18 things you can do right now to protect LGBTQ rights under Donald Trump
(Editor's note: In the aftermath of the election, Mic's readers have asked what they can do to take action and lend support to the causes they care about. So we turned to our generation's leading activists and crowdsourced their solutions. We are publishing stories that present their suggestions for what you can do on topics like racial justice, gender equality and immigration. Here's a list of action steps for local organizing and politics. Below is a list of ideas for LGBTQ rights, which has been edited for clarity. — Jake Horowitz, co-founder and editor-at-large)
Having stood alongside my husband Nate beneath the Jacob Javitz Center's towering glass ceiling on election night, I know all too well the devastation that millions of Americans are feeling in the aftermath of the election.
For me and many others, the election of Donald Trump is personal. I marched in the frigid streets of Manchester, New Hampshire, carrying a "Draft Obama" sign in December 2006. I also worked for Barack Obama's campaigns in 2008 and 2012, and later served in his administration. Consequently, I feel a personal stake in the change we've fought for on issues like health care and the environment. Like many others, I now fear that much of that progress could be in peril.
Moreover, less than four years ago on New Year's Eve, I asked my then-boyfriend to marry me inside the historic Stonewall Inn, the site of the origin story for the modern LGBTQ movement. Just over a year ago, I married my husband in front of our friends and family, finally equal in the eyes of the country I love. But in the wake of the election, it seems that my marriage, along with our rights and civil liberties as members of the LGBTQ community, could be taken away.
President-elect Donald Trump is assembling one of the most anti-LGBTQ administrations in modern American history, with Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, James Mattis and others filling his cabinet. His vice president-elect, Mike Pence, has an abysmal LGBTQ record and has used his office as governor of Indiana to oppose equality for years.
Then there's the troubling rise of hate crimes since Election Day, the disconcerting spike of calls to suicide hotlines and the elevation of a candidate who has personally promoted bigotry, misogyny and division throughout his campaign. Surely, all of these factors were enough to keep me and millions of my peers curled up in despair in the days following the election. But in the words of the legendary LGBTQ activist Sylvia Rivera: "Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned."
In the days since the election, I've created a campaign called "We Won't Go Back," designed to give Americans of all backgrounds the opportunity to fight for the highest ideals of the country we love. It's a place to contact our elected officials, support the causes we believe in, organize, volunteer, get registered to vote and build an inclusive, hopeful future. Fortunately, I'm not alone. Hundreds of LGBTQ organizations and leaders around the country have joined the fight to protect the progress we've achieved, not only for marriage equality, but also for the rights of LGBTQ youth, seniors, the homeless and other vulnerable members of our diverse communities.
In that spirit, here are 18 ways you can get involved in your own community and take a stand to protect LGBTQ rights after Trump's election, provided by some of our generation's leading LGBTQ activists and organizations:
1. Learn your rights. Many people don't realize that their rights are, in fact, protected on a local, state, and federal level — specifically in health care, employment and in school. These laws cannot simply be undone overnight. Understanding your legal protections is very important to fighting discrimination. Lambda Legal has compiled a post-election FAQ and Know Your Rights information guide. Read the materials carefully. If you need help with any legal matter related to LGBTQ issues or HIV discrimination, contact Lambda Legal's Help Desk. (Rachel Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal)
2. Donate or volunteer with Trans Lifeline. Trans Lifeline is the only crisis hotline specifically designed for transgender people. They've experienced an unprecedented number of calls from trans people in crisis following the election (more than 300 within the first day or so). They've continued to experience a high level of demand in the days since. Transgender people are nine times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. In the wake of the election, trans people fear for their rights and lives even more. Trans people who call suicide hotlines face ignorance and discrimination. They need your support. (Rachel Tiven)
3. Get LGBTQ individuals elected to office. We need more diverse talent in public life. Support the Victory Fund, an organization which works to support LGBTQ candidates running for office nationwide. Victory Fund provides trainings, endorsements, fellowships and resources for LGBTQ candidates. In November, 87 of the Fund's endorsed candidates won elections across all levels of government, including Kate Brown of Oregon, the nation's first openly LGBTQ governor. Carlos Guillermo Smith became the first openly LGBTQ Latino elected to the Florida state legislature, representing the Orlando area after the Pulse nightclub tragedy. All six openly LGBTQ members of Congress were reelected. You can find a list of all of the candidates that Victory Fund endorsed here. (Jared Milrad)
4. Gear up for the Supreme Court fight. There's an upcoming Supreme Court case that is very important for the future of transgender rights: Gavin Grimm vs. Gloucester County School Board. In 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board for adopting a discriminatory bathroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers. The question will be heard at the Supreme Court in February, with a decision expected in summer 2017. Become familiar with the case, and then donate and show your support. (Justin Mikita, co-founder & partner at Hawkins Mikita)
5. Support media that correctly represents the LGBTQ community. Now more than ever, we need correct representation across all media, especially when it comes to the casting of cisgender people in transgender roles (ex. Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl) and the erasure of people of color and trans sex workers in stories of our history (ex. the "bioflick" Stonewall). Here are a few shows and films that do this the right way: Orange is the New Black, with Laverne Cox as trans prisoner Sophia; Tangerine, which casts two trans women, Mya Parks and Kitana "Kiki" Rodriguez, as trans sex workers; Sense8, in which Jamie Clayton plays a lesbian trans woman and cyberactivist; and How to Get Away With Murder, where Alexandra Billings plays a trans woman on trial for her husband's murder. (Devlin Andrews)
6. Call your members of Congress. Tell your elected officials how important it is to protect LGBTQ people. Tell them you will be watching what they do. You don't even need to be a citizen to do this! You can find your local representatives at CommonCause.org. Also check out the Human Rights Campaign's guide to elected officials. Follow these tweets for guidance on how to effectively contact your member of Congress. And here's a script you can use when you call, which includes a section about marriage equality. (Rachel Tiven)
7. Support LGBTQ centers around the country. Leading organizations are providing mental health, counseling and support group services to vulnerable LGBTQ people. Now more than ever, they need support. Consider donating or volunteering with CenterLink, a member-based coalition founded in 1994 that supports the development of strong, sustainable LGBTQ community centers in the United States and around the world. The Center Orlando organized vigils and provided counseling following the Pulse nightclub shooting. The Los Angeles LGBT Center serves Southern California, home to some of the most vulnerable LGBTQ populations in the country, and sees more than 42,000 client visits per month. (Jared Milrad)
8. Specifically, support local homeless youth shelters. An estimated 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Centers geared specifically toward youth are instrumental in providing career placement, school, college and secondary school mentorship and health care. Here's a database of LGBTQ centers, where you can search for a homelessness-focused group. If you don't have a center in your community, consider starting one or checking to see if shelters near you properly provide for their LGBTQ clients. Also, consider donating food, clothing or money to LGBTQ shelters in other communities. At this time of year, many hold toy and clothing drives; others accept donations year-round. (Devlin Andrews)
9. Support or create after-school programs for queer youth. Now more than ever, LGBTQ youth need safe spaces to build closer relationships with teachers and friends outside of their potentially hostile home environments. If you're in a position to do so, start a gay-straight alliance or a chapter of PFLAG in your local school so that queer youth have a place to express their concerns, fears and needs without the threat of ridicule, rejection or outing. Check out GLSEN or PFLAG for more information and tools to start a program in your community. (Devlin Andrews)
10. Support the Human Rights Campaign. HRC is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, representing more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide. Here are a few of the issues HRC is focused on: transgender equality and bringing visibility to the discrimination and violence transgender people experience daily; banning discrimination in housing and the workplace for all LGBTQ people; advocating for fair-minded Supreme Court justices. Become familiar with HRC's work and donate or volunteer to show your support. (Justin Mikita, member, HRC board of directors)
