Simon Williamson, columnist with Georgia Voice

Simon Williamson: Using the gay community as political cover

For the first time ever, the politics of LGBT folks, and our supporters, are being taken seriously. It is harder to win an election nowadays without taking the rights of LGBT people seriously, even if you merely pander toward gay rights while also supporting a tsunami of legislation including conversion therapy, bathroom nonsense, and what people like to call “religious freedom.”

But for Democrats in particular, observance of the LGBT community is a prerequisite to running for office. You would have seen it last week at the Democratic National Convention, as politician after politician finally conveniently joined most of the country in backing our basic existence as a group, led by Hillary Clinton, who, if my Facebook feed is anything to go by, has led the fight for our people her whole life.

This has obvious upsides. Politicians who support us, even if they are recent converts, are likely to vote in favor of things like non-discrimination in terms of employment and housing, and less likely to encourage, and campaign on, the aforementioned legislative tidal wave.

But it has obvious downsides too. We are now worn as a badge of honor, to prove progressive credibility—even when that credibility is used for awful purposes.

Anyone who has followed Clinton’s career, for example, knows she is a little trigger happy when it comes to sending troops into the rest of the world, or manipulating the personnel of brown countries’ governments. It becomes a lot easier to excuse that sort of life-destroying behavior when she’s backing a lot of things to be done on our behalf.

The same can be said for other Democrats, including President Obama, who has been great for us, but also responsible for the deaths of civilians during the US’ constant war in the Middle East.

That doesn’t go away because he came out for gay marriage. Clinton’s march in the New York City Pride parade doesn’t undo an Iraq War vote that killed hundreds of thousands, her support for Saudi Arabia, her empowerment of a murderous Honduran regime, or the fact that Libya is currently in intensive care, and looking even more poorly.

This extends far beyond the current presidential candidate – these are merely examples of how LGBT rights are bizarrely used to refute allegations of other wrongdoing, and we, as people who know prejudice, should be aware of being used as props to encourage shitty behavior. For a more explicit instance, even Donald Trump pandered to LGBT people in the wake of the massacre in Orlando, when he used violence against us to shit all over the constitution and bash Muslims.

Let’s not pretend that all is okay with our government and the world because some of our fights are “in” right now. Let’s not excuse what our government does because we’re on the Democratic team. Let’s not allow mistreatment of trans immigrants because the Justice Department is on our side in North Carolina, or excuse the casualties of innocents overseas because Democrats came out against conversion therapy.We can be both grateful and critical of our leaders at the same time. The hard work of the organizations and people who forced the political class to take us seriously shouldn’t get to be used as cover. We know what it is like to be on the receiving end of bad government policy. Let’s not permit ourselves to be used to do it to others.