Once upon a time — say, December — you could find Donald Trump talking an awfully strong pro-gay game.
“We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard,” he told a Mar-a-Lago ballroom’s worth of LGBTQ revelers gathered for a Log Cabin Republican gala, as reported by Politico.
That builds on a litany of statements made by and about Trump — “President Trump is the most pro-gay president in American history,” declared former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell — regarding the former president’s support for LGBTQ Americans.
Heck, as recently as 2019, you could buy rainbow-hued Trump “pride” products and “LGBTQ for Trump” swag from Trump’s campaign website to help fund his political efforts.
Trump critics, however, argue that Trump’s words and fundraising efforts are wholly overridden by his decidedly anti-LGBTQ actions as president, from draconian transgender military policies to the nominations of conservative federal judges that could threaten the rights of gay and transgender Americans. Advocacy group Human Rights Campaign cited Trump’s presidential administration for “highly unusual and abusive efforts” to “quietly roll back critical protections, programs and services for the LGBTQ+ community”.
Now, as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Trump has become a leading combatant in the nation’s ever-growing culture war, particularly against people who identify with the “T” — transgender — in “LGBTQ” .
“No serious country should be telling its children that they were born with the wrong gender,” Trump declared in a January campaign video, adding that gender-affirming medical treatment for transgender youth is “ridiculous”.
“We will defeat the cult of gender ideology to reassert that God created two genders,” Trump vowed at a South Carolina campaign rally earlier this year.
A “toxic poison of gender ideology” is permeating the United States, Trump told attendees at a Moms for Liberty convention last month in Philadelphia.
RELATED ARTICLE: DeSantis defends widely-criticized anti-LGBTQ ad
It’s an open attempt to re-enforce his standing with far-right conservatives, particularly those wooed by Trump’s most formidable challenger of the moment, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose campaign last month — Pride Month — chided Trump for his LGBTQ support.
Enter Peter Boykin.
As the founder and president of Gays for Trump, Boykin readily acknowledges that Trump detractors may view him as a “chicken for Colonel Sanders”-type figure.
Gays for Trump leader Peter Boykin speaks at a rally on the National Mall on Sept. 16, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Courtesy: C-SPAN
But Boykin, who himself is running as a Republican for lieutenant governor of North Carolina, says he believes Trump will stay true to pro-gay beliefs he’s publicly demonstrated since the 1980s.
“He still is the best for the LGBT community, and he has not gone overboard when he talks about transgenderism and things like that,” Boykin said. “He's not attacking the transgender community. He's just stating what even most of us believe. You know, like our children need to not be pushed in the face. But he's not saying you can't be transgender. He's not getting up there and saying ‘gays are going to hell’ or ‘transgenders are evil’ like some of our other politicians.”
Boykin says he keeps reminding people that “Donald Trump is no different than he was in the ‘80s when he had Trump clinics for people who had HIV,” Boykin said. “He's been supportive of the gay community. He hires people based on their ability. And that's the biggest thing that Republicans need to continue to do — the failure that I see of the Democrats is when they hire people just based on, ‘they’re Black’ or ‘they're lesbian, gay or they're transgender’ and they can't do the damn job.”
Boykin noted that Trump, as president, secured a widely-touted deal to provide uninsured Americans with pre-exposure prophylaxis — PrEP — a drug that can prevent HIV infection that’s particularly popular among gay men.
He also cited GOP tech entrepreneur and megadonor Peter Thiel’s speech on the final day of the 2016 Republican National Convention, just minutes before Trump himself took the stage, as emblematic of Trump’s true feelings about sexual identity in America.
“Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?” Thiel told Republican delegates, who responded with enthusiastic applause. “Of course, every American has a unique identity. I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American.”
For Boykin, Republican voters need to temper their obsession with other people’s private lives — and private parts. Republicans need to stop fighting each other on social issues, he said, and instead focus on beating Democrats on matters of broad national concern.
“It’s all, ‘tranny on a canny!’ And you’re ignoring the real issues that are going on … the border, the debt ceiling thing again, and now, Trump's been arrested,” Boykin said. “We're ignoring the real issues worrying about these stupid gray areas. Everybody wants to call everyone a RINO, everybody wants to use the word ‘woke,’ everybody uses the word ‘racist’. It's all b—--- to sell newspapers, sell ads, get donations. But it's not taking care of the real issues.”
Similarly, some far-right Republicans’ fixation on drag shows, “groomers” and the threat of pedophilia specifically from non-heterosexuals is nonsensical, Boykin said.
“‘Groomers’ — it's a very good little catch phrase, but it's pedophiles we’re talking about, and that's straight, gay, transgender, whatever,” he said. “I don't want to go back to like the ‘50s — stuff where, you know, ‘Oh, God, please stay away from my kids because you're gay!’ That's b—---. Gay people are not pedophiles. Just like straight people are not pedophiles. Pedophiles are pedophile. Go after them. Let's figure out what we're actually going after.”
As for transgender Americans, “Most transgenders I know well, they just leave us the hell alone,” Boykin said. “We had no problem before. Donald Trump didn't have a problem with transgender users in any bathroom. It's become insane with the sports debate and the other things, and it is just — media.”
Boykin called on Trump, whose campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this article, to strike back against this rhetoric and stand up for LGBTQ Americans — conservatives, in particular, even as other Republican presidential candidates attempt to frame Trump’s support for gays as a liability.
(Last week, a little-known nonprofit group calling itself “Advancing Our Values” plastered Iowa with mailers lauding Trump’s LGBTQ bona fides — a development that Laura Belin of Iowa political blog Bleeding Heartland described as “dirty tricks” and “phony praise” that “designed to create negative views of Trump among potential GOP caucus-goers.”)
Hey @GovRonDeSantis F U
Your team is disgusting
You basically have @DeSantisWarRoom saying it's open season on All the Gay Community.
You and those like you are what's wrong with my Republican party, no one should be generalized or demonized as second class citizens.
I will… https://t.co/aFvOIumVrG
— Peter Boykin For NC Lt. Governor (@Boykin4NcLtGov) July 1, 2023
And Trump, Boykin said, should pick Arizona gubernatorial also-ran Kari Lake as his vice presidential running mate, given her own history of supporting gay conservatives.
Trump should also keep courting gay Republicans, including Gays for Trump and the flagship group for conservative gays, the Log Cabin Republicans, Boykin said.
Among Republicans, Trump, he said, is “still the only candidate out there that supports the gay community.”