One of the core beliefs of the movement for LGBT equality has always been that anti-gay bullying, especially of young people, must end. And yet, in recent days, thousands of online comments and threats from LGBT people have been directed against two young gay men who expressed their opinions about the current presidential race.
At a Donald Trump rally in Cincinnati on October 13, Wall Street Journal video reporter and senior producer Jason Bellini interviewed a gay couple who are both supporters of the GOP candidate. Although Bellini initially did not name them, a gay activist later “outed” the duo as 31-year-old Dewey Lainhart and his 22-year-old fiance, Cody Moore. When asked if they were comfortable being affectionate at the rally, Lainhart replied, “Yeah. Ain’t nobody saying nuthin’ about us” and “I have a lot of gay friends who support Trump.”
Lainhart said he works in the steel industry, and is “tired of the bullsh*t government. Time for a change. Trump’s the man for it.” Moore added he believes Trump “would bring more jobs to the country.”
That was essentially the entire substance of the interview, which has provoked an astonishing backlash. Hundreds of thousands of online views have led to thousands of comments, most of them furious with Lainhart and Moore, who have been ridiculed as “hillbilly morons” and “rednecks.”
In a followup report, the couple told Bellini they “have received death threats from gay people warning them not to leave their house or go to any gay clubs. One message to them, they say, told them to drink bleach.”
I have been very clear in my opposition to Trump, whose candidacy and views on most issues are an utter disgrace. I’ve stopped speaking with some people I know, and blocked many others on social media, because they support a man who is diametrically opposed to nearly everything in which I believe.
On the other hand, although I’m a gay man with liberal views on social issues such as marriage equality, I’m staunchly conservative on other subjects, ranging from economics to foreign policy. So I’ve gotten grief from all sides.
In my opinion, there is a rational way to express political disagreement with someone, and there is the mindless, kneejerk, politically correct-taken-to-the-extreme, bullying way to do so. One critic of the gay Ohio couple wrote “How do they rectify their support for Trump with his statements that he would nominate judges to the Supreme Court who would overturn marriage equality?” That’s the start of a reasonable discussion.
But most of the comments have included words such as “idiots,” “twats,” and “dumbasses.” It all reminds me of my first 23 years in the Soviet Union, where I was often bullied by cruel homophobic teenagers and teachers. And on a daily basis, so-called “traitors” who did not support Russian government policies were denounced and ostracized by the larger community.
How is this so different? Lainhart and Moore are not towing the LGBT party line, and they’re paying the price for it, big time. (One suggestion was that someone should “take away their gay card.”) This kind of intimidation is not only against the democratic principles on which our country is based, but counterproductive as well. It gives ammunition to conservatives, who often claim that liberals try to shut down free speech when it runs counter to their beliefs.
And it’s not only individual members of the LGBT community who are denying gays their right to an opposing opinion. Just last week, a leading LGBT magazine published a column by someone who concluded that although PayPal founder Peter Thiel has sex with other men, he should not be considered gay, because he’s a Republican who has endorsed Trump. Who is in charge of devising these bizarre litmus tests?
Some people do “get it.” One online comment came from a young gay man who describes himself as “100% opposed to Trump.” He writes, “We have all turned into a lunatic mob after the blood of those who think differently. How are the people attacking these two guys any different from what they say they’re against?”
I agree. We are a community that holds up diversity as a key principle in our lives, a central tenet of our movement for equality. A poll in September found that 20% of the LGBT community back Donald Trump. I believe that’s a tragic mistake, but I will defend to the death their right to hold that view. The last thing we need are gay “Thought Police” keeping us all in lockstep.
Michael Lucas is a gay activist, columnist, pornographic film actor and director. He is founder and CEO of Lucas Entertainment, New York’s largest gay adult film company and one of the biggest gay porn production companies in the world.