A gay view from a red state

Posted on 14 Oct 2016 at 7:55am

Growing up ‘different’ puts a different spin on ‘the Trump Effect’

brent-paxtonIt’s never easy having a point of view at odds with the rest of your community. That is exactly how I’ve felt most of my life, having grown up in a small town in East Texas.

East Texas is VERY red — as Republican as you can get. I was taught that Republicans are Christians and that Democrats are atheists. No, really. I was taught this. I was also forced to watch a poorly made documentary in the late 1990s about how either Bill or Hillary Clinton was the Antichrist – or that they both were, simultaneously, in some unholy union.

This was my upbringing — and it’s not too far from the reality of many people, gay and straight, who live in rural areas of conservative states.

Like most families in most communities, I was indoctrinated into the right-wing conservatism of my community. Grandparents, preachers, teachers, parents and community leaders regularly reinforced their rules. I distinctly remember a grade school teacher telling me then-President Bill Clinton was “the devil.” Sadly, this didn’t shock me or bother me, because this was a sentiment I’d heard time and time again. Now, Donald Trump actually called Hillary Clinton “the devil” in the second presidential debate.

As I’ve gotten older and more independent, I’ve learned to come to my own conclusions about politics. I now identify as a Democrat and many in my family and community have accused me of “drinking the Kool-Aid.” This is code for saying that I don’t really believe in Democratic ideals, I’m just doing it to fit in with other gay people.

The truth is, I never agreed with the Republican platform or their ideas. I remember thinking from a very early age that there was something very wrong with what I was being taught. Perhaps it was my own internal moral compass. Or maybe it was the fact that Republicans, especially when I was younger, shunned and talked about gays with such hate and disgust that I simply had to distance myself from their ideology.

Whether it was the horrible things they said to me about people with AIDS, or maybe the “he had it coming attitude when Matthew Shepherd was murdered, or something else, I finally decided I couldn’t call myself a Republican.

Today, as an adult, I can express my political affiliations, opinions and concerns without fear of backlash. Or can I?

Presidential elections seem to bring out the worst in people. And this year, the Republicans have nominated Donald Trump, a man who has magnified the very worst attributes of his party. His inappropriate behavior has reached the point that the even Republican leadership have distanced themselves from him. But his supporters aren’t worried about the next election, and the “Trump Effect” is in full swing.

The Trumpians are everywhere. As polls indicate, they are almost half of the voting population; and they are truly everywhere. Sadly, this includes my Facebook.

This election, I’ve come to personally identify Trump supporters as “the angry mob.” “Angry” and “mob” go perfectly together because Trump has emboldened people to voice outdated opinions that are racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and just downright hateful in general. The comments they leave on my Facebook posts are reminiscent of the crowd shouting, “Burn the witch!” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Recently, I shared a few thoughts on Trump’s sexist comments about former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado. And the Trump train of comments came rolling in.

One read: “Well, what do you expect when Miss Universe turns into an overgrown cow!” (A reference to Machado gaining weight during her year as Miss Universe.) Another said: “She doesn’t belong here. Ship Ms. Piggy back to Mexico!”

Now, these are people I know! I ought to mention that Machado is from Venezuela and recently became a U.S. citizen.

These kinds comments perfectly intertwine sexism, racism and misogyny into one hateful bundle. And they show that Trump followers will defend anything he does. This became even more evident when Trump’s mob didn’t back down after he bragged about sexually assaulting women. Specifically, he said that he grabs them by their genitals and starts kissing them with no self control.

Shocking? Not to Trump supporters.

So, he doesn’t respect women. He doesn’t respect Muslims. He doesn’t respect people with disabilities (He mocked a reporter with a physical disability). He doesn’t respect Mexicans (i.e. calling them rapists and murders and advocating literally building a wall to keep them out).

What about the LGBT community? One comment on my page suggested that I should be happy that Trump is the Republican candidate. After all, the commentator said, “He’s the first Republican presidential candidate to support gay rights.”

What the hell?! Just to be clear, Trump has consistently opposed same-sex marriage in interviews since 2000. He also said he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would favor reversing the decision and leave the issue of same-sex marriage to the states. And he selected one of the most anti-LGBT politicians available to be his vice-presidential running mate.

Obviously the Republican Party hasn’t changed from when I was a child. They are just as angry a mob as they were before. And now they have a candidate just as angry and hateful as they are.

Trump has normalized the idea of spewing lie after lie with zero remorse; of perpetuating unsubstantiated and thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories; of objectifying and belittling women; of scapegoating the entire Mexican-American population; and too many others to mention here. Surely, by the time this hits newsstands another Trump controversy will have emerged.

As a proud gay person, I find Donald Trump reprehensible. Members of the gay community have struggled for so long to win even our most basic rights — like marriage equality, equal housing, access to partners in medical facilities, protections through hate crime laws and equal treatment in the military. How could I stand by and allow any man to say such horrible things about other communities engaged in their own fight for equality and equal footing in the world?

You see, it’s not really about being gay at all. It’s about being different. Growing up different is what lead me to the conclusion that the Republican Party is not for me. My childhood taught me that the party is for white, American-born straight people who claim to be Christians — no one else.

Trump is reviving this sentiment, with the occasional minority beside him as a political prop. And when commentators attack people of different backgrounds, people with disabilities and immigrants — I take that personally. As a person who is, and always has been, different, I know how wrong that is.

So, listen here my red state brothers, sisters, neighbors, co-workers, family and friends: When you defend racism, sexism, misogyny and xenophobia and claim that you’re “all for” gay rights, you are fooling no one. An attack against one is an attack against all.

Attacking people who are simply different than you because it gives you a sense of superiority is not okay. That superiority and privileged has been harnessed into a weapon this election, and I am not having it. This is why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. I want to build bridges between us, not walls. Clinton’s slogan wraps up what we need to hear this election, “Stronger. Together.”

Brent Paxton is a freelance writer, filmmaker and political commentator living in Dallas, Texas. You can follow him on Facebook at Facebook.com/BrentPaxton.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2016.

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