11. Utilize the power of your wallet. You have tremendous power as a consumer to support brands that support LGBTQ rights. Conversely, don't line the pockets of corporations that support anti-LGBTQ legislation and elected officials. To find out more about which companies to support, consider these resources: OpenSecrets, Human Rights Campaign's corporate equality index and Guidestar, which allows you to review the expenditures of corporate foundations. (Brian Wenke, executive director, It Gets Better)
12. Take a stand as a business. Advocacy from businesses is particularly important at this time. If you're an employer, make sure you have an internal LGBTQ group for your LGBTQ employees. Companies like Salesforce, Facebook, Apple, Google, and the Gap have great internal organizations that can serve as models. Salesforce's Marc Benioff and Paypal's Max Levchin have both been proactive in getting businesses to take a stand in the wake of LGBTQ protests in North Carolina and Indiana. For LGBTQ employees, make sure to join your company's group if one exists. (Emanuel Yekutiel)
13. March, rally, make noise and fight! The modern American queer revolution started with a brick thrown through a window. Today, we can't afford to take a passive role in this fight. Here are a few different tactics you can use to get involved: On social media, follow groups like @MarchAndRallyLA and monitor popular events in your area on Facebook to find large organized protests. Visit this page from the ACLU for a full list of your rights as a public protester. If you don't live in a large metropolitan area, or don't feel safe protesting in your community, take action online. Write protests in the form of blog posts, emails to your government officials, vlogs, or guest op-eds on news sites. (Devlin Andrews)
14. Be visible. One of our most effective and powerful weapons is sharing our own stories publicly. In March, South Dakota's conservative Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed HB 1008, an anti-trans bill, after meeting with trans students and hearing their stories. It's important for LGBTQ people to be loud and bold members of the community. If you're in a position to do so safely, make sure people understand who you are and how you feel about queer issues. Post pro-LGBTQ articles on your Facebook page. Hold your partner's hand in public. Wear a pride shirt. Talk to your friends and family about who you and other queer people are. As long as you keep yourself safe, do everything to ensure others you meet know you're living as your authentic self and not going anywhere. (Rachel Tiven)
15. Study LGBTQ history. Contrary to popular belief, the LGBTQ movement as a whole did not begin at Stonewall. The first documented gay rights organization in the United States, the Society for Human Rights, was formed much earlier, in the 1920s, and LGBTQ history dates back hundreds of years. It is important to get educated on this history. One great resource for learning this history is Quist, an app that provides "this day in history" info about LGBTQ issues. Another is The Lavender Effect, which works to document LGBTQ history in creative ways. Finally, consider going to LGBTQ archives across the U.S. (Brian Wenke)
16. Convert your most unlikely friends into LGBTQ allies. Identify the most unlikely high-profile potential allies in your life and create a game plan to get them to become champions of LGBTQ equality. Perhaps you went to college with someone who is now a professional athlete, prominent preacher or politician? Maybe you are family friends with a local business owner who is well known in your community? In every community, there are people who perpetuate anti-LGBTQ stigma and stereotypes. If individuals from within the communities we trust the least become our vocal supporters, it will change hearts and minds. To educate and activate your friends, articulate the why and what. "Why" should they care about LGBTQ equality, and "what" do we want them to do about it? (Hudson Taylor)
17. Have conversations with Trump supporters. Find ways to engage loved ones and others who voted for Trump. Have honest, respectful and ongoing conversations. Here's a resource with some suggested language, including some areas specifically focused on LGBTQ rights and gender identity. (Robbie Ross, chief of staff at Purpose)
18. Make your advocacy intersectional. Over the next four years, there will be many communities that find themselves isolated, excluded or othered. The only way to meaningfully prevent that is by working together. Pick three social justice issues with which you feel least comfortable and get educated about them by learning about the organizations doing the work in those spaces. Here are a few to start with: BYP100, a member-based activist organization creating justice and freedom for all black people; United We Dream, the largest immigrant-youth-led organization in the nation; and URGE, an organization mobilizing young people to support reproductive and gender equity. (Hudson Taylor)
If you have additional ideas for what people can do, we want to hear from you! Email Jake Horowitz (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your suggestions.