In the weeks following the election of Donald Trump, I sent a survey to the GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance) at BHS to get a feel for how our LGBTQ+ students were feeling about this startling new development in our nation’s history. Now, as President Donald Trump reaches his 100th day in office, their words have become all the more important to hear.

I asked those taking the survey, on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being ‘Very Upset’, how upset they were immediately following the outcome of the 2016 election. Of the eleven responses I received, ten were ‘5’, while the eleventh said ‘4’. Lucy Guzman, one of the leaders of the GSA club, wrote, “I’m upset that we still have this outdated system (the electoral college), that we no longer feel like the system works. I am upset because I now fear what the future holds, I fear for my safety and that of others.” And when the topic turned to feeling safe in our current society, many responses were passionate and spent no time wasting words. Seneca Hart, a junior, said that immediately following the election, she felt “… unsafe. I didn’t think walking alone through a dark parking lot could get scarier, until it did.”, while another respondent explained, “As a woman and a person of color, being a minority seems a bit scarier. I’m afraid that now I truly won’t get as many opportunities in the future as I could have.”

However, after the initial shock that many received after the election results came out, the survey respondents became less upset knowing that, as one participant said, “I can take action. I’ll work harder to boost my own educational experience to get more opportunities, and I’ll try to speak out more to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Several major concerns among the respondents were the loss of access to legal women’s healthcare, the rise of hate crimes against minorities, and Mike Pence’s supposed support of conversion therapy. Although Pence never explicitly said that he believed in conversion therapy and its so-called ‘treatment’ of LGBTQ+ individuals, he did say, in 2000 on his congressional campaign website, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Pence has not clarified his position on this matter since then, and of course, his words are open to several wildly different interpretations, but many LGBTQ+ advocates are still concerned about his potentially homophobic and transphobic stances and how they might affect the safety and rights of LGBTQ+ individuals in the US now that he is in a position of power.

The loss of access to women’s healthcare has also been a controversial topic recently. In past months, Trump signed an executive action nicknamed the ‘Global Gag Rule’, which has been revoked by each Democratic president the USA has had since Ronald Reagan first introduced the law. This law bans international nongovernment organizations from receiving federal funding if they offer abortions or information on abortions, meaning that female US citizens abroad cannot receive medical abortions in a country even if they ask for one or if it’s legal in the country they are in. Any violation of this rule means that the organization that provided the abortion would lose federal funding from the US, which is crucial in providing contraceptives at a low cost to the public.

Since Trump has been in office, the House of Representatives has also passed a bill that will make the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding from being used to pay for abortions, a permanent law. The passing of this law will make legal abortions expensive and all but inaccessible to impoverished women. Furthermore, the Trump had the US withdraw all of its funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides family planning and women’s healthcare services worldwide. Due to this new development, UNFPA will be losing approximately $32.5 million from this year’s budget.

A study funded by the UK government, Dutch Ministry of Forgein Affairs, and UNICEF concluded in 2016 that regardless of abortion being legal or illegal in countries, the rate at which the procedures are happening is relatively the same. An article in the Independent that profiled the research summarized it best: “In countries where abortions are legal on a woman’s request, 34 women in every 1,000 have one. In countries where abortions are always illegal or legal only if a woman’s life is in danger, 37 women in every 1,000 have one.” Professor Diana Greene Foster from the University of California said on the study, “The obvious interpretation is that criminalising abortion does not prevent it but, rather drives women to seek illegal services or measures.”

Meanwhile, hate crimes have unfortunately been on the rise since Trump’s election in November. According to a CNN article from December 2016, there were 867 reported cases of hateful harassment, as recorded by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the 10 days after the November 8 election alone. A responder to the BHS GSA survey said, “I have this sinking feeling when I walk down the street. I’m always on edge, I’m always on the lookout. I have a couple of friends who were terrified to go outside after the election because they were afraid of hate and harassment in their direction due to their race and sexuality.” Trump has, on a few occasions, said explicitly that he does not approve of the violent actions of people claiming to be his supporters, most famously on CBS’s ’60 Minutes’, in which he looked directly into the camera and said, “If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.” Regardless of this condemnation, hate crimes are not lessening by any means.

Despite common misconceptions, there has also been violence towards Trump supporters. There was recently a reported incident in Connecticut, in which two men were arrested for assaulting a Trump supporter who had been verbal about his opinions. However, these incidents are far less commonplace than hate crimes towards Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ+, and other communities. Hate crimes have risen 6% since the election, and that’s just based on the reported incidents. Several respondents to the GSA survey expressed fear of harassment based on their religion, race, gender, and sexuality. One respondent wrote, “I’m Jewish and a transgender, and a lot of people aren’t okay with that.” Another voiced her fears because, “… I’m Mexican-American and it shows.”

I interviewed a member of the GSA recently to find out if anything has changed since she responded to the survey in November. She said, “Not much has. I’m still very worried about where we are going as a country in terms of equality. I’m most concerned about… his [Trump’s] revoke of the transgender bathroom bill in public schools, which doesn’t necessarily affect people in my area, but does affect people I know from other areas.” Another student said, “I know this is a bit dramatic, but I’m reminded of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Maragaret Atwood. The world the book is set in feels eerily familiar. There’s this slow, systematic way that certain rights are being taken away from specific groups of people. It may not seem like a very big deal to some people right now, but it adds up fast.”

 

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