'Unity' rhetoric hurts minorities

3 min read

Tonight I watched the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris. The debate was thrilling to watch, filled with lots of interesting questions and policy-focused answers. However, one particular exchange caught my ear and made me bristle.

Near the end of the debate, a question written by an eighth grader was asked by the moderator:

"When I watch the news, all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans. When I watch the news, all I see is citizen fighting citizen. When I watch the news, all I see are two candidates from opposing parties trying to tear each other down."

"If our leaders can't get along, how can our citizens get along? Your examples make all the difference."

Mike Pence had the following to say:

"Here in America we can disagree, we can debate vigorously as Senator Harris and I have here tonight... but when the debate is over, we come together as Americans. That's what people do in big cities and small towns all across this country. [...] The American people love a good debate, we love a good argument, but we always come together and are always there for one another in times of need. We especially learned that through the difficulties of this year."

As a gay person, I disagree with this position. I am not able to come together with the rest of Americans right now when there is a singular political party that actively harms my right to exist without fear of oppression.

Here's some background on Mike Pence: Mike Pence supports gay conversion therapy. He supports policies that actively harm trans people. Every single one of his actions point to deeply-held beliefs that LGBTQ+ Americans are a contagion that needs fixing, that they are a morally disgusting group that needs eradicating. Every single political stance on an issue he's taken with regards to LGBTQ+ people has been one that has actively harmed LGBTQ+ Americans and made our lives more difficult.

Mike Pence challenges the existence of LGBTQ+ Americans; ask almost any LGBTQ+ person and they'll agree. And he has his party's backing: the Republican party's official 2020 platform states that the 2015 marriage equality ruling should be overturned, that trans military ban instituted by Trump should be upheld, and that LGBTQ+ Americans do not have the right to live their lives without fear of being discriminated against in the workplace, in business, and in public.

The idea that I, a gay man, can have any sort of political unity with anyone across the aisle right now, that I can see someone who supports a party that thinks that I should not exist as a friend, is sheer buffoonery to me. The idea that gay Americans should be friends with people that believe gay people shouldn't get married, that trans and gender non-conforming people should associate with people who believe trans people shouldn't be in the military, the idea that the oppressed should in any way support, tolerate, or condone the oppressor, is one that is hurtful and oppressive of minorities. The existence of LGBTQ+ Americans has always been political; to imply that we should leave that part of our identity at the door is oppression.

This idea stems from a position of privilege, from a lifetime of not being dependent on the political system to protect oneself and assert one's right to exist. The idea that all Americans are currently equal before the law is farce. Any in support of it are either willfully ignorant or have benefited from decades of privilege. People in the majority can hide their politics because it safe for them to do so. They can associate with people of different political stripes because those people don't believe that the majority shouldn't exist. Our nation's laws were written, crafted, improved upon, voted upon, and put into place by the majority. It is explicitly inscribed in all of our nation's laws that the majority is acceptable and has the right to exist. Thus, the majority's right to exist is not impacted by politics. It cannot be, as the majority is the default, the measuring stick that all minorities are expected to match, the strict standard that all minorities must meet in order to be valid. Deviation from the norm isn't accepted, but the majority hasn't had to worry about that, and by definition will never be forced to.

So no, I won't sit by and accept the idea that Americans have the right to debate whether LGBTQ+ Americans should exist. I won't sit idly by and associate with people who think that my trans and gender non-conforming friends are invalid. I will not accept the idea that my identity is somehow separable from my right to exist. I will not be willfully ignorant of the fact that the rights of LGBTQ+ people, especially for trans and gender non-conforming people, are highly political. I will not accept anything less than full support of my identity and rights, of the identities and rights of the vibrant community I'm a part of.

'Political unity' is a farce, a way of oppressing minorities and forcing them them to invalidate their own identities. I won't tolerate it.