Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
President Trump recently joked that Vice President Pence “wants to hang” all gay people. To hear the president joke about what would essentially be a genocide was far too reminiscent of similar political climates across the world, some of which have given rise to the mass torturing of LGBTQ people.
Since 2016, there have been increasing attacks on LGBTQ communities worldwide. Perhaps the most notable is the reported torture of homosexuals in Chechnya. These crimes were discovered over six months ago, but gay individuals are still being picked up and tortured by police.
However, Chechnya is not the only place LGBTQ communities are in danger. There has been a global influx of “crackdowns” on people who are thought to be queer. Most of these attacks are spurred by political leaders publicly expressing that they believe LGBTQ people are a threat to their nations. We have seen political statements leading to the persecution of queer people in Indonesia, Egypt and Azerbaijan, to name a few.
Even in the United States, this year has been particularly hard for LGBTQ people. Many of the protections put in place by the Obama administration have been rescinded or undone, such as the protections in Title IX allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. This year has also seen the Justice Department supporting discrimination against a same-sex couple by a business and the banning of transgender people from the military.
Trump has normalized discrimination and hate against people with non-normative sexualities. Last week, the Mississippi Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act went into effect. This act legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ people on the grounds of religious freedom.
In May, Trump signed an executive order instructing the Attorney General to support acts like this, basically saying religious conservatives are allowed to express their religious views even if they encroach on others’ freedom to express their sexuality. This denial of civil liberties for some is not only unconstitutional but also creates political and social climates similar to those in Egypt or Russia.
By joking that Pence wants to hang all gays, Trump trivializes the hostile climate he has also created for LGBTQ people in this country. Because the United States is one of the “freest” countries in the world, it is disheartening to see that we are still granting freedom of expression only to those we agree with.
LGBTQ people have long been discriminated against in this country, and this year has undone much of the successes we have had. Trump’s joke about hanging all gay people in this country is insensitive and strikingly similar to other countries where gay people are literally being tortured for being queer.
Liyanga de Silva is a sophomore English major. She can be reached at email@example.com.