This week, Americans will vote in their country’s 59th presidential election. This year’s campaign cycle has brought attention to a long list of policies and issues that affect the lives of LGBTQ2S+ Americans—from growing inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic to the death of Tony McDade, a Black trans man, at the hands of police, to renewed fears about abortion repeal.
Ahead of Tuesday’s U.S. election, five organizations who work closely with LGBTQ2S+ communities across the United States told Xtra about the issues that feel most pressing for them, and what queer and trans people stand to gain—or lose—this election.
‘Everyone deserves high-equality health care’
“Planned Parenthood Action Fund believes that everyone deserves high-quality, compassionate health care, no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation. The Trump administration has spent the past four years consistently targeting the health and rights of the LGBTQ+ community, and we feel it’s important to continue to speak out to move our country forward.
“Right now, our priority is to start overturning the Trump administration’s cruel policies. One of the policies we’re particularly concerned about is the set of religious refusal rules that allow health entities like insurance companies and providers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ patients. We’re also fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act and continue expanding Medicaid; increase support for key public health programs like Title X; and prioritize LGBTQ+-inclusive sex education that’s representative of the varied experiences people have.”
—Samuel Lau, director, Federal Advocacy Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America
‘Local campaigns can change the material conditions of our communities’
“Southerners On New Ground (SONG) is a home for LGBTQ+ liberation across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, gender and sexuality in the South. We collaborate with residents on projects and campaigns that transform the region to serve our communities better. As the election approaches, we’ve shifted a great deal of focus toward ending the practice of money bail and pre-trial detention. The money bail system perpetuates racial bias within the criminal justice system and fuels mass incarceration that disproportionately affects Black and low-income communities. Many Americans are stuck behind bars because they can’t afford their bail. Meanwhile, the for-profit bail bonds industry and the big insurance companies profit off our pain.
“We’re also aiming to stop all ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) collaborations in the South. ICE collaborates with local sheriffs to sign voluntary agreements and train police to detain, deport and terrorize (almost exclusively Black and brown) immigrant communities. This tears families apart and dehumanizes our people. Our end goal is abolition, and we see addressing these demands as a way to get there.
“We believe that local campaigns can change the material conditions of our communities. So, instead of focussing on presidential candidates, our targets are people like local sheriffs, magistrates and judges who can directly change the way bail, pre-trial detention and the immigration system affect our people. We hope they’ll hear our demands. Ending money bail would mean taking our people off the auction block. Shackling folks with electronic monitors, investing in risk assessment over community-based solutions and favouring profits over people are structures that target, criminalize and cage people. We must dismantle them.”
—Micky Jordan, communications associate, SONG
‘How can we build safer educational spaces?’
“GLSEN’s goal is to ensure that LGBTQ+ students are able to learn in a school environment free from bullying and harassment. We know that when students are in spaces that are safe and supportive, they’re more likely to graduate. So how can we build safer educational spaces?
“There’s a lot of work to be done. First, kids need to have access to equitable education. That means working to reduce homophobia and transphobia, of course, but also protecting Black and migrant LGBTQ+ youth. We want curriculums to be more LGBTQ+-inclusive and for educators to receive the necessary training to support their queer and trans students. Older students especially see what is going on in the news: They hear about the murders of Black folks. They read about anti-trans bills. Schools should be a space where they can find help navigating these topics.
“We need support for trans kids competing in sports. We need schools to uphold strong anti-bullying and harassment policies. And we need to get police out of schools. QTBIPOC kids are targeted by campus police more frequently than their straight, white counterparts. Schools need to be places where all youth can find support and education and growth. We hope young people’s voices stay prominent after this election.”
—a.t. Furuya, senior youth programs manager, GLSEN
‘We want to abolish detention altogether’
“One of the things that’s most important to the Santa Fe Dreamers Project right now is ending the detention of trans people by ICE. To be clear, we want to abolish detention altogether; but we’ve seen firsthand how damaging and dangerous it can be for trans folks. All trans people, but trans women especially, face threats to their mental health, threats of physical and sexual abuse and medical neglect while they are in custody. We’re talking about people who are fleeing horrific violence in their home countries, only to wind up in cages and be denied the medical care they need to live. It’s inhumane.
“I was recently in touch with an 18-year-old trans woman who was put in all-male custody alongside 40- and 50-year-old men. She was terrified. If the system can’t protect these asylum seekers, they should be released into communities that can support them.
“I don’t have high hopes that these issues will be addressed regardless of how the election shakes out. I did, after all, start doing this work under the Obama administration. At this moment in time, I’m a little reluctant to speak out against a potential Biden administration, because I do think it’s incredibly important that people show up to the polls and vote out the current president. That being said, I wouldn’t expect a huge shift with a Biden presidency. We’re not going to suddenly see a humane approach to asylum seekers in our country. We’re talking about a rotted-out American institution, not about any one political party.”
—Allegra Love, director, Santa Fe Dreamers Project
‘LGBTQ+ elders need our governments to do more to address the challenges of the pandemic’
“COVID-19 has struck older people particularly hard, causing fear, isolation and economic distress. Our LGBTQ+ elders experience these things in an even more pronounced way. Even before the pandemic, they faced higher rates of social isolation than the population at large, higher rates of poverty and a lack of access to culturally competent services and supports. COVID-19 has exacerbated these issues.
“LGBTQ+ elders, like the rest of the population, need our state, local and federal governments to do more to address the challenges the pandemic is causing. Lots of our clients talk about wanting more universal access to accurate testing. They’re scared of how quickly the virus continues to spread.
“We’d also like paid family and medical leave that’s inclusive of chosen family, since many of our clients don’t have children or other blood relatives who are caring for them. And any field hospitals or clinics that pop up to be staffed with people who know how to care for LGBTQ+ patients. Increases in services are only really useful if they’re accessible to everyone.”
—Aaron Tax, director of advocacy, SAGE (Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders)