Vice President-elect Mike Pence revealed in an audio tape leaked by The Christian Post Wednesday that he and President-elect Donald Trump plan to rescind the Obama administration’s guidance protecting transgender students from discrimination. This, combined with Pence’s support of conversion therapy and protection of anti-discrimination laws signals that Trump will likely be an anti-LGBT president.
For LGBT Center Director delfin bautista*, the potential overturning of last summer’s historic marriage equality ruling is particularly troubling.
“A lot of the progress we’ve made in these past five to 10 years has the potential of disappearing,” bautista said. “And things that we’ve put in place to protect us and affirm us can disappear, and so that’s what I think a lot of us are stressing out about. And we know it’s not a one day to the next type of change, but it’s still a little scary.”
For Jolena Marsbarger and Loran Marsan, the day after the election results was a cause for celebration. The lesbian couple marked the occasion with a nontraditional display of protest — getting married on the Athens Courthouse steps.
“When you start doing small things it makes the big things less scary. And when you do small things together it’s lower risk, so you can build trust better with the people around you to create bigger change on a larger scale,” Marsan said.
The visiting assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies encourages other LGBT couples to get married, out of fear that Trump’s presidency will restrict marriage equality.
“Walk the walk. Fight it. Keep going. Know you have control over it like we did. If you want to get married and you know you’ve wanted to get married, you should probably do that now.”
Legislative protections for marriage equality are still in place, and the process of overturning a Supreme Court decision is bureaucratically difficult enough that LGBT freedoms are not in immediate danger. But bautista’s biggest fear in the coming days is the culture of bigotry inherent in Trump’s campaign rhetoric.
“I think Thanksgiving is going to be an interesting time,” bautista said. “There’s already the stress of going home if home is not a pleasant place, now intensified by yes, he’s not in office yet, but he will be in office, so what does that mean for something as simple as going home to eat Thanksgiving dinner?”
Junior trans* student of color Tiffany Anderson noticed an immediate change following Election Day, in that Trump supporters are increasingly present on OU’s campus.
“Basically with Trump, as a president I feel he legitimizes people who are racist, transphobic and homophobic. He’s giving them a lot of momentum and kind of legitimizing, in their eyes, their feelings. That’s the dangerous part,” Anderson said.
She voted for Hillary Clinton Tuesday, and was shocked when the results began rolling in that night.
“People are mainly concerned, there’s a lot of sadness, a lot of people are scared for their lives and their friends’ lives. I am still trying to figure that out myself. Right now, I’m just taking it slow.”
It was that fear that propelled Marsberger and Marsan into taking action. After telling close friends and family that they planned to marry, attention was brought to their public ceremony, including Buzzfeed coverage.
“A lot of people thanked us today, which wasn’t even in our heads at the time we wanted to do this,” Marsan said. “We weren’t even thinking this was a huge action or anything, we just thought how this was going to make us feel better and this was going to make us happier and it’s something we could do today. And we’ve had so many people tell us that it made them feel better today and that makes me really happy.”
Not all the attention was positive, though. In the spirit of victory, the same-sex couple’s celebration caught the attention of one conservative student.
“At the marriage today, someone walked by and started screaming ‘Trump made America great again’ in the middle of wedding,” bautista said. “So we’re worried. I don’t know if scared is the right word but there’s a lot of concern and a lot of worry. What can happen, similar to Milo (Yiannopoulos) coming at the end of the semester, my concern is not so much him, but like Trump, what he will inspire and what he will unleash.”
Conservative internet celebrity Yiannopoulos is planning a controversial visit to campus Dec. 2. OU’s administration has taken an unbiased stance on the demonstration, but bautista believes administration can do more to ensure students’ safety.
“It’s about creating space for authentic dialogue and not just ‘Oh, we’re one Bobcat family and la-la-la we’re going to braid each other’s hair and sing Kumbaya,’ because no,” bautista said, referencing the Campus Conversations administered by the university this semester. “There are people on this campus who believe that LGBT people are not people. I have a problem with that and that needs to addressed and that needs to be challenged.”
Marsan and Marsberger view the overwhelmingly positive reaction to their marriage as a glimmer of hope in a day of despair for LGBT people worldwide.
“If you can speak up, speak up,” Marsan said. “If you can speak up for somebody else or stand up for somebody else, do that. Do what you can and do what you can together because that’s how we’re going to be okay.”
Editor’s note: *bautista uses they/them/their pronouns and does not capitalize their name.