Donald Trump has been branded a bigot. Yet his acceptance speech suggests a radical rejection of heteronormativity and an embrace of radical queer identity politics.
By opposing both Islam and heterosexism, and using the phrase LGBTQ, Trump may have positioned himself as a woke nominee. For the sake of the unwoke reader who doesn’t know what woke means, MTV News defines it as “Being aware — specifically in reference to current events and cultural issues.” Urