The Price of Exclusion
As an Intern in Communications at an international LGBTIQ organization, as well as a student of Political Science pursuing human rights law, I have a first hand account of how greatly political communication influences the world. The statements of prominent political figures translate into national dialogue with an international echo.
After carefully analyzing both the Presidential and Vice Presidential debate transcripts, I was disappointed by the overwhelming lack of discussion regarding LGBT issues. *Note: This author changes the LGBTIQ acronym throughout this article depending on it’s use by the party being discussed.
Within the six hours of total debate time, only four moments of queer visibility were prompted, each by Secretary Clinton, who prefaced the third debate by saying “we need a supreme Court that will stand up on behalf of women’s rights, [and] on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community”.
At another point in the same debate, Clinton referenced the attack at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, an attack that predominantly targeted LGBT people of color. Clinton’s intention, however, was to point out that the Pulse Nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, was born in Queens, New York, in response to a statement by Trump that indicated that the majority of terrorists are not natural born citizens of the United States. The Orlando shooting was used as an example to combat Islamophobia, rather than to discuss LGBT issues.
In the second debate, Clinton declared “I want a Supreme Court that will stick with marriage equality”, in response to a question about the impact of choosing new Supreme Court justices over the upcoming Presidential term. It is certainly reassuring to the queer community to hear a Presidential candidate assure the continuation of recently awarded freedoms. The lack of assurance from other parties is disheartening at best.
Perhaps most disappointing was the lack of discussion of LGBT issues in the Vice Presidential debate. Republican Vice Presidential candidate Governor Mike Pence was not questioned about his decades long plight to revoke the rights of LGBT citizens, which includes:
- opposing federal funding for low income people suffering from HIV/AIDS
- campaigning against LGBT protections within hate crime laws
- signing a law allowing business owners to deny LGBT citizens service in accordance with “religious freedom”
It is notable to mention that neither Trump, Governor Pence, nor Senator Kaine mentioned LGBT issues throughout any of the four debates. Of the brief times LGBT issues were mentioned job security, housing, and government resources were not discussed.
According to Vivienne Ming, serial entrepreneur and theoretical neuroscientist, the price of being LGBT surpasses discrimination and becomes economic injustice. Ming’s data suggests that anyone who exists outside of the persona of a straight, white man in the United States has to “go to better schools for longer and..work for better companies to get the same promotions, to get the same quality of work”.
When LGBT issues are not discussed on a national level around job security, housing, and government resources how can it give the United States credence when it backs countries like Canada who pushed including the recognition of LGBTQ people in a list of “vulnerable groups” in the New Urban Agenda? The new agenda was adopted during the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development on October 20, 2016. The document does not have one mention of any of the words, ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender’ or the LGBTQ acronym. It’s a flash back to Beijing in 1995.
The lack of discussion about LGBT issues within the Presidential debates speaks volumes about the price of exclusion. If prominent political figureheads fail to include a marginalized group within their political narrative, the visibility of that group greatly decreases. A national dialogue about LGBT rights must start from a political stage in order to be best heard internationally.