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LGBT Community Continues To Feel Targeted In Age Of Trump


In the lead-up to this year's inauguration, we spoke with people across the country about how the election was affecting them. In Arizona, a group of LGBT people worried what a Trump administration would look like, especially for minorities. Well, since then, President Donald Trump has tweeted about transgender people in the military, and his Justice Department has argued that civil rights law doesn't apply to sexual orientation. From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Stina Sieg checks in with that group again.

STINA SIEG, BYLINE: This young queer woman and two middle-aged gay men are doing what most folks do when they haven't seen each other in a while - sharing pictures of their pets.

JENNI VEGA: Oh, my goodness.

BRENDAN MAHONEY: I can't believe that I caught them in that pose.

TONY MOYA: Oh, look at that (laughter).

SIEG: Tony Moya smiles at two cute beagles. Then everyone sits down around a small table at his place. The last time they were all here, they were scared - scared for Latinos, for people in the country illegally, for Muslims. Moya and the others are still worried.

MOYA: But if you start looking at what has happened since the last time we met, to me, there's an onslaught against the gay community.

SIEG: The 53-year-old says he's not surprised even though Trump called himself a friend to LGBT people during the campaign. Sixty-year-old Brendan Mahoney also saw this coming.

MAHONEY: All of our experience, we can spot a phony a mile away.

SIEG: Twenty-year-old Jenni Vega has friends with trans partners in the military and says those partners' futures are now uncertain thanks to a few Trump tweets.

VEGA: And so even though it doesn't affect me personally, it affects those who I love personally.

SIEG: They all feel targeted, especially since the Justice Department has argued the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not cover sexual orientation. Tony Moya says Trump has emboldened homophobia and transphobia.

MOYA: He's opened the floodgates.

SIEG: Moya points to legislation aimed at rolling back LGBT rights. According to the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, politicians have introduced more than 100 such bills in state legislatures this year. Many of those bills would allow businesses not to serve LGBT people because of the owner's religious beliefs.

MOYA: They're not sleeping at night, you know? They're thinking of other creative ways to attack your rights. So we can't rest.

SIEG: For Moya, staying awake means continuing to hold fundraisers for promising liberal candidates, especially fellow Latinos, and supporting young people who can take this fight into the future, young people like Jenni Vega, who uses the pronoun they and identifies as Chicanx, a gender-neutral form of Chicana.

VEGA: The more comfortable you become, the more you think you're settled in. And then the hurricane comes, and you're not at all prepared.

SIEG: For Vega, preparing means encouraging local LGBT groups to be more accepting of young people and people of color. And as for Brendan Mahoney, he feels morally called to resist this current administration. Mahoney says Trump is a bully who goes after anyone he perceives as weak.

MAHONEY: And bullies only have power when we, the bystanders, let them do it. It's up to us to shut it down and say, this is not OK.

SIEG: Mahoney is doing that through his church. He's worked to get every congregation in this region of the United Church of Christ to become sanctuary churches. He says Trump keeps drawing lines in the sand and saying the bad guy is on the other side. Mahoney's seen that with sexual orientation and immigration.

MAHONEY: Don't wait for the line in the sand to be in front of you and there's no one left to speak for you. You need to speak up now for other people.

SIEG: Everyone at this table feels vulnerable under this administration, but they all believe tomorrow, anyone could become a target. For NPR News, I'm Stina Sieg in Phoenix.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCELO CAMELO SONG, "MAIS TARDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stina Sieg
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