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LGBT Community Worries Extend Beyond Itself To Other, More Vulnerable People

Jan 13, 2017
Originally published on January 19, 2017 9:57 am

This story is part of Kitchen Table Conversations, a series from NPR's National Desk that examines how Americans from all walks of life are moving forward from the presidential election.

The election of Donald Trump has many LGBT people worried that recent civil rights strides will be erased. In Phoenix, three people — two middle-aged gay men and a young genderqueer woman — meet for the first as part of NPR's Kitchen Table Conversation series, brought together by their fears for the future.

While Donald Trump has called himself a supporter of the LGBT community, many of his Cabinet picks – and his vice president – oppose LGBT rights.

Moya — who is 52, gay, Latino and married — thinks Trump's opinions can turn on a dime.

So even though the president-elect has said he's "fine" with the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, Moya says he doesn't believe it.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he says.

That uncertainty has Moya, Brendan Mahoney and Jenni Vega worried.

They believe Trump has invigorated people who don't want to understand them – and might even hate them.

Mahoney is a 59-year-old gay white man who's been out since he was 19, while Vega is a genderqueer Hispanic woman.

And their worry isn't only for themselves, but for other people who are even more vulnerable: trans people, Muslims, those who are in the country illegally.

Use the audio link above to hear the full story.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Since President Obama came into office, the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, and Congress ended the military's don't ask, don't tell policy. Well, now a very different leader is about to be sworn in, and many LGBT people are worried.

As part of our Kitchen Table Conversation series, reporter Stina Sieg with member station KJZZ in Phoenix spoke with three people anxious about what might happen under President-elect Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I'm going to give you a card in case you ever want to get a hold of me.

STINA SIEG, BYLINE: Two middle-aged men and a young woman are sitting around a small, round table. It's the first time they've ever met, but it only takes a few minutes for the conversation to flow easily.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Laughter).

SIEG: They all vividly recall the night they realized Donald Trump would be their next president.

TONY MOYA: It was disbelief, shock, like someone punched you in the stomach.

SIEG: Fifty-two-year-old Tony Moya was watching the election results at home. Fifty-nine-year-old Brendan Mahoney was at a Phoenix hotel where Democrats were holding what was supposed to be a victory celebration for Hillary Clinton.

BRENDAN MAHONEY: Although it wasn't a celebration. And I left early - just said, let's just get out of here; I don't want to do this.

SIEG: And 19-year-old Jenni Vega was surrounded by LGBT and undocumented college students.

JENNI VEGA: And afterwards, it was the flush of crying. And if it wasn't the flush of crying, it was people wondering what their next step was.

SIEG: That's because while Donald Trump has called himself a supporter of the LGBT community, many of his Cabinet picks and his vice president oppose LGBT rights. And Tony Moya, who is gay, Latino and married, says he thinks Trump's opinions can turn on a dime. So even though Trump has said he's, quote, "fine with the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage..."

MOYA: I don't for once believe that. I don't know what's going to happen.

SIEG: And that uncertainty is terrifying for Moya and everyone at the table. They believe Trump has invigorated people who don't want to understand them and might even hate them. Jenni Vega, a Hispanic genderqueer woman who uses the pronoun they, says some days, it can be hard to even go outside.

VEGA: I really have to push forward and, like, love myself, take care of myself, especially now in this, like, era in time where we have this person who's, like, no, like, I don't want you. Like, I don't want you here. Like, I don't want your kind here. I don't want you existing. I don't want you being this.

SIEG: Because Vega presents in a feminine way, people don't immediately know they're genderqueer. Vega worries how others must feel, those more vulnerable - trans folks, the undocumented and the people, Vega says, who simply cannot hide.

Brendan Mahoney worries about them, too, much more than himself. As a white lawyer who's been out since he was 19, he has a certain amount of privilege and years of emotional armor.

MAHONEY: The reality is I know I'm not going to suffer as much harm as other people are that I worry about. There are other people who are going to feel it much worse. I'll survive it.

SIEG: Who do you worry about the most?

MAHONEY: Undocumented the most and Muslims.

SIEG: Mahoney's empathy with other marginalized groups attacked by Trump has caused him to lose a few friends.

MAHONEY: You care more about saving a couple hundred dollars in taxes than you do about the family down the street that's being threatened with deportation. You're not my friend. I've misjudged you.

SIEG: Someone who hasn't had those conversations yet is Tony Moya, who works in a conservative office setting. Right after the election, he heard some people saying this was the most exciting time of their lives, but...

MOYA: It was just too raw for me to say anything, so I conveniently avoided that. I think now if someone were to tell me that, then I would engage with them (laughter).

SIEG: Moya and the others at this table say it's important to be open about who they are now more than ever. For NPR News, I'm Stina Sieg in Phoenix.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE CAVE SINGERS SONG, "BEACH HOUSE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.