Trump’s Dangerous Rhetoric Threatens LGTBQ+ Community


Trump has shown that he is not truly devoted to protecting LGBTQ+ rights.(Courtesy of Twitter)

Former President Donald Trump has once again changed his stance on gender-affirming care for minors, stating on Jan. 31 that, if elected, he would punish doctors who perform gender-affirming surgery or provide gender-affirming hormones. This declaration is a serious departure from his previous stance on the LGBTQ+ community and, more specifically, transgender youth. Now that Trump — a demagogue with a hold on most Republican politicians and most registered Republicans — has spoken on transgender rights, it is almost a guarantee that the attacks on trans rights will increase in the coming years.

He has also vowed to promote conservative values in the education system, entering a raging debate around parental rights in education and the place that sex education and topics of racial justice and sexual diversity have in the American education system. 

Trump has long done and said what is politically advantageous, either for him personally or for the Republican Party at large. In 2000, when he was a possible Reform Party presidential candidate, Trump wrote in his book “The America We Deserve,” “We must have universal health care. Just imagine the improved quality of life for our society as a whole.” As a Republican president, however, Trump advocated for cuts in health insurance. During his presidency, 2.3 million Americans lost coverage. 

It is now politically helpful for Republicans to attack the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans — and transgender children more specifically. Although about two-thirds of Americans oppose laws targeting trans rights, 2022 was a record year for anti-LGBTQ+ bills in state legislatures. These bills attack a variety of LGBTQ+ rights, but most focus on transgender people. There have been bans on transgender kids in sports, bills limiting access to sex marker changes on IDs and “bathroom bills,” which state that transgender people must use the bathroom of their sex assigned at birth.

While the strategy of curtailing LGBTQ+ rights to gain a political advantage is somewhat new, the Republican Party has long used fear and prejudice to win elections. Nativism, conservatism and religion have played a large role in the Republican Party’s platform since the late 1960s when presidential candidate Richard Nixon implemented the “Southern strategy.” The “Southern strategy” capitalized on racial resentment and cultural differences in the South to help Nixon win the Republican nomination and then the presidential election. 

Ronald Reagan pandered to the Christian right to win votes in the South, declaring in a speech during his 1984 presidential campaign that “politics and morality are inseparable — and as morality’s foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related.” That year, the Republican Party built its platform around evangelical Christian values, calling for a ban on abortion with no exceptions.

The Republican Party uses fear and prejudice to motivate voters and win elections. Republican candidates tell Americans that other people living in their communities, their states and their country are a threat to their way of life. The uptick in attacks on trans rights is just another iteration of this political strategy. The Republican Party has revived its focus on “family values,” training their attention on parental rights in education and telling their constituents that transgender people are a danger to children and society.

It is no surprise that Trump has taken aim at transgender people. He caters to his constituents and other Republican politicians, and his stance on any particular issue sets the tone for how the rest of the party handles said issue. The blatant attacks on trans rights are relatively new for the Republicans, but Trump’s endorsement of limiting gender-affirmative care for minors shows that this will be a long-term focus for the Republican Party. 

While Trump currently cannot directly put any anti-trans legislation into effect, he has spoken on the issue, which will have a great impact on anti-trans legislation at the state level. 2023 is expected to have even more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. While some of these bills do not pass and never become law, the mere introduction of a bill attacking trans rights leads to spikes in calls to suicide hotlines from transgender people. 

Although Trump shifted his focus to trans people relatively recently, the trans rights issue is just the latest unnecessarily divisive topic that the Republican Party has capitalized on to win votes. Like in the 1960s and the 1980s, a marginalized group is once again caught in the crossfire and is paying the price for partisan posturing.

Eleanor Smith, FCRH ’26, is an American studies major from St. Paul, Minn.