NEW YORK — While some critics are urging Democrats and other progressives to move beyond identity politics as a way to rebuild and regain support after the 2016 presidential election, LGBTQ activists who will attend an upcoming anti-Trump rally in New York City say that looking at politics through identity keeps them both vigilant and strong.
“I am Puerto Rican. I am a lesbian. I am a woman,” said Eunic Ortiz, president of the New York City-based LGBTQ organization Stonewall Democrats. “Coming out of the election, people who identify as LGBTQ woke up the next day fearful of many issues—marriage, workplace protections, immigration, healthcare, the list goes on—and just as we stand with different groups, everyone needs to come together to stand up not only for one issue but many issues.”
Ortiz is one of several activists gearing up to participate at a rally in New York's iconic Washington Square Park on Dec. 17. For Ortiz, the LGBTQ community lives at the intersection of different causes and issues, and identity politics makes people more aware of diversity, compelling them to look at society through the eyes of groups who are being left out. Ortiz says the LGBTQ community cannot take anything for granted.
“Trump may have held up the rainbow flag, but he doesn’t hold up our community with high regard,” Ortiz told NBC Latino. “He does not think about our community with any importance just based alone on the people he has announced for his cabinet and his vice president. He has picked people who have said things against the LGBTQ community and also have a history of acting out against us in previous positions.”
LGBTQ advocates point out that Vice President-elect Mike Pence supported moving federal government money from HIV treatment to gay conversion therapy programs aimed at helping “those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Senator Jeff Sessions—Trump’s pick for attorney general—voted against same-sex marriage and to overturn the military policy that allows LGBTQ people to serve openly. And Betsy DeVos, the President-elect’s choice for education secretary, has also donated hundreds of thousands to an anti-gay Christian group.
Even though Christian leaders are gaining support with Trump, 2016 presidential exit polling shows that the political alignment of U.S. religious groups remained almost the same. Eighty-one percent of white born-again or evangelical Christians voted for the President-elect. Sixty percent of white Catholics and 61 percent of Mormons also supported Trump. But 67 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 71 percent of the Jewish vote rallied for Hillary Clinton. And when it comes to LGBTQ issues, religious groups are similarly divided.
“I think it is terrible when politicians legislate in the name of God, or that people are excluded in the name of God,” said Rev. Fabian Arias, senior pastor at the Lutheran Church of Sion, located at St. Peters Church in Manhattan. “I don’t want to believe in a God who excludes, marginalizes and destroys people because of their life choices.”
For Rev. Arias, religion has the power to elevate democratic values and make society more inclusive. But secular LGBTQ supporters caution that with widespread attacks on political correctness, and fake news often outpacing real facts online, society is becoming less tolerant and more fragmented.
“We are moving in a terrible direction where you could see a clamp down on anyone who doesn’t conform,” said filmmaker and CUNY MFA Film professor Andrea Weiss — who is finishing a 2017 documentary about the famous Spanish poet Federico García Lorca and the history of LGBTQ rights in Spain. “During times of repression, conformity is a very powerful tool. And during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship [in Spain] the stories of those who didn’t conform were erased from history, culture and the collective memory of society.”
Rev. Arias is urging believers and nonbelievers alike to step up with their communities to compel politicians to defend diversity. “Diversity is one of the most precious gifts that God has given us. And it reminds us that we need to protect each other. That we are all children of God,” said the Lutheran pastor.
The Not Straight Against Hate rally will take place on Dec. 17 in Washington Square Park, followed by a march up 5th Avenue to Trump Tower.