Earlier this week the New Yorker reported that, during a White House discussion on gay rights, Donald Trump glibly said that Mike Pence, who has been accused of supporting conversion therapy for LGBT people, “wants to hang them all”. After some bad press, Trump denied ever saying this.
One suspects, of course, that not only did Trump say it, but that he himself would happily preside over televised hangings of gay people if he thought it would get him good ratings. One also suspects that, even as the first episode of The Hanging Apprentice went live on air, you’d still find some gay conservatives eager to explain that Trump is good for the LGBT community really.
Trump, you see, does have a fanbase among the LGBT community. While only 14% of gay Americans voted for him (it’s hard to get data on trans voters), he’s galvanised very vocal support among an influential group of gay, white, and financially well-off men.
The friendships being forged between the right and the gay community aren’t just unique to America
In February, for example, Chadwick Moore, a 33-year-old gay journalist who controversially profiled the deeply odious Milo Yiannopoulos in Out magazine, “came out” as sympathetic to Trump in a New York Post piece. Moore is just one example of a wider trend of gay people, emboldened by the likes of self-described “dangerous faggot” Yiannopoulos, to publicly and vociferously air their prejudices or pledge their allegiance to the racist, sexist and increasingly homophobic Trump administration.
“2017 is really the year that LGBT conservatives came out of the closet,” Gregory T Angelo, the president of Log Cabin Republicans, told me. LCR describes itself as America’s “largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies”, and Angelo has been active within the organization for almost a decade.
In all that time, he says, he’s never seen so many LGBT people “so emphatically vocal” about their conservative pride as they are now. “Many more LGBT individuals that I know are comfortable shouting their political affiliation from the rooftops.” Angelo also states that “over the course of 2016 and 2017 there has been a noticeable swell in grassroots support for LCR, a spike in membership, and a spike in social media followers”.
Not all gay conservatives are coming out, it should be said. Some are being outed. Gay journalist Mitchell Sunderland was recently fired from his role as a senior writer at Broadly, Vice’s feminism vertical, after BuzzFeed revealed he’d been suggesting misogynistic story ideas to Breitbart. Last year Sunderland urged Yiannopoulos to “please mock this fat feminist”, referring to the writer Lindy West.
And while Sunderland was Broadly’s managing editor – please, let’s pause and let the fact he was the managing editor of a feminist site sink in – he sent a Broadly video about the Satanic Temple and abortion rights to Tim Gionet (a prominent alt-right activist who goes by the name “Baked Alaska”) telling him to “do whatever with this on Breitbart. It’s insane.”
Breitbart swiftly published an article titled “‘Satanic Temple’ Joins Planned Parenthood in Pro-Abortion Crusade.”
The friendships being forged between the right and the gay community aren’t just unique to America. Israel has long used pink-washing to help sanitize its treatment of Palestinians. And across the west there’s been a very calculated pink-washing of white nationalism. It’s OK to hate Muslims because Muslims hate gay people, we’re told by white people who also hate gay people – just not as much as they hate Muslims.
Far-right parties have also realized that strategically dangling a few gay people acts as a sort of fundamentalist Febreze that dilutes the stench of their hatred. For example, last month the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) became the first openly nationalist party to enter the German Bundestag for nearly 60 years. The AfD is co-led by Alice Weidel, who is gay and in a civil partnership with a woman who is reportedly of Sri Lankan descent.
So, extremist policies or not, how on Earth could the AfD be neo-Nazis if they’ve got a gay woman with an ethnically impure wife in charge? In France, the Front National is using similar tactics. According to a February BuzzFeed report, “the [French] National Front now has more high-ranking gay figures than any major party in France, including the Socialists, the center-left party that passed a marriage equality law in 2013”.
Let’s be clear: racism and misogyny in the queer community is nothing new. Nor is the pink-washing of white nationalism. Nevertheless, in the past year, the trend has become much more pronounced, and it’s disturbing to see so many gay people buy into the idea that our ability to come out depends on keeping brown people out.
Some people might argue that the increase in right wing LGBTQ people represents a move away from identity politics. Ultimately, however, it’s just a move back to the oldest form of identity politics. One in which the protection of whiteness and wealth trumps everything. But as some gay Trump supporters might be starting to realize, the right aren’t your friends, and eventually they’ll come for you.