Donald Trump's use of the term "safe space" in a tweet condemning a speech about diversity and tolerance is political hypocrisy in its purest form. For a man who has used vulgar terms towards almost every minority community to then dare to utter the words "safe space" in a tweet, highlights an individual who believes freedom of expression is a one way street, that only he and his supporters can parade down. This near-hyperbolic reaction by Donald Trump, towards a speech that called for tolerance and respect for all groups within America, is precisely why now is the time to speak out and be heard.
The short speech made to Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, was a simple yet powerful reminder of how effective standing together in the face of adversity can be. A clip of Brandon Dixon has been shared thousands of times on social media and resulted in mass media attention. In it he says, with a cool and calm voice, "We are the diverse America" and urges the Trump administration to work on behalf all of those Americans. Dixon's call was directed to a man whose track record is one that has resulted in the LGBT community in particular, being fearful and scared over what the future may bring.
The emotional video of NBC News presenter, Rachel Maddow, shone a light on Pence's previous actions as Governor of Indiana, including making it illegal for same-sex couples to even apply for a marriage licence, even when a landmark Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was the law of the land. In outlining his opposition for same-sex marriage, Pence stated, "societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family". Implying the end of society due to same-sex marriage may make for an outlandish remark for a UKIP councillor to remark here in the UK, but it has significantly greater consequences in the US from 20th January 2017. Pence has also been on the record stating that funding for HIV programmes should be funneled towards 'gay cure' therapy instead.
Much of Mike Pence's track record was largely unchecked throughout the campaign period, as the media focused daily ding-dong between Trump and Clinton. However, there are now strong signs that Pence will have a more leading role within the next White House administration. As noted in The Spectator, there is no official role for the Vice President within the US Constitution, other than to break deadlocked votes in the Senate and oversee the work of the electoral college. It's also highly likely Pence will act as a key go-between for Congress and Trump.
The reality of this has resulted in LGBT groups across the US being rightly concerned about what protections may be stripped away. As various media outlets and politicians talk of the 'opportunities' the Trump-Pence administration may bring, I have had countless American friends talk their deep fear about what the future may bring. As mere by-standers to the US political circus, it's easy for us to become desensitised over these fears and dismiss them as exaggerated, but when faced with worries about a spike in hate crimes, this reality becomes real.
As the Obama family prepare to exit the White House, we mustn't forget the arguably impressive legacy the 44th President will leave on LGBT rights. In 2014, Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against any employee or applicant on grounds of sexual orientation. He repealed the Don't Ask Don't Tell regulations which paved the way for gay, bisexual and lesbian Americans to serve openly in the US armed forces. In 2010 Obama lifted the 22 year immigration ban for travellers with HIV entering the US. And, let us not forget the moment the White House was transformed to the Rainbow House after the Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage.
Despite memories of those multi-coloured days now fading, it is vital the voices of the LGBT community both in the US, and here in the UK, do not fade too. As the UK Government talks up our 'special relationship' this modern relationship must be one rooted in protecting the rights of citizens in both sides of the Atlantic.
Now, more than ever we need to continue to change the hearts and minds to the side of equality and reject the politics of hate. The resilience of the community is a key strength in our determination to create a world in which every single LGBT person has their freedoms respected - after all, isn't this the safe space you just spoken in favour of upholding, Mr President-elect?