Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid - A Second Trump Presidency | Opinion

Donald Trump. Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons.

In five months Americans will be electing a president. By many indications, Donald Trump will be their choice.

If this does not scare the shit out of you, we're in real trouble. If this article doesn't rouse you to action, LGBTQ people may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on what actions we take.

What a Trump presidency means to LGBTQ community is clearly outlined in a 900-page report, “Project 2025 Mandate for Leader” issued by the Heritage Foundation, a major activist “conservative,” think tank in Washington D.C. (It styles itself as “conservative” but in fact in recent years it focuses more on cultural issues and its outlook can be described as “Christian nationalism.”)

Ever since the beginning of the Reagan administration the Foundation brought together “conservative” thinkers, activists, writers, academics, public officials, organizations to outline the goals and policies under title of “Mandate for Leadership” to be followed by the incoming President, government departments and agencies.

The recommendations of the Heritage Foundation are very influential. In 1981 when first elected, Reagan, handed out a copy of the Foundation’s 1981 Mandate for Leadership to each of his cabinet secretaries. Of its 2,000 proposals and recommendations, over 60% were implemented in the first year. Since then the Foundation has compiled a similar report for each incoming Republican president and has been very influential in guiding policy, legislation and administrative actions.

If Trump is elected, the recommendations for his administration are contained in the detailed 2025 900-page report “Mandate for Leadership” authored by over 400 people. The report is supplemented with a shorter playbook of actions to be taken in the first 180 days. While the recommendations cover all areas of government (the economy, defense, all the government departments, agencies and activities) of particular interest are the recommendations dealing with LGBT people. While many of the recommendations are spread throughout the 900 pages and are detailed and specific, they follow four broad principles:

Equate legal personhood with heterosexuality and gender conformity by removing mention of any alternative legal identity from all laws, all government agencies, all grants and contracts, and any other official regulations. 

Some background: Currently  our rights and protections are based in either statutory law (laws/regulations created by legislatures, either state or Congress, or government agencies) or common law (laws created by Court decisions). Many of the advances in LGBTQ rights and protections were first made in the area of common law or court decision.

Up until 2003 LGBT people did not exist under U.S. law.

It was only in 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence V. Texas that consensual sexual conduct was protected under the 14th Amendment. The right to be LGBTQ was constitutionally recognized. Equally important was Bostock vs. Clayton County (2020) protecting LGBTQ people under 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against “sex” discrimination.

Since then LGBTQ people enjoyed and expanded their rights, written into hundreds of government regulations: Not to be discriminated at work, not to be discriminated in housing, to be able to join with other LGBTQ people in bars, cafes and social events, to serve in the military, to dress according to your gender, to hold hands, kiss in public, such rights are now written into rules and regulations of various government agencies and bodies.

However, just as one Supreme Court case overturned a women’s right to abortion, all it takes is one Supreme Court case to overturn Lawrence v Texas and Bostock vs. Clayton.

Just as there is no law passed by Congress protecting a woman’s right to abortion, there is no law passed by Congress protecting the broad rights and protections of LGBT people. (Except marriage, see below.)

Establish families — specifically a married heterosexual cisgender man and woman and their biological children — and not individuals, as the basis for governmental policy. 

Currently same-sex transgender marriage and families are protected both by judicial law (Obergefell vs. Hodges 2015) and statutory law (2022 Respect of Marriage Act). However again one Supreme Court decision can make Obergefell vanish. Also while in 1996 Congress passed the “Defense of Marriage Act” in 1996 stating that marriage was between a heterosexual man and woman. Later Congress repealed that law and in 2022, passed the Respect of Marriage Act recognizing same-sex and transgender marriages. However a compliant Congress under Trump can legally repeal that and reinstate the 1996 law.

Outlaw anything “pornographic,” meaning the public presence and depictions of queer and trans people which pose a threat to children and families. Shut down or imprison any individual or company that discusses or shares such depictions. 

For those of us living in Florida we have already seen what this means with DeSantis’ “Anti-Woke” campaign (“Don’t Say Gay” laws, banning books in school libraries, outlawing drag performances, etc.) Although, after protests these laws were challenged or modified, that situation can change very quickly. With Trump as president and a compliant Congress, such laws and practices can easily be reinstated and strongly enforced, not only in Florida, but nationwide. This would be “anti-woke” on steroids.

Overhaul policy and research to deny the existence of transgender and nonbinary people, and instead pursue methods of ensuring children remain the sex they were assigned at birth.

Under the policies of Project 2025, transgender people are the open targets. Instead of seeing them as “real people” they are viewed as a “social contagion.” Instead of offering gender-affirming care, the government will promote policies and research into a heterosexual conversion therapy. Furthermore, all school staff should be prohibited from referring to any student by a gender different from their birth gender.

Many of us live in cities and counties that have passed laws recognizing LGBT rights and protections. We may feel safe and comfortable. But this bubble can be easily broken.

Just as the state of Florida recently passed a law that overrode any local laws protecting outdoor workers against heat,  local laws recognizing LGBTQ rights and protections can easily be made unenforceable. All local government, laws, policies, activities and programs that benefit the LGBTQ community can easily be wiped away. With a governor and state legislature that pride themselves as Trump loyalists, this would be a very easy thing to do not only in Florida but 23 other states where Republicans control both the governor’s seat and both houses of the legislature.

Still, many of us feel that our rights and protections are safe. We have elected so many supporters to Congress who will stop any anti-LGBTQ measures.

Don’t be too sure. Right now polls show Republicans and Democrats neck in neck for control of the House and Senate.

What can we do?

Vote. Right now the most immediate action we can is take is to vote in November. The Williams Institute shows there are approximately 900,000 LGBTQ people of voting age in Florida. However 21%-189,000 of these LGBTQ people are not registered. In Florida 189,000 votes mean something.

In 2018 Rick Scott was elected to the Senate by 10,000 votes.

In 2018 DeSantis was elected governor by 58,000 votes.

Your vote is important.

However the November election day is only the first day of the battle. All indications are that even if Biden wins, Trump and his loyalists are not going to accept the results. Get ready for a long struggle.


Fred Fejes is Professor Emeritus at Florida Atlantic University, where he taught LGBTQ Studies. He is a Research Scholar at Stonewall Library. He is the author of "Gay Rights and Moral Panic," a history of the 1977 Anita Bryant campaign against gay rights.

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