America: land of the free, home of the straight

by Caroline Breniere, Kaine Pieri and Manuel Cavazza

After two tenures of a black president and the possibility of a woman sitting in the oval office, some say the United States is still not ready to have a gay president anytime soon.

Though the possibility of having Hillary Clinton as the 45th president of the United States is a symbol of acceptance, misunderstanding and discrimination against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) community still prevails.

“In my state I can be fired for being gay,” said Anthony Charmforoush, an LGBT activist and marketing director in Orlando, Florida.

According to a study conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2014, almost 150 million hate crimes were registered in the US, specifically targeting the LGBT community.

The same study shows that hate crimes targeting other minority groups including Jews, Muslims and Hispanics have dropped since 2005. In the same period, hate crimes against the LGBT remained constant.

Recent events, and most lately the mass shooting at Pulse, ‘showed the underlining homophobia and hate in America, especially in minorities’, said Anthony Charmforoush.

This hate is also found within the LGBT community. “I think we need to fix the issues in the LGBT community before we can perpetuate any kind of political idea outside of it,” said Anthony Charmforoush.

“You cannot really change anything before you fight certain issues, for instance, being a minority within a minority.” “Violence in the LGBT community is not uncommon,” he added.

Jason Goodman, gay activist and the Executive Director of the Youth Congress of Pennsylvania, agrees with Charmforoush on this specific point. For him, “This election is not only important for the LGBT community, but for LGBT people’s colour and for women.”

Professor Carolina Matos, a sociology lecturer at City, University of London, said “the election itself of Hillary Clinton sends a message for advancement in gender equality and gay rights.”

Jason Goodman, who is convinced the United States could be run one day by a president who identifies as LGBT, also stresses this idea: “It is a profound moment for us to vote to elect a woman, or a president that happens to be a woman.”

The LGBT advocate said: “Potentially having a female president is a huge moment for American democracy.” It is also especially important to the LGBT community, as ‘being a feminist and being gay is very intertwined’, said Anthony Charmforoush.

If the United States seems primed for a female president, misogyny is still omnipresent and this lens does not necessarily provide a better understanding of the LGBT community. The 2016 election has been marked by ‘misogyny and attacks that have been directed to Clinton a way that would not happen if she were to be a man’, said Carolina Matos.

It took 96 years after women got the vote right to run for office.  56 years ago, Sirimavo Bandaranaike was elected as the first woman to run a country, in Sri Lanka. American presidents have, until Barack Obama and possibly Hillary Clinton, been white, well educated, and straight men.

If today’s political elite is starting to have people who are LGBT and are accepted, “It would still take 10 to 20 years for people of the United States to ever think that it is ‘ok’ to have a gay president,” said Anthony Charmforoush. For Caroline Matos, “The United States have advanced, but would not be able to be classified as being ready for a gay president.”

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