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Meeting the gay men who voted for Donald Trump

2016-11-23
You know the story. After the most divisive US election in our lifetime, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on 20th January, 2017. While we know of many who have supported Trump on his way to the Oval Office, the so-called 'silent majority' aren’t just made up of old, straight, white men and women. There are those within the LGBT community (14%, according to one New York Times exit poll), who proudly voted to propel Donald Trump and his profoundly anti-LGBT ticket into one of the most powerful positions in the world. "I voted for Donald Trump because it's getting to the point where I don't recognise my country anymore," says Matt, a 26-year-old entrepreneur from southern Missouri, who identifies as gay. "We're now living in a country where it's okay for illegal aliens to flood in through the southern border, a country where healthcare costs just as much as your mortgage, and a country where it's hard for small business to grow thanks to crippling regulations." Although it may seem outlandish to us, Matt claims that there is a strong amount of support from LGBT people for Trump where he resides. He was also drawn to Trump from the get go. “Throughout this election process, Donald Trump saw the struggles, understood them and spoke to America in a way that they could understand, thus propelling him to victory.” Similarly, Marky, an openly gay 29-year-old designer from Rochester, New York, was attracted to Trump due to being “such a patriotic” candidate who – in his words – is “for” the American people. “We must take care of our homeless, our military, our vets, our AMERICAN people first before we can think about taking care of others…we’ve been blessed with the most gay-friendly Republican nominee in history,” he tells me. But what about the likes of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has expressed support for anti-gay 'cure' therapy, potential Supreme Court justice pick William H. Pryor Jr, who thinks gay sex should be illegal altogether, or religious 'freedom'-promoting campaign manager Kellyanne Conway? These men and women, along with hordes of others Trump has picked to be part of his administration, have proven track records of actively promoting discrimination against LGBT people. “I truly believe that no matter who he chooses to surround himself with, he will work and represent all Americans regardless of race or sexual orientation,” says Matt. “Let's not forget that Donald Trump's closest team also features an openly gay man by the name of Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal.” Marky is a 29-year-old designer from Rochester New York and Donald Trump supporter. Both Matt and Marky made it abundantly clear how they felt about Trump. But how do they feel about Hillary Clinton? Marky, who before this election would’ve considered himself a Democrat, says he found Hillary to be untrustworthy. “Hillary has lied and cheated her way through the election and degrading Trump supporters.” What Matt had to say was even more cutting. “There is no one in Washington more corrupt and out of touch with the American People than Hillary Clinton. [She] is a pathological liar, over-analyses everything… all to the advancement of herself and her agenda. As far as I'm concerned, her being Secretary of State is the closest she should ever be to the Presidency”. Wow. Lambasted as a sexist, racist, xenophobe while on the campaign trail, Trump was still able to claim widespread support among ordinary Americans in his quest to become Barack Obama’s successor. Despite promising to ban on all foreign-born Muslims from even setting foot within the United States, it seems that for Matt and Marky, comeplete denial of Trump's bigoted and divisive behaviour is the easiest pill to swallow. “I do not believe that Donald Trump is a racist,” says Matt. “Look at Trump's African-American outreach in the inner cities. Is that characteristic of a racist?” Marky thinks similarly. “I don’t understand why people would think he’s racist. How’s it racist to want to take care of our Americans first?” While racism works on so many levels and isn’t just black and white - excuse the pun - there’s also the question of those who have committed disgusting racist acts in Trump's name. Marky starts by saying that he believes it to be “unfortunate”. “Personally, I think a lot of the things were made up. I know a few of them have been real but a few bad apples shouldn’t represent everyone.” Matt skirts the issue, without truly calling it out for what it is. “One bad apple spoils the bunch. These few do not represent us Trump supporters as a whole. The same would have happened if Hillary was elected.” Of course, we mentioned the numerous allegations of sex offences made against the President-elect, not to mention the so-called 'locker room talk' that’s been heard around the world. “What was said in the tape was unfortunate and should not have been said, but in the same breath, a lot of men AND women engage in locker room talk. You've heard it, I've heard it. That's reality,” believes Matt. Image: The Outside Joke As we started to wind down, we asked what these two men hoped Trump would achieve during his Presidency, along with what the term “Make America Great Again” means to them. Matt hopes that Trump “build[s] the wall to curb the illegal immigration that has been plaguing the United States for years”, along with bringing more jobs to the United States, providing more tax breaks and fixing the Veterans Association. You know, those same people Trump has mocked numerous times within the last few months. Marky also believes that the United States of America is in dire need of change. “For the past 8 years, we’ve had a President who I feel has purposely been bad for America. Weakening our military, filling our country with illegal immigrants, Muslims and refugees and giving favourable treatment to African-Americans. Oppressing Christians and discouraging and hurting white Americans.” When asked to explain, Marky was unable to give concrete examples. But he was less than enthusiastic about Muslim-Americans and Muslims in general. “If they were born here than that makes them American. But bringing people over… there’s a process to being an American. It’s not safe to have these people over here. People that were born and raised to hate and kill gays like myself. Not to mention the way they treat women over there.”

What will a Donald Trump presidency mean for LGBT people?

Outraged by Marky’s sweeping generalisation of Muslim people, I asked about the millions of Christian US citizens at home who believe homosexuality is a sin. “You can have your beliefs, but… they’re not killing people. Christian people are raised to hate but aren’t killing.” By the end of my conversations with Marky and Matt, I’m still confused about what the term “Make America Great Again means. It’s counter-intuitive. Does Trump want to go back to the early 2000s (a time before Obama, and therefore before Obamacare and marriage equality) or even earlier when equal rights were in more disarray than they are now? None of us can be completely sure until Trump assumes office at the top of next year. But as terrifying as the next four years may be to so many of us, in the long-term the United States is likely to make it through unscathed - unless you’re gay, bi, trans, lesbian, disabled, female, gender fluid or an ethnic minority, that is. Words: Jemal Polson More stories: What will a Donald Trump presidency mean for the LGBT+ community? 11 pictures that prove why Ricky Martin and fiancé  Jwan Yosef are total #RelationshipGoals