LGBTQ voters relieved about Biden win, uncertain over the future of their rights

By: - November 13, 2020 7:47 am

David McNew/Getty Images

Feelings of relief, but not necessarily joy, filled the hearts and minds of some Michigan LGBTQ voters following the 2020 presidential election.

“I’m still processing what’s going on,” said Grace Koepele, a non-binary recent college graduate from Ann Arbor. “I love celebrating wins and milestones, big and small, but there is still a lot of work to be done, and I hope that the new leadership strives for equity, not just equality.”

On Saturday, the Associated Press called the presidential race for former Vice President Joe Biden over GOP President Donald Trump. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is the first woman, Black American and Indian American vice president-elect.

Working as a virtual education aide for a nonprofit, Koepele had to maintain a calm and safe online space for students to be creative, all while feeling uncertain during Election Day. Despite the outcome, Koepele admitted to not feeling as “euphoric” as they would have if the 2016 election had ended differently. 

“Election Day felt so bizarre and it was unsettling to go through the week without knowing who would win,” Koepele said. “It left me feeling weirdly emotionally numb.”

AP: Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidency

According to the GLAAD State of LGBTQ Voters poll, conducted Sept. 21 to 25 by Pathfinder Opinion Research, 76% of likely LGBTQ voters favored Biden over Trump, who received 17%. 

The two candidates have very different records on LGBTQ rights. In October, Biden shared his plans for LGBTQ rights with the Philadelphia Gay News and committed to making the enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during the first 100 days in office. He also identified violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, particularly Black and Brown transgender women, as a national epidemic. 

“It’s intolerable,” Biden said. “Dehumanizing government actions and rhetoric as well as a failure to address risk factors like domestic and intimate partner violence, underemployment, unemployment, poverty, housing insecurity and health disparities, put this community at risk. Solving this epidemic of violence doesn’t just require a President who actually recognizes it as fact, but one who believes in the humanity and dignity of transgender people.”

Catalogued in its Trump Accountability Project, GLAAD cited accounts of anti-LGBTQ statements and actions made by Trump and his administration over the last four years. This list begins on Inauguration Day in January 2017 when LGBTQ resources were removed from White House, Department of State and Department of Labor websites. 

In 2017, Trump released a series of tweets announcing his plan to reinstate the ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military. This ban took effect in 2019.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration also ruled to eliminate health care protections based on gender identity. 

When comparing his emotions now to those he felt four years ago when Trump won, metro Detroit student-teacher Ryan Gandy felt a sigh of relief this time around, as opposed to feeling “completely crushed” in 2016. But he has yet to feel happy with the results of this year’s election. 

Ryan Gandy

“I’m still pissed these centrist and corporate Democrats don’t have the spine to call out Republicans for literally all the illegal sh– they’ve done in the past four years,” Gandy said. “I have no doubt that without COVID, Donald Trump would have been reelected because Democrats don’t focus enough on appealing to the needs of people of color, queer people, disabled people or any marginalized group.” 

Grand Rapids resident Elliot Mueller described the years of watching President Trump fan flames of bigotry, racism and hatred as trying times for marginalized communities.  

“As I celebrate our recent victory, I’m reflecting on the last four years of uncertainty, fear and wondering if [Vice President] Mike Pence’s stance on conversion therapy would influence my government to electrocute the queer out of me,” Mueller said. “On Election Day four years ago, I felt distraught and feared how coming out could risk the safety of my home, job and health insurance.” 

After the results of this year’s election were announced, Mueller finally felt safe enough to come out as transgender publicly via social media.

“With the Biden administration at the helm, I look forward to fighting for free health care for all Americans, the Black Lives Matter movement taken seriously, reparations to Black and Indigenous communities, and for the health of our planet to be taken seriously. I also look forward to transitioning in peace, knowing that my healthcare will continue to cover my life-saving medications.”

Elliot Mueller

The results of the 2020 election evoked excitement and hope for some voters, but fear and doubt in others. 

Although in awe of the collective vision demonstrated by of Black, Native, people of color and oppressed during this election, Sariah Metcalfe, a statewide organizer for Michigan Student Power Network, does not have much hope for the new administration. 

The Donald Trump era was violently oppressive but it feels too soon to tell if Biden will genuinely change course in favor of creating more safety for oppressed communities,” Metcalfe said. “I fear that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ stances and career histories on policing could result in wrongfully targeting and continually oppressing Black and Brown peoples.”  

As a gay man working in education, Gandy fears the potential decisions against protection of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace from a right-wing Supreme Court. 

“Quite frankly, I’m still terrified,” Gandy said. “[New Justice] Amy Coney Barrett is part of the Supreme Court and she is planning to come after protection of queer people in the workplace, which makes me sick to my stomach. Knowing you have no protection in school and work, and your queer teachers, who protect you and help you feel accepted, can be fired quickly by a few angry parents with no legal defense is horrifying.”

This week, the Victory Institute called on Biden to appoint at least one LGBTQ person to a cabinet position. In its presidential appointments initiative, Victory Institute will provide the transition team with “hundreds of exemplary LGBTQ candidates for positions throughout the next administration and advocate for their consideration.”

U.S. House passes LGBTQ rights bill over GOP opposition

Claire Lucas, chair of the LGBTQ Victory Institute board of directors, said Biden is committed to building an inclusive administration that reflects America’s diversity. 

“The challenges facing the new administration are enormous,” Lucas said. “Fortunately, there are LGBTQ people qualified and ready to lead in confronting all those challenges both at home and abroad. Biden can build the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in history while assembling a team that can move America forward.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark

Alexis Stark is a freelance writer in Grand Rapids. She previously wrote for the Ann Arbor News. Before graduating from the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University, Alexis covered features and campus news for the State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism.