Commentary: How Biden Is Helping The LGBT+ Community Return

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A recently redesigned LGBT+ flag, featuring colored and transgender respresentation.

Felix Cooper, Contributor

On January 20, 2017, there was a collective gasp as the ‘whitehouse.gov’ page regarding the history of LGBT+ individuals and their protections in the U.S. was removed entirely – simply erased from the website table of contents and from the web, as well as the efforts of the previous administration to protect a large portion of American citizens. 

Since then, many of us, myself included, have waited with bated breath to see what would happen next. Primarily, we waited to see which of us would be taken to the guillotine first: would gay couples once again be denied marriages and adoptions? Would it be legal to fire a woman because of who she loved? How many transgender people would die because doctors and nurses could deny basic healthcare based on their gender identity without repercussions (yes, that has happened even in recent times)? 

 The Trump Administration was, without a doubt, no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, hateful. The administration all but explicitly declared LGBT+ individuals less than human and actively worked to cut every safety net they had in many different aspects of life. Decades of social movements and civil rights battles were erased in a matter of hours. Over three dozen laws and regulations protecting LGBT+ individuals were removed within Trump’s first few months in office. 

As an openly transgender man, the pain I felt seeing this initiative cannot be overstated. There have been unspeakable wrongs done to my queer brothers and sisters in the past four years. Lives have been lost, ruined, and forever changed for the worse at the hands of the previous administration. Misinformation flourishes under hate like a weed, meaning a lot of the education the community has strived for has gone several steps backward.

Within Biden’s first week as president, the opposite challenge was undertaken: a dramatic shift that focused on righting the wrongs of the previous administration in the most efficient manner possible. The Biden administration moved with unprecedented energy to redefine the protections for LGBT+ individuals, with Biden even issuing a memorandum putting the U.S. at ‘the forefront for protections’ for LGBT+ citizens.

According to NBC News, the memo reads, in part, Around the globe, including here at home, brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists are fighting for equal protection under the law, freedom from violence, and recognition of their fundamental human rights. The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle — speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values. It shall be the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex) persons around the world.” The memo also directly addressed the previous administrations’ policies and stated all that did not align with the current administration would be removed, “including those issued from January 20, 2017, to January 20, 2021.”

Having an administration that not only acknowledges that damage but also seeks to make a positive change on a federal level is beyond reassuring in my eyes. It’s always better to feel seen rather than brushed over when you’re in need of support. 

Despite the refreshing effort, all that glitters is not gold: many of Biden and Harris’ policies in other areas could be improved upon, which I hope to see in the coming four years, not the least of which is Biden’s dodgy history with racial issues and the immigrant crisis still happening at our southern border. The Trump administration left a sizeable mess behind for the new administration to clean up, and though it’s fair to be critical of the efforts when it comes to fixing the human rights violations happening, much like the LGBT+ rights work, time will be the best healer.

Sources:

Avery, D. (2021, February 5). Biden signs foreign policy memo putting U.S. at “forefront” of global LGBTQ rights. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/biden-signs-foreign-policy-memo-putting-u-s-forefront-global-n1256848

In A Historic First Week, President Biden Dramatically Improves the Lives of Millions of LGBTQ People. (2021, January 27). HRC. https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/in-a-historic-first-week-president-biden-dramatically-improves-the-lives-of-millions-of-lgbtq-people

Rathjen, R. (2010, October 13). New report reveals rampant discrimination against transgender people by health providers, high HIV rates and widespread lack of access to necessary care. National LGBTQ Task Force. https://www.thetaskforce.org/new-report-reveals-rampant-discrimination-against-transgender-people-by-health-providers-high-hiv-rates-and-widespread-lack-of-access-to-necessary-care-2/

Transgender Americans Just Lost Health Protections. Now What? (2020, July 10). Commonwealth Fund. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/podcast/2020/jul/transgender-americans-just-lost-health-protections-now-what