Recently, someone I work with appeared on a television show to discuss the 2016 elections and make his case for Hillary over Trump.
Immediately after his broadcast, dozens of e-mails poured into our company's generic e-mail box, lambasting my colleague for his support of "Crooked Hillary." And while I would expect to get angry e-mails and calls from Trump supporters who can't stand anyone on TV who is advocating for Hillary, what I did not expect were the personal attacks on my colleague himself.
My colleague happens to be gay, a fact about him that isn't hard to find with a little Google searching. Some of the e-mails we received contained the most disgustingly homophobic, hateful speech I have ever seen. Anonymous viewers (they never leave their name and always block their e-mail address) wrote in calling my colleague a "faggot," a "peter puffing pervert," and a "Heblew" (my colleague is also Jewish).
One of the e-mails advised that "times are a-changing and you and your kind will crawl back under the rocks that you came from" (emphasis mine).
This e-mail struck me not only because of its homophobia, but because it seemed that the author was implying that our country is reverting back to the times where gay people were not public figures or as open about their sexuality as they are now. This idea struck me as nonsensical given all the gains our country has made in securing rights for LGBT people--just last year the Supreme Court declared laws that prohibit gay marriage unconstitutional, discriminatory policies like the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" rule have been repealed, and for the first time ever, and transgender people and their needs are finally getting the attention and recognition they deserve.
Yet we've also seen backlash against the rights LGBT people have gained as well, in states like Mississippi, where there is a law that allows businesses to deny services to same-sex couples for religious reasons, or more recently in North Carolina, where the Governor signed a bil that prohibitsl transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. And with the rise of Donald Trump, who does not hesitate to use hateful, bigoted speech against not only LGBT people, but immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, Latinos, and women (in fact, I'm not sure there is a demographic group out there he has not said something hateful or insensitive about), the door has been re-opened to the acceptability of overt sexism, racism, and homophobia.
I think that's what the e-mail commenter meant when he said times are changing, and Trump is a huge part of that change. That's not to say Trump himself has made people sexist, racist, or homophobia--those attitudes have always existed within the American public--but Trump has energized these groups by igniting their hate and making the use of bigoted speech more normalized, if not more acceptable.
The e-mail commenter also expressed hope that because times are changing, perhaps my colleague's "kind" will have to go back underground--back to the times when being gay meant something shameful, when two men would be scared to hold hands in public, when the risk of violence for LGBT people was even higher than it is now (although for transgender people, the rate of violence is up), when having the right to live, work, pray, learn, and love was a distant hope rather than an achievable reality. For people who want our country to move backwards to the past, Donald Trump is their savior.
It's sad, shameful, disgraceful, and scary that people like the e-mail commenters who openly bashed my colleague for being gay are out there, and it's even more shameful our country has let someone like Donald Trump--who fuels this hate and bigotry--has gotten as close as he has to becoming the President of the United States.
There are many reasons why I support Hillary Clinton, and the fact that she is not Donald Trump is one of them. We need to move our country forward and build on the progress we have made in securing rights for all people in this country. I have absolutely no tolerance for the people who wrote the things they did about my colleague, and as a country we need to send a strong message that we're not going back to the days where hating people who are not like us and using legislation to deny them basic rights and freedoms is in any way acceptable. We need a president who will bring people together and make America whole--that person is, emphatically, NOT Donald Trump.