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On LGBTQ issues, Trump tries a far more reactionary approach

In 2016, Donald Trump told LGBTQ voters, "I will fight for you.” Seven years later, “I will fight for you” has gradually turned into “I will fight you.”


As Donald Trump moves forward with his latest presidential campaign, the Republican seems to realize that he’ll need more than just lies and conspiracy theories about his 2020 defeat.

To that end, The New York Times reported last week that the former president has used his social media platform to release short videos “about his policy positions.” The article added, “The videos, in which the former president speaks directly to the camera, are aimed at reassuring supporters that he’s focused on topics other than his 2020 defeat, an issue that flopped with midterm voters.”

To be sure, these aren’t real policy proposals, at least in any meaningful sense. It’s not as if the former president sat down with a bunch of wonks, explored the granular minutiae of governing solutions, and formulated a set of white papers. These videos have all the sophistication of bumper stickers written in crayon.

But the 2024 hopeful keeps releasing them anyway, hoping to prove that there’s more to his vision than the “big lie.” As NBC News reported, Trump’s latest video focused on part of his vision for a culture war.

Former President Donald Trump vowed in a video released Tuesday that, if he is re-elected, he will punish doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minors and push schools to “promote positive education about the nuclear family” and “the roles of mothers and fathers” as part of a wide-ranging set of policies to use federal power to target transgender people. In a straight-to-camera video posted on his Truth Social platform, Trump said he would task several federal agencies to police and ultimately “stop” gender-affirming care for minors, which he equated to “child abuse” and “child sexual mutilation.”

The former president, as part of the same video, told the public, “I will sign a new executive order instructing every federal agency to cease all programs that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age. I will then ask Congress to permanently stop federal taxpayer dollars from being used to promote or pay for these procedures and pass a law prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states.”

After threatening to defund public schools if a teacher says something about gender identity that he disagrees with, the Republican added, “I will declare that any hospital or health care provider that participates in the chemical or physical mutilation of minor youth will no longer meet federal health and safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare and will be terminated from the program immediately.”

Obviously, such an anti-trans agenda is offensive and discriminatory. Trump is engaging in reactionary chest-thumping, vowing to address a problem that doesn’t exist through punitive measures against Americans who’ve done nothing wrong, and don’t deserve governmental scorn or punishment.

But watching his harangue yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about just how much worse the Republican has become on the issue.

It might seem like ancient history, but in 2016, Trump had no real interest in targeting the LGBTQ community. As he wrapped up his party’s presidential nomination, the New York Times ran an article with a headline that read, “Donald Trump’s More Accepting Views on Gay Issues Set Him Apart in G.O.P.”

As regular readers might recall, the Republican, in apparent seriousness, said he would be a “better friend” of the “LBGT” [sic] community than Hillary Clinton. Just two days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Trump added, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you.”

Seven years later, “I will fight for you” has gradually turned into “I will fight you.”

There’s no great mystery as to the larger context and electoral motivations. Trump is running for the GOP nomination; he’s likely to face primary rivals; his relationship with evangelical voters has frayed; and much of the party has come to see transgender Americans as some kind of enemy. The former president, in other words, released this ugly video for the most obvious of reasons: He thinks it’ll get him some votes.

But it also serves as a reminder of an underappreciated dynamic: Trump sees himself as the leader of a legion of far-right supporters. Occasionally, though, it’s the supporters who lead him.