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Honorable mention: Grad student essay contest — Yamiset Trujillo

Yamiset Trujillo

Conservative Christianity is at direct odds with LGBTQ+ basic human rights

By Yamiset Trujillo

I watched the 2016 election unfold in the same year that the Pulse nightclub shooting happened less than 10 minutes away from where I studied. It was a sucker punch I did not see coming, having been lulled into a false sense of security by same-sex marriage finally being made legal across the country a year prior. This had me naively believing that politics were ushering in a more neutral government focused on the issues of all its people, my loved ones and me finally included.

I was wrong. Election day had me feeling so hollowed out that I considered asking my professors for a day off from my extremely demanding program to do what felt like mourning. I thought I was being overdramatic, but the next day at school felt like a funeral. Other LGBTQ+ students in my cohort were shadows of themselves, heads down like the weight of the world was bearing down on them — and they were right to feel that way.

LGBTQ+ people are some of the most vulnerable people in America, having fought for decades not only for basic human rights, but to simply be recognized as people under the law. With President Trump courting the religious right, he’s used the excuse of Christian values to roll back to Bush-era conservatism and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that actively contributes to the discrimination against, and deaths of, LGBTQ+ Americans. To pander to a conservative religious agenda inherently means to uphold a limited set of moral and ethical values that target communities this religious group seeks to eliminate. It’s easy to assume words like “elimination” are extreme or sensationalist, but when the president himself has made jokes about the LGBTQ+ community and how his vice president would like to “hang them all,” this becomes less sensationalism and more fact.

The list of anti-LGBTQ+ movements and legislation Trump has pushed through is exhaustive, but a handful of policies include: dismantling nondiscrimination policies in instances of foster care, permitting homeless shelters to deny transgender people despite the fact they are one of the largest groups to suffer from homelessness, allowing religious discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers for federal contractors, and creating a group in the Health and Human Services Department to protect doctors who refuse to provide medical care to LGBTQ+ patients.

In fact, he took any opportunity he could to try to erase not only knowledge of LGBTQ+ people, but even acknowledgment that they exist at all. Within hours of taking office, pages about LGBTQ+ rights and recognition were removed from government websites. He has pushed for the lack of inclusion of questions about LGBTQ+ groups and identities in the U.S. Census. At the CDC, employees were instructed to eliminate language that acknowledges the existence of transgender people.

This kind of targeted attack against a group specifically because of gender or sexuality is not only unconstitutional, but the vast majority of Americans do not support it. It’s only because of the insidious push of conservative Christian lobbyists and legislators that these acts of blatant discrimination have been passed.

This is not just trying to take away gay marriage. These acts put LGBTQ+ lives in danger. To say doctors can refuse medical care based on prejudice means people will go without access to basic needs. People will suffer and die. The HIV crisis still affects the LGBTQ+ community more than any other group, yet by allowing religious doctrine into medicine, it’s legal to allow those suffering from HIV/AIDS to die rather than give them care.

Transgender youth have one of the highest rates of suicide and mental illness, yet the religious right would sooner let them die than have access to life-saving resources. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this means doctors would be within their rights to deny any LGBTQ+ patient access to ventilators and allowing them to die when they could have survived. These risks only increase for even further marginalized identities. White gay men may be discriminated against, but a Black transwoman is even less likely to receive adequate care in a medical setting.

Allowing religion into legislation leads to the deaths of many underrepresented and underprivileged LGBTQ+ people. Ignoring their existence and trying to silence them through oppressive policies and discrimination will hurt countless lives. Religion has no place in legislation, where it’s always used to put its own in-group into power, and to exploit and hurt any group it is opposed to existing. To allow God into law means to allow playing God with our lives.

Yamiset, 28, is from Miami and attends the University of Central Florida.

“I’m a first-generation Cuban-American student. When I was six months old, my parents put me in a little box and smuggled me aboard a rickety little boat to cross the sea between Cuba and the United States. I’ve taken my lifelong passion for art and storytelling into just about any artistic medium. My has been displayed in galleries, painted on shoes of professional athletes, and in a 3D-animated student film about the dangers of light pollution on a sea turtle’s life cycle that’s been shown at over 50 film festivals worldwide.”