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Trump's Homophobia Will Hit Us In Europe

11/11/2016 16:47 | Updated 13 November 2016
Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Donald Trump's LGBT credentials - or, rather, the lack of them - are well known and don't need a further recital here. And whilst they must mean that we fear for both the physical and emotional safety and security of LGBT+ people in the US, his opinions have a far reaching consequence that sits right on our doorstep. As his rhetoric turns into policy and action over the coming weeks and months, we'll see whether his rants were hyperbole or actually as dangerous as many of us fear. There's one key Obama policy that will be binned, and that's the US Government's support for LGBT+ Pride events around the world.

Eighteen months ago, EuroPride took place in the Latvian capital, Riga, the first time the European event had taken place in a former Soviet state. Whilst much smaller than the EuroPrides that had gone before, several thousand people turned up to show support for LGBT+ rights in a country where homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are rife and arguably even state-sponsored.

Prominent in the EuroPride march was the US Embassy and its staff, alongside Obama's newly appointed Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, Randy Berry, who spoke from the main stage. The US Embassy in Riga proudly flew the rainbow flag outside its huge building.

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Left to right: Randy Berry, Charge D'Affairs Sharon Hudson-Dean, and Stuart Milk at EuroPride in Riga, 2015. Photo: Stuart Milk

With Putin's hatred of the LGBT+ community and Russian government legislating to restrict and remove LGBT+ human rights, may saw the United States' support for EuroPride in Riga as a deeply political act. As one human rights activist I spoke to in Riga said, "This is Mr Obama parking his tanks on Putin's doorstep. A nice little warning shot for a battle he doesn't need to have." This June, in neighbouring Lithuania, the US Embassy were supportive of Baltic Pride in Vilnius, and again marched in solidarity and provided financial support to the event.

It hasn't just been about countries where LGBT+ people face challenges. This August, the US Ambassador to Denmark, Rufus Gifford, hosted a reception at his official residence to celebrate Copenhagen Pride. He and his husband have joined the Copenhagen Pride parade several times have have been huge supporters of the event. Two months earlier, the US Ambassador to Britain, Matthew Barzun, walked at the head of the Pride in London parade alongside mayor Sadiq Khan, in a show of solidarity after the Pulse nightclub attack in June. The US Embassy in Grosvenor Square flew the rainbow flag again, and their float in the Parade also commemorated Pulse.

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Left to right: Steve Taylor, Rufus Gifford and Kieron Yates at the US Ambassador's Copenhagen Pride reception, 2016. Photo: Steve Taylor

But it's inconceivable that any of this support for Pride will continue, and come January a State Department edict will overturn eight years of Obama's support for LGBT+ people overseas in one side of paper. From the very top down, it's unlikely President Trump will appoint a new Special Envoy to replace Berry, nor select many or any LGBT+ people to join his diplomatic corps. The rainbow flag hitherto fluttering above embassies will gather dust in a store room, and some Prides in hostile nations will see a vital source of their funding disappear. It's doubtful even the 'special relationship' will allow embassy staff in London to join the Parade there again.

It's ironic, really, that as Trump is inaugurated on 20 January, the European Pride Organisers Association board, myself included, will be meeting in Bulgaria to talk about how the Pride movement can best support our colleagues in the Balkans - one of the regions set to suffer the most from Trump's hatred of diversity and human rights.

We balked in this country when then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond banned UK Embassies from flying the rainbow flag, a ban now overturned by Boris Johnson. But Trump trumps that; far worse is yet to come.

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