By: Madeline Coffey

Earlier this week, I struggled to prepare for the interactions that I would have at the RNC.  I did not know how to communicate with folks who had adopted the most drastic anti-LGBTQ platform in all of the party’s history. It turns out, these people are incredibly easy to interact with.  At each event, our republican hosts were incredibly warm and inviting.  They oftentimes listened to our concerns and responded that they would take them into consideration.  Overall, I kept finding myself feeling less and less hostile about the new platform.

I focused on the individual when I talked with the party members, and it proved not very difficult to do so.  The reason?  Each and every republican we talked with in some way denounced Trump’s policies or ideology.  Although many of them voiced their support regardless, it became clear to me that their views were far from monolithic.  The republicans we spoke to had far ranging beliefs and interests.  One particular republican surprised me at the beginning of our trip..  Frank La Rose, who is an Ohio State Senator serving District 27, is a republican advocating for LGBTQ protections.  He served on the Equality Ohio panel Beyond Bathrooms designed to explain and promote better LGBTQ policies across the aisle.  Frank was enthusiastic about LGBTQ issues, explaining that he even has had conversations with his children about accepting and supporting the community.

He noted that he had introduced bills in the Ohio Senate that would benefit the queer community, but he lamented that his Republican colleagues would not co-sponsor or support the bills he had proposed.  La Rose noted that many senators he had asked to support this type of legislation had commended him on his efforts despite their refusal to sign.  For republicans, Frank explained, support for a bill like this could mean sacrificing their senate seats.

At first, I was overjoyed to hear that republicans were supporting the queer community.  The one step closer narrative played in my mind, but as I walked home from the panel, I began to open my eyes.  Yes, it is good that republican senators don’t actually think that queer people are disgusting.  Yes, it is good that republican senators are commending their colleagues for proposing protections for LGBTQ citizens.  However, none of this makes up for the pain they have caused our community.  In fact, hearing this exacerbates my frustration.

Here’s what it comes down to: republicans are willing to sacrifice the livelihoods and freedoms of the LGBTQ community for their own political gain.  Besides Senator La Rose, none of the other republicans wanted to talk LGBTQ issues.  When I asked North Carolina Representative Virginia Fox how she thought HB-2 would be countered by the pre-existing landmark court case Romer v. Evans, she responded that she had no idea what the case was about.  She further explained that she doesn’t know anything about other district courts’ precedents.  She cut me off when I tried to explain further that Romer was actually a U.S. Supreme Court decision.  It bothered me to my core that one of our House Representatives had no idea about this case because of the relevance that it holds for the eventual outcome of the Federal Government’s lawsuit against Pat McCrory over the controversial bill.

It was better to be ignored than used, however.  All week, we heard about the Orlando shooting at nearly every RNC event that we attended.  It was the first time that I’ve ever seen republicans clap and cheer for LGBTQ protection.  This was by far the most infuriating of all.  This was not support for our community, you see, but a ploy to disadvantage Muslim-American citizens and discredit the requests of refugees.

I am not a tool for oppression.  This rhetoric does not help me.  I want to be supported through policies that allow me freedoms and do not take away freedoms from others.  The Orlando Shooting is a direct result of republicans’ fear mongering tactics against our community.  We need not forget that the shooter was an American citizen.  I will continue to stand up against complacency.  The acknowledgement of existence coupled with apathy that the republicans express is not enough.  Thanks, but no thanks.

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