How long should someone have to wait to be treated with dignity and respect?

That’s a question we should consider as we celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month this June. There should be hope in how far we’ve come. But amid disheartening setbacks, it’s urgent that we recognize how so many LGBTQ Americans are still pushed to the margins in ways that are dehumanizing, and even deadly.

Fatal attacks on transgender women have been on the rise in recent years. Not coincidentally, the attacks have come amid an intensified coordinated political movement to demean Americans who identify as transgender, and to take their rights away from them.

Starting a few years ago, the use by transgender Americans of bathrooms that correspond to the gender with which they identify – never an issue until made into one – became a clearinghouse for anti-transgender suspicion, ignorance and demagoguery.

And after promising in his Republican nomination speech to protect the LGBTQ community, President Trump has shown those to be the worst kind of empty words. While happy to take in the applause from some a hopeful statement, in practice his administration has been an active enemy of the LGBTQ community.

The Trump administration removed pages on LGBTQ rights from federal government websites. They pushed discriminatory rules in education, health care and housing. They instituted a ban on transgender Americans in the military, with Trump citing the “costs and burdens” of such service members, going against the wisdom of his own military commanders.

The administration also stopped the Census from asking questions on sexual orientation and gender equality – that’s right, President Trump didn’t even want LGBTQ Americans to be counted, assuring that they would be underrepresented when it comes time to allot services and protections.

President Trump kicked off Pride Month with another empty statement, mentioning the occasion for the first time in his presidency. Shortly after, he praised the Rev. Franklin Graham and retweeted several times the anti-gay minister, who in 2014 wrote that same-sex marriage was the work of “Satan,” part of a long history of hateful attacks.

The full-on assault on LGBTQ rights by the Trump administration stands out even further in contrast to the progress that has been made, and the acts of hope and courage that are taken every day in pursuit of human rights.

Nicole Maines, who, as a fifth-grader in Orono was thrust into the debate over transgender use of bathrooms, is now an LGBTQ icon – and a television star. A ban on so-called “conversion therapy,” so destructive to youth, passed the Maine Legislature easily and was signed into law by Gov. Mills. A pathetic call to protest a Drag Queen Story Hour in Waterville drew an equally pathetic crowd, while supporters filled the bookstore.

Nationally, congressional Democrats are pushing the Equality Act, which would give full civil rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. A gay man is running for president, and his sexuality is a nonissue.

And here we are, seven years after Mainers cast a historic vote in favor of love and tolerance by approving same-sex marriage, and the issue is hardly a part of political discourse anymore.

But that should not distract from the fact that some Americans continue to be held as lesser in the eyes of the law and society as a whole. Each act of intolerance, whether by the government or by individuals, makes other bigoted acts more likely. Every time we fail to stand alongside people made vulnerable through who they are, we make this a lesser country.

How long should they have to wait to be treated with dignity and respect?

 


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