Trump and my Pink Triangle
The following was my original intro to an essay I wrote directly following the 2016 election. My editor asked me to re-write it because comparing the President-elect to Nazis was “offensive.” In the intervening months I’ve thought about expanding it, but after today I can’t sit on it any more:
When I was a teenager, I loved the cast soundtrack to Cabaret. I was your typical musical theater-loving queer kid, and all my favorite shows were brassy and subversively sexy. I knew that the show and the Liza Minnelli movie were about Weimar Berlin, but the historical themes of fascism didn’t really affect me emotionally any more than they did in, say, The Sound of Music.
It wasn’t until I saw the Cabaret revival on Broadway in 2014 that I really fully grasped what the show is about. It’s not so much about underground nightclub culture, or the persecution of German Jews as it’s about the slow insidious creep of the SS. It’s about the way that a Nazi will show up in the background, unsettling but peripheral to the story… until another character is revealed to be a Nazi… and another… and another… until Alan Cumming, as the Emcee, is wearing concentration camp clothes —with a pink triangle.
That pink triangle, the symbol Nazis used to indicate homosexuals — just as they used the Star of David to designate Jews — has been reclaimed, as many such symbols of persecution have, as an icon of pride, strength, and defiance for the LGBTQ community.
I bring up this play and its themes because, honestly, that pink triangle is all I can think about this week following the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America. All I can think about is the way that rights can be snatched away when you’re not paying attention.
We’ve all seen political cartoons of Trump as Hitler, and we’ve tossed around words like demagogue and totalitarianism. But queer people and our allies need to be even more vigilant. Not of the loud icons, but the slow erosion of our rights, the exploitation of our relative privilege, the way they will try to make us turn on one another.
Donald Trump is our president elect, and Mike Pence will be his Vice President. It’s essential that queer people — gay people, lesbians, transgender people, gender-nonconforming people, intersex people, and people of all marginalized sexual and gender identities — as well as our allies, educate ourselves today. Not when we get around to it. Right. Now.
UPDATE: Later that November, the incredibly talented Tamara Santibañez generously gave me a pink triangle tattoo on my middle finger. I’m always glad to have it but today I am reminded that it symbolizes never letting someone tell you that you’re overreacting when you call evil what it is.