Feb 16, 2016
A couple weeks ago a friend on Facebook said that she had dinner with her father who is gay. He was voting for Trump because as he put it, he felt that Democrats patronize the LGBT community. Needless to say, my immediate reaction was to dash off an emphatic “No” and hit “Send”, but I found myself writing several versions and erasing each. Each seemed somehow incomplete, and didn’t really address how I felt.
I then decided to be practical and unemotional for a moment. The moment turned into almost two weeks before I could really sit down to address the thoughts that I had been ruminating for days. I am not sure if this opinion still conveys all my feelings, but here goes.
I read the definition of patronize on Dictionary.com –
- togive(a store, restaurant, hotel, etc.) one’s regular patronage; trade with.
- tobehavein an offensively condescending manner toward:a professor who patronizes his students.
- toactas a patron toward (an artist, institution, etc.); support.
I also looked up the definition on Merriam-Webster.com –
- to give money or support to (someone or something)
- to talk to (someone) in a way that shows that you believe you are more intelligent or better than other people
- to be a frequent or regular customer or user of (a place)
Then I thought about the concept. Patronizing…. To Patronize …. The term has so many meanings. So many nuances. To give patronage or be a frequent customer, to patron, give money, or support – all very positive. Of course it also means to behave offensively or condescend, to talk down to, or to believe you are better than someone else. Most assuredly how my friend’s father meant the statement when he said he was voting for Trump.
To me, it didn’t seem possible that anyone could think that any of the Democratic presidential candidates patronize the LGBT community in a negative way. I honestly do not see negative patronizing from Democratic candidates across our Commonwealth, or from lay Democrats in the Party either. Perhaps that is because I am “inside” the Party now. For a long time though, I had intentionally stayed outside the party. Until 2000, you would have never heard me say I was a Democrat with a big “D”. I worked with many non-profits; I worked with organizations that rode the line between the two main parties trying to gain allies on both sides. 2000 changed that for me in a huge way. I began reaching out to the Democratic Party because I realized that it was the only party that I could identify with personally. Although I was non-partisan for years I had pretty much always voted for the “D”emocratic or “d”emocratic candidate. They were the only candidates that felt right, and the Democratic Party was the only one that really felt like home in ideology. The Republican Party had abandoned my family during the Reagan administration when no support for HIV/AIDS research or assistance was available. My cousin died because of the animosity, fear, and indifference. And that was only one of many reasons that I couldn’t identify with them.
Democrats, at least during my personal memory, were the only party that fought for the underdog. They fought for those that were disenfranchised by economics, race, sex, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, as well as many more dividers. Have they always been perfect? No. There are even a few Democrats today that turn their back on LGBTQI people, even here in our own Commonwealth. However, almost every elected Republican and many lay Republicans do not support the LGBTQI community. They fight every day to limit rights like marriage, adoption, visitation in hospitals, housing equality, health care coverage, support for runaways, transgender acknowledgement, and more. There were a record nine bills proposed this year in the General Assembly to take away or limit rights of LGBTQI citizens, all by Republicans. Democrats on the other hand have put forth bill after bill, year after year, to support LGBTQI citizens. By my count seventeen bills this year were put forth by members of the General Assembly to support LGBTQI citizens. All but one was sponsored by a Democrat. In this way, I suppose Democrats do patronize the LGBT community. To use Dictionary.com’s third definition, they definitely do act as a patron or support the LGBTQI community, each and every day. We have strong Democratic allies in the General Assembly that stand up and put their names to bills. They make impassioned speeches, they hold conversations with their electorate, and they support the LGBT community every day, every time you see them, whether it is expedient or not. That is also true of a huge majority of lay Democrats that I know from across the Commonwealth.
If you look to national politics it also is very evident that not one Republican running for president supports LGBTQI people. Rubio just announced a “Marriage and Family Advisory Board” the day before Valentine’s Day. Eric Teetsel, the Rubio Campaign’s Director of Faith Outreach, stated, “The Supreme Court’s decisions in Windsor and Obergefell are only the most recent example of our failure as a society to understand what marriage is and why it matters.” It is definitely not a veiled threat directly to the rights of LGBT Americans if Rubio becomes President. Ted Cruz has been viciously anti-LGBT for his entire career and even attended a “Death to Gays” Rally in November. Trump himself has promised to appoint Supreme Court Justices that will reverse marriage equality. The hate goes on and on, with each candidate trying to whip their supporters into more of a panicked frenzy about the evils of LGBTQI people. Contrast that with Democratic candidates that support LGBT rights. Hillary Clinton even made a landmark speech in Geneva as Secretary of State in 2011 that clearly threw down a gauntlet from the Obama administration and coined the phrase, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” (Read more and listen to the speech at http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/12/06/4-years-later-clintons-lgbt-geneva-speech-recognized-for-impact/).
With regards to the latter “negative” meaning of behaving offensively or condescending, talking down to, or believing you are better than someone else. I think it is obvious which party believes that. Many Republicans consistently place LGBTQI citizens squarely in the “other”, “less than”, “inferior”, “perverted”, or “evil” category. The dominant and growing majority of Democrats do not!
I know many LGBTQI people hate to hear the term “evolving”, but I personally cheer it. The best I can hope for is that I as a person will evolve to a better understanding, a fuller acceptance, and a clearer purpose throughout my own lifetime about any issue. I think that Democrats as a whole are “evolving” and becoming braver and more passionate about standing with their LGBTQI sisters and brothers. That shows for us every election year as the LGBT Democrats of Virginia see continued growth in the number of Democratic candidates approaching us for endorsement and support. Last year over 80 candidates running for offices from School Board to State Senate were endorsed by our group after actively requesting and completing exhaustive questionnaires and review by our group. They wanted our support and were willing to stand up and promote that support. We have seen a consistent growth in our endorsements every year. They support our community and we support them.
So are Democrats “patronizing” to LGBTQI people? Yes, they stand with us, support bills that will help our community, believe in us as fellow human beings, and generally show their consideration, give their votes, and their backing to us. And, we should patronize them as well!