Originally published Nov. 7, 2016 in The Diamondback
Last week when Donald Trump was campaigning in Colorado, he came onstage with a rainbow flag with "LGBTs for Trump" scrawled in the center. The Republican presidential nominee then paraded the flag around. You can practically hear him saying, "See, I told you. I have a great relationship with the homos. I've always had a great relationship with the homos."
Trump supporters described the moment as historical, adding that he was the most "pro-LGBT Pres candidate ever nominated by either party." Yet as Trump flaunted his newfound token, I could not help but notice something — the flag was being held upside down, violet on top.
As the election season ends, I find myself realizing that my sexuality was the only deciding factor in how I plan to vote. Being a gay man and an eligible voter, my decision is already made for me (contrary to the message of Twinks for Trump), and that sucks. I have become a single-issue voter in one of the most important presidential races of my lifetime.
I do my best to not let my sexual orientation define my political stance, but when one candidate openly pats himself on the back for "being right" about Muslims in the wake of the largest killing of LGBT people in American history, it's hard not to. When Donald Trump uses the death of 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando to project his message of hate, it feels as if my community is being paraded around onstage, held upside down with "LGBTs for Trump" carved into our skin.
Trump is a candidate who wants to appoint judges that will overturn 2015's marriage equality ruling. Trump is a candidate with a running mate who wants to divert HIV prevention funding to support conversion therapy. Trump is a candidate who would sign the First Amendment Defense Act, making it legal for employers, landlords, businesses and anyone really to discriminate against LGBT individuals as long as they cite it's because of their religious beliefs.
This has been pretty heavy handed against the Donald, so let me make it clear: Hillary Clinton makes me uneasy as well, but I do not feel threatened by the possibility of her presidency. I was personally offended when the Human Rights Campaign, a monolith within the gay rights movement, announced their endorsement of Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. It might have been acceptable if Clinton had not historically scored lower than Sanders in her campaign's Congressional Scorecard. Sanders earned a perfect score of 100 in every scorecard available online, while Clinton usually sat around an 89 in the same reports.
Clinton's record also concerns me, and her flip to fully support the LGBT movement feels like a disingenuous vote grab. In her 2000 senate race, Clinton said, "Marriage has got historic … content that goes back to the beginning of time," adding, "I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and woman." While she supported civil unions for gay couples, she also supported the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, barring couples legally married at the state level from being recognized federally.
While Clinton may be singing the praises of Nancy Reagan's supposed advocacy during the AIDS crisis (surprise! Nancy Reagan let her friend, actor Rock Hudson, die without treatment for the illness even after he requested help), she has never endorsed the practice of conversion therapy and has not supported North Carolina's bathroom bill, House Bill 2. It may feel cheap, but I would rather have Clinton's support than be a token for Trump.
Looking at the two major-party candidates, I believe I would feel the same about them even if I was straight. Unfortunately, I will never know. Becoming a single-issue voter has freed me from any responsibility to research the candidates and my opinion about them, because all I need to know is that Trump is bad for LGBT people and Clinton is not. My vote is decided.
This is not how I want to choose who governs me, and it concerns me that I have reduced my decision to this. I want to dig into their economic and foreign policies, but I don't. I don't dig because nothing I can find will change my mind on these candidates. Regardless of other policies, only one of them is good for me.
The only solution to my issue-blinding is to make LGBT rights a non-issue. I understand it might take the better half of forever before this happens, but it is the only way. When I can evaluate candidates without feeling that one of them may view me as a lesser person, then I will be free to explore additional policies that should matter to me. I am not saying that LGBT issues don't matter; they clearly do. I am saying full and equal rights for people of all gender and sexual diversities are such a no-brainer, I can't wait for the day LGBT issues do not matter at the polls.