Transphobia, Intolerance, Lies Front and Center at RNC

Former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell delivers a pre-recorded address to the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention in Washington
Ric Grenell, who as the Trump administration’s go-to gay pledged to lead a US effort to end anti-homosexuality laws worldwide, offered a grab bag of defenses of the president’s “America First” policies without a peep about LGBTQ rights.
Reuters/ Tom Brenner

Some speakers during the first three days of the Republican National Convention (RNC) spouted blatant transphobia, others tore into abortion rights and combined racism with xenophobia, and the only out gay person to speak didn’t even bother mentioning LGBTQ rights.

Leading up to President Donald Trump’s big speech on August 27, the convention has been an overwhelming display of right-wing rhetoric filled with typical themes of the modern-day Republican Party: Trashing protest movements against racial injustice, smearing undocumented immigrants, criticizing the Obama-Biden administration, fighting to “preserve” what they view as America’s “heritage,” and attacking trans folks, among others.

On the surface, it may have seemed like a far cry from a video published just days before when out gay former Acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell called President Donald Trump the “most pro-gay president” in American history. But it was aligned with the administration’s strategy to narrow its feeble attempt at LGBTQ outreach to only pursue gay voters, which comes as little surprise in light of the administration’s disproportionate targeting of transgender Americans in healthcare, schools, the military, and other fronts.

To that end, Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of the late evangelical leader Billy Graham, used her speech at the Republican National Convention on August 26 to deliver blatant messages of transphobia to Americans across the country.

“Democrats pressured schools to allow boys to compete in girls’ sports and use girls’ locker rooms,” she said, echoing the nationwide effort by Republicans and conservative legal groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom to chip away at the rights of trans girls. That campaign has gained enough support from GOP lawmakers in certain states to create punitive laws, but courts have already started halting legislation that seeks to sideline transgender girls from the playing field.

The argument she made was not some quibble over whether trans girls have an unfair advantage in terms of physical strength or their testosterone level — it was a blatant refusal to recognize that they are girls at all.

The speech drew criticism from Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David, who said in a written statement that her “comments were despicable and must be widely condemned by anyone who claims to be an ally of LGBTQ people.”

Meanwhile, Grenell — who last year pledged to lead the US’ global push to end laws against homosexuality, an effort Trump said he was unaware of — did not bother invoking anything about queer folks in his speech, instead focusing on foreign policy and praising Trump for his so-called “America First” approach. Grenell, who is also the former US ambassador to Germany, patted Trump on the back for asking Germany to pay more toward NATO — based on a fundamental misreading or deliberate obfuscation of how NATO contributions are calculated — attacked Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and hopelessly tried arguing that the GOP’s economic policies do not favor the wealthy.

Vice President Mike Pence also delivered his speech on the same evening, offering a distorted view of the Trump presidency on a range of topics including the coronvirus pandemic, protests, hurricane relief, and more, all while perpetuating anti-abortion sentiments and arguing that the administration would never allow the nation’s “heritage” to be “demeaned” or “insulted” — apropos nothing in particular.

Vice President Mike Pence, commandeering Fort McHenry for his speech, blasted his predecessor, Joe Biden, accusing him of supporting “taxpayer funding of abortion, right up to the moment of birth.”Reuters/ Jonathan Ernst

The president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., also pushed similar messages during his speech on Monday when he warned against erasing America’s history and stressed that “we’re not going to tear down monuments and forget the people who built our great nation” — even if they were Confederate traitors who tried to destroy the United States in defense of slavery. Racist dog whistles went off throughout the first few nights when speakers like Trump, Jr., said the election is “shaping up to be church, work, and school versus rioting, looting, and vandalism,” while Pence offered an unbending defense of police — even in the face of obvious cases of wrongdoing — and asserted that “we will have law and order on the streets of our country…”

And while Pence may or may not have been voicing coded anti-LGBTQ rhetoric when he said Democrats believe the federal government should dictate “how we should raise our children,” he did not shy away from launching fresh attacks on abortion rights — which impact not just women but trans men and non-binary individuals as well.

At one point he bragged that the administration has “supported the right to life and all of the God-given rights enshrined in our Constitution” and incorrectly said Biden “supports taxpayer funding of abortion, right up to the moment of birth” — a politically-motivated deliberate mischaracterization of abortions performed when it is clear that fetus viability does not exist or the carrier’s life or health is threatened.

Day four of the RNC’s program is scheduled to kick off at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time and will feature Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, bigoted evangelical religious leader Franklin Graham, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter who has a West Wing role, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and others before the night is capped off with Trump’s acceptance speech at the White House.

Like Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where Pence gave his acceptance speech on Wednesday evening, the White House is federal government property where officials are not supposed to hold partisan political events. But it’s very late in Trump’s term for administration officials to pay heed to those sort of legal niceties.

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