I am gay. And I am scared.
I am scared because Donald Trump is running for president. He may be lagging in the polls now, but he’s still doing well in many places. He still holds a major party nomination.
A lot of things scare me about this man. The sexism, the racism, the apparent disregard for the emotions and experiences of others.
But something else scares me. Mike Pence is running, too. A man who, during his successful 2000 run for Congress, proposed that funding be taken away from HIV/AIDS research and instead go to supporting conversion therapy.
AIDS is historically a queer issue and something that led to direct death within the community.
In the ’80s, AIDS was largely ignored because it mainly harmed gay men — to the point that it was labeled “gay cancer.” Many people viewed the disease as a punishment for gay men’s behavior, and thus it was justifiable. It wasn’t until it was found that HIV could be contracted from blood transfusions and other methods — i.e., not just gay sex — that it was deemed an issue worthy of our time and resources.
Of course, HIV and AIDS did not end in the ’80s. It continues to be an issue for many groups but still greatly affects gay and bisexual men. And Mike Pence wanted to take funding from this away and put it right back into something else that would harm our community.
Conversion therapy is something that has haunted corners of the queer community for years. It is the belief that through enough “therapy,” queer people can become straight, and it is usually performed on children and young adults, as directed by their parents. It typically involves two stages. The first involves breaking down a queer person’s entire identity and instilling such intense self-hatred within them that they want to change, and the second stage involves rebuilding them into a new, heterosexual identity.
Outside of those vague two stages, there are very few specific details about this type of therapy, because survivors of it typically are unable to voice exactly what happened to them because it was so horrific. And yes, they are survivors of this because many of those involved in conversion therapy commit suicide before they can fully finish it. Those that survive rarely live as “straight,” but they do live permanently traumatized.
So even if Mike Pence has not voiced an updated view on this idea, even if Trump does not win the presidency and this idea does not ultimately end up in federal legislature, I am still scared. Because men with these ideas still came very close to the White House, and almost no one bothered to point them out. When gay marriage was passed, queer rights became particularly non-existent in the election, a blip on the radar among conversations about immigration reform and various scandals.
I am not saying that the other issues discussed in this election do not matter. I am saying that legal marriage, while important, was not the end-all be-all of gay rights. Because queer people are dying in this country from hate-based shootings and disease and “therapy” that is still legal in all but five states.
This scares me. Because even though my parents did not put me through conversion therapy, they could have. Even if I am not living with HIV, I could be. And those that do go through these things are not strangers to me. They are my brothers and sisters and friends. They are my potential partners and companions. They are my community, and they are dying. And people all too often look the other way.
I am scared because someone came close to leading this country that believes people can be boxed into groups. Sex Objects. Criminals. Terrorists. Ones that do not deserve to exist as they are.
I am gay. I am still alive. And I am scared.
Delaney Murray is a freshman studying journalism with a focus in news and information at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. How do you think this election will affect the LGBT community? Let Delaney know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting her at @delpaulinem.