple people who are strong allies for the community who did happen to vote for Trump,” she said.
Resources for Students
With this amount of concern, Maurer shared the many resources available for LGBT students who feel unsafe in the post-election climate. The LGBT Center on campus, in the basement of Hammond Health Center, is a place to start. In one’s hometown, he added, there is almost definitely a local library with heat and free wi-fi if one needs to escape from a hostile situation. There are also online chat lines, text lines and phone hotlines including The Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line.
Most critical, he said, is for individuals to plan ahead for what they can do if they feel unsafe. “That way, either you don’t start to feel overwhelmed,” he said. “Or if you do, you don’t just start spinning in our discomfort. You have something you can do.”
Feature image by @tstacyy on Instagram
Last names redacted for privacy of sources