By: Dani Langevin – Dec. 2016
I am blissfully now teaching sophomore U.S. History at the newly and beautifully renovated Methuen High School and loving it. I am also the co-advisor for the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). My colleague, Brendan Cripps, and I have the privilege to meet with an incredibly vibrant, creative, and eclectic group of teenagers who define themselves as gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, queer, bigender, and so on. These students, who can number close to 30 on any given Thursday afternoon when we meet, are intelligent and well educated in the world of sexual identity and its fluidity. For the rest of the school year, I will be posing a question to the members of the GSA that centers on the LGBTQ youth of Methuen. Their answers will be the content of my monthly columns.
This month’s question: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT OUR NEW PRESIDENT ELECT AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY?
As an adult member of this community, as soon as I heard of Trump’s victory, I felt a wave of panic rush through my body. It wasn’t just because I am lesbian, but also because I am a woman and a teacher, too. With that said, I will stick to the topic at hand: what does this mean for the young LGBTQ community. As a historian, so many times in history passed through my mind when marriages of certain people were either thought to be less valid, deemed illegal, or disallowed. Marriages between slaves were not allowed during the 3 centuries of the slave trade, the Nuremburg Laws of Nazi Germany disallowed marriages between Jews and Germans and even revoked the marriages of couples who already were married, whites couldn’t marry blacks until June of 1967 in America. In fact anti-miscegenation laws have and still exist in places like Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, Africa, India, and France. Marriage between same sex couples has only been legal for 12 years and, although it has moved into its second decade, there are still those who can’t get over it and want it to be made illegal again. So why wouldn’t the LGBTQ youth in America be concerned when a man, who is about to be given the keys to the most powerful office in the world, admits that he hasn’t, “Given much thought,” to the treatment of its community?
The concern for their own future in a country that Trump will be running for the next four years is strong and not at the least optimistic. One member of my GSA who is also a member of one of America’s many minority groups stated, “It makes me feel even more alienated by a society who already has a preference for the “normal”. Add to the fact that she’s also female is, in Trump’s ideological world, three strikes. The day after Trump was elected one of my very out students walked into my room swinging his oversized purse announcing, “Miss, I gotta me a ticket outta here, I’m gay and I’m black which means I’m totally screwed and honey,” he says looking at me and pointing to my gay pride flag, “I’d take that big ole rainbow flag off that wall cuz Trump will be coming after you.” After a chuckle and reminder to “watch his language”, the comic relief was short lived because of how frighteningly apropos his statement was.
Several members of the GSA are more worried about the vice president elect Mike Pence who is a proponent for conversion therapy. Conversion therapy! I wonder if Pence believes that, if he was given conversion therapy, he could become gay.
Fear is an emotion that is echoed within Methuen’s LGBTQ community. If it’s felt in our city, I know that it is felt in our state and country, too. Andrew, a member of the GSA, said that Trump being president frightens him. Can you imagine not having even reached your voting age and being frightened of the leader of your country because you fear that he is not supportive of you? Elijah feels, “like America will be taking a huge step backwards in the goal to equality. These are the words of our children, our prosperity, our legacy and they are telling those who voted for Trump that they are frightened. What can we do, as adults, to assure that their future is bright, protected and promising? I wish I had the answer.
Samantha is one of the officers of the GSA at MHS. Her response to the question posed was poignant and powerful, “With Donald Trump’s back-and-forth method of thinking, and his tendency to say whatever he thinks pleases his listeners, he could be very dangerous for the LGBTQ+ community. Both (Trump and Pence) have shown time and time again that they are not for the LGBTQ+ community, are openly against us, and if they’re not for us, we’re not for them. Donald Trump is not my president.”
Unfortunately for Samantha, he is her president and he is America’s president. I did not vote for Trump. I am not one of his “uneducated” supporters that he so vehemently loves nor are any members of my GSA. That being said, I will support him. I will hold the highest of hopes that he is most successful in upholding the beliefs, laws, and expectations of our founding fathers and all those that came before him and us to create a nation that respects life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do not want Mr. Trump or Mr. Pence to fail because it would mean the demise of all of us. They are flawed men running a flawed country, but let me make this perfectly clear: they will not and cannot make America great again because we are already GREAT! We are great, but not perfect. We can certainly use some tweaking, refinement, polishing, self-reflection, and modesty. What we don’t need is a demagogue. From what I’m seeing, Trump is beginning to deflate, come down to earth, and become a bit more grounded. That is what I hope I can offer my students and members of the GSA who are “frightened” and disenfranchised with our new leaders.
What I want most is to promise Andrew that his dream will come true, “I just want to be happy with the person I love.”