Countless millions of Americans woke up last Wednesday morning feeling uncertain — or even afraid — about their future in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s stunning Election Day victory.
That fear was especially palpable among the borough’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.
“It cuts deep,” LGBT Network CEO David Kilmnick, a Far Rockaway native, said in a Monday interview. “When we think about all the gains that we have made, gains to just live freely and openly, it cuts a lot deeper.”
While the president-elect’s highly controversial views on Muslims and Hispanics have garnered countless headlines over the course of the campaign and the first week of his transition, what Trump’s presidency would mean for the LGBT community is unknown.
Trump’s public statements about same-sex marriage over the last year have wildly contradicted each other. Last Sunday, he told CBS that last year’s landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide is “settled” and that he’s “fine” with it.
That goes against a number of statements he made during his presidential campaign. Most notably, Trump told ABC in January that he would “strongly consider” appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Obergefell decision if given the chance.
Kilmnick — a gay man himself whose organization operates an LGBT support center in Little Neck and other sites across Long Island — believes that Trump is a pathological liar who can’t be trusted.
“How can we believe anything that comes out of this man’s mouth? He’s lied since the day he started his campaign and he’s lying today,” he said. “If you dig deeper into that CBS interview, I think it’s very telling what their strategy is in discussing Roe v. Wade, where people will have to go to different states [where abortion would still be legal]. That’s the strategy they will use for marriage equality.”
Kilmnick added that it isn’t Trump the LGBT community is most worried about.
They are more fearful of Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Stephen Bannon, Trump’s new chief strategist and the former head of extreme right-wing website Breitbart.
“What I do fear is not so much Trump himself but the people he’s surrounding himself with,” he said. “Mike Pence is the most dangerous person around for the LGBT community, and the appointments he’s made to his inner circle so far are vile people who couldn’t be more anti-LGBT, anti-Semitic and xenophobic.”
Vice President-elect Pence, the outgoing governor of Indiana, has endured a number of controversies when it comes to perceived anti-LGBT legislation he has signed and statements he has made.
After signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law last spring — which protected individuals and companies from legal trouble if they thought the exercising of their religion had been burdened — critics pounced, saying the legislation allowed business owners to refuse service to LGBT customers under the guise of religion.
After intense public pressure, Pence later signed an amendment to the law, saying it cannot be used by individuals or businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In his 2000 Congressional campaign, Pence caught heat when he argued for diverting taxpayer funds from “organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus” and redirecting them to “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
While Pence has never publicly supported gay conversion therapy, many critics have interpreted that statement in his platform as doing just that.
In a 2006 speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, he also said that while he does not oppose someone “choosing another lifestyle” than him in reference to homosexuality, he argued, citing a Harvard researcher’s recent work, that the deterioration of marriage’s sanctity represented the advent of “societal collapse.”
Astoria resident Shanna Sciara said in a Tuesday interview that she sees Pence, not Trump, as her community’s biggest threat over the next four years.
“Mike Pence is a politician, he knows what he’s doing,” Sciara, 25, said. “He’s not a reality TV host. And that’s why he’s a real threat. He’s the most anti-LGBT politician in the country.”
Waking up before dawn the morning after the election, Sciara said she couldn’t help but sob with her girlfriend over what the results could mean for the nation.
But after passing by a massive anti-Trump protest in Manhattan later that day, she said she knows the LGBT community and other minorities will be ready to fight the administration, should it propose any policy that negatively impacts them.
“After that, I’ve slowly been feeling a little bit better about it,” she said. “We’ve gotten used to this, but we’re ready to fight.”
Living in Queens, she said she hasn’t experienced any discriminatory acts from people based on her sexual orientation and she doesn’t expect to, either.
But it’s the person in a deeply Republican area struggling to come to terms with his or her sexuality that Sciara is most worried about under a Trump administration.
“People will be afraid to come out. You’ve seen stories of suicide and LGBT hotlines blowing up, and I think you’ll see more things like that where people feel hopeless,” she said. “We need to put things out there in social media and on the news to let them know that they’re not alone.”
While many of the instances of harassment and attacks after the election have been against the Muslim community, there have been a number of reports of anti-LGBT incidents across the nation.
In Rochester, NY, pride flags attached to two homes were burned by unknown assailants last week. In Okemos, Mich., the home of a lesbian couple was vandalized by someone who wrote “fags” in marker on their front door.
“Maybe it will die down,” Sciara said. “But by electing Trump, we have validated this kind of behavior. People who were afraid to do those kinds of things won’t be afraid anymore.”
That feeling of fear and helplessness has been seen across the borough already, according to Queens Pride House programmer Andres Duque.
“We haven’t had anyone call to report a hate incident yet,” Duque said on Tuesday, “but we have had an uptick in terms of people calling scared and asking what the election means for them.”
Going back in time, he pointed to the fear many American Muslims felt after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Duque said that fear, suspicion and feeling of being watched is starting to permeate among members of the LGBT community.
“There was a real palpable sense of fear back then,” he said of the United States after 9/11. “But some of that fear has returned, unfortunately.”
While a president can’t overturn a Supreme Court ruling like marriage equality, Duque noted that it’s impossible to predict if Trump would somehow clamp down on the rights of LGBT residents.
But it’s the possible appointment of far right-wing conservatives to the Supreme Court that is already a very real, tangible worry among the LGBT community.
“I know he said on CBS that it’s settled law, but the people he would nominate to the Supreme Court could be the most conservative justices in generations,” he said. “That means anything can happen.”
Transgender activist Pauline Park, however, said on Tuesday that marriage equality is the last thing she worries about under a Trump presidency.
“The Supreme Court will not overturn Obergefell,” Park, the head of the Pride House Board of Directors, said. “I’m least worried about marriage, public opinion has shifted so significantly. I don’t think the Supreme Court wants to get into it. There’s no way they would touch it with a 10-foot pole.”
While she doesn’t believe Trump would want to start an “incredibly unlikely” public firestorm by clamping down somehow on the rights of gay and lesbian citizens, it’s transgender people she believes are at “some risk.”
“Where he would have an impact would be the executive orders President Obama has issued, including the most controversial one about bathroom access,” she said. “There’s no clear statutory basis for those orders. That’s where Obama went out on a limb. And that is where, if Trump wanted to, he could rescind some executive orders.”
Park added that anyone panicking over Trump’s victory needs to calm down, as it is still unknown what policies he will enact. But that doesn’t mean the LGBT community should be complacent, either.
“We need to be alert and we need to organize,” she said. “But we need to avoid getting too hysterical.”