The contrast couldn’t be more stark.
For two years in a row, the Trump White House declined to issue a Pride Month proclamation, nor has it held a Pride reception, as the Obama White House did during the prior eight years. President Donald Trump has never acknowledged Pride while in office, and he’s continuously pandered to anti-LGBTQ religious conservatives who have enjoyed direct access to the White House while watching with glee as his administration has moved to harm LGBTQ rights.
But in Germany, where I happened to be last week, the Trump administration went all out for Pride during Berlin’s annual Christopher Street Day celebration, which marked its 40th anniversary on July 28.
The U.S. Embassy hung a rainbow flag outside the front entrance of the building, while a Lady Liberty statue at the back entrance was dressed in a rainbow skirt.
A contingent from the U.S. Embassy marched in the parade behind an official banner. Leading the way was U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, an openly gay conservative Republican who fervently supported Trump during the 2016 race ― and who raised hackles among German leaders when he extended a lunch invitation to Austria’s right-wing nationalist leader.
Grenell proudly posed for photos with revelers. The embassy even posted them on its Facebook page, using one as the page’s primary background.
Germany isn’t the only place where the U.S. is participating in annual Pride celebrations while ignoring LGBTQ Pride at home.
In Luxembourg, which has an openly gay prime minister, Xavier Bettel, the U.S. Embassy celebrated raising the rainbow flag in June. Staffers posed with Luxembourg’s first husband, Gauthier Destenay, in front of the embassy. The U.S. Embassy in Norway acknowledged Pride as well, offering some LGBTQ history on the embassy’s webpage, as did the embassy in Chile.
In South Korea, the U.S. Embassy joined the embassies of 12 other countries to participate in the 19th annual Seoul Queer Culture Festival in July. The embassy affixed a rainbow banner to the building and tweeted a picture of the ambassador visiting the festival to “support the #LGBTI community in Korea” and promote “human rights and tolerance.”
Perhaps the most jarring was the U.S. Embassy’s Pride celebration in Israel, where the embassy was moved to Jerusalem in May. That move was highly controversial and had the support of the same cohort of American evangelical leaders who oppose LGBTQ rights. Several of them spoke at its dedication, garnering international media attention. A month later, there was Ambassador David Friedman, a former Trump attorney who has been criticized for his support of right-wing extremists, embracing LGBTQ Pride ― and getting far less notice from the media.
This blatant hypocrisy by the Trump administration comes at the same time that conservatives in Washington are pushing a bill aimed at banning the flying of rainbow flags at embassies around the world during Pride.
To be sure, the embassies’ Pride celebrations aren’t consistent around the world. Some seem to be down with the White House’s anti-queer agenda, while others, perhaps getting mixed messages after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement honoring Pride in June, are not. A State Department spokesperson said Pride activities were left up to each individual ambassador and that “the Department encouraged U.S. embassies and consulates overseas to develop Pride Month programs and activities appropriate for each country context.”
In past years, the U.S. Embassy in London celebrated Pride with very public events, such as a performance by the New York Gay Men’s Chorus, and it has flown the rainbow flag before. But an embassy spokeswoman told me this was the “first year” that the flag didn’t fly during June, and said she didn’t know the “reasoning” behind it. She did confirm that a group of embassy staff marched in the city parade, but the ambassador, New York Jets owner and major Trump supporter Woody Johnson, didn’t join them. Johnson was sworn into office in August 2017, after the 2017 Pride celebration in London, the last time the flag was on display.
The U.S. Embassy in Paris, which has participated in the city’s July Pride parade in the past, did not have a contingent in the parade in 2017 or 2018. A State Department spokesperson told me the embassy celebrated in a different way this year: It paid to bring an American police officer from Los Angeles to Europe so that he could attend the European LGBT Police Association’s 2018 conference and march in the parade behind an American flag. (The U.S. ambassador to France is Jamie McCourt, who, with her husband, was a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and was also a major Trump supporter during the 2016 election.)
A state department spokesperson said that the U.S. Embassy in Paris hasn’t flown the rainbow flag in previous years nor this year. In years past, however, there was acknowledgement of Pride on the embassy’s website. But this year there’s no mention of Pride on the websites or Facebook pages for the embassies in both Paris and London (though the embassy in France does have a post on its website welcoming the Gay Games to Paris this month).
Still, even with these uneven celebrations of Pride around the world, the fact remains that the U.S. is acknowledging Pride abroad while the White House does absolutely nothing to celebrate it domestically. This is both appalling and telling.
By ignoring Pride at home, Trump shows that he couldn’t care less about the well-being of LGBTQ Americans. And the inconsistency shows that Trump is all about pandering to his base when it comes to the most visible gestures while ignoring what might go under the radar but would nonetheless concern and anger them.
The fact that the U.S. would celebrate LGBTQ civil rights in Germany by literally marching in the parade with a banner while the administration moves to ban transgender people in the military and supports discrimination against queer people in federal court and at the Supreme Court exposes Trump’s frequent lack of true convictions. As we’ve seen over and over again, everything is politics for Trump, even if it means stripping some people of their rights.
This piece has been updated to include a comment from the State Department regarding general Pride policies and a comment from a State Department spokesperson confirming that the U.S. Embassy in Paris hasn’t flown a rainbow flag in previous years and this year.
Michelangelo Signorile is an editor-at-large for HuffPost. Follow him on Twitter at @msignorile.