During his campaign, candidate Donald Trump proclaimed that he had more support in the gay community than previous Republican candidates. He trumpeted, "LGBT is starting to like Donald Trump very much lately, I will tell you, starting to like Donald Trump very, very much lately." And it's clear the administration wants to keep up that facade: They touted in the press the fact that the president said marriage for gay couples is a settled issue and allowed an Obama-era nondiscrimination executive order to remain in place as proof of his support for the LGBT community.
But make no mistake, Trump is no ally. Scratching just under the surface reveals that his administration has already begun to quietly but persistently erode the progress that's been made for gay and transgender Americans over the past decade.
The administration's most high-profile affront to the LGBT community so far was rescinding the Department of Education and Department of Justice's Title IX guidance in February. This guidance had reiterated a growing legal consensus on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects students against discrimination and harassment in our nation's schools on the basis of sex. The guidance had simply helped to ensure that schools understood their obligation under existing law to allow transgender students to attend school safely in a manner that does not conflict with their gender identity. But the Trump administration did away with it shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos were confirmed. Rescinding this guidance played into disingenuous scare tactics – the idea that protecting transgender students comes at the expense of other students' safety – and sent the wrong message to our schools and students. Transgender Americans were already one of the most vulnerable populations in the nation and this action only put them further at risk.
But that was just the act that made the biggest news – the attacks didn't end there. Trump earned plaudits early on by refusing to rescind President Barack Obama's order that protected employees of federal contractors from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That order was a huge expansion of LGBT nondiscrimination protections, covering roughly one-fifth of the American workforce. After leaks surfaced that he would undo the order, the administration decided to keep it, and many credited Trump for fulfilling his promise at the Republican Convention to "protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression." Some even posited this was proof that Ivanka Trump's and Jared Kushner's "New York values" would prevail in the White House. Yet just a few months after promising to keep the order in place, Trump quietly gutted key provisions that required contractors to prove they are in compliance with these nondiscrimination obligations. Without any requirement to report whether contractors are following the order, can you really claim credit for having kept it on the books?
The third strike was the administration erasing LGBT people from federal surveys. Trump's Department of Health and Human Services just removed questions identifying LGBT people from two important data collection programs: the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living. The former collects information on a variety of senior-related services including transportation, homemaker and meal assistance and the latter tracks the efficacy of programs that assist Americans with disabilities. Inclusion in both of these surveys is critical to getting resources to LGBT Americans who are seniors or are living with disabilities. Federal programs base funding by counting people in the community, so if LGBT people aren't tallied, the organizations and programs that assist them won't get the resources they need. Yet the Trump administration just pushed older LGBT Americans back into the closet.
Trump is only a few months into his presidency, and we've already seen a quiet but steady chipping away of protections for LGBT Americans. This president may have said he would be great for the LGBT community, but actions speak louder than words. And it’s clear his veneer of inclusion can't hide the intent of his administration to make the lives of LGBT people, young and old, more difficult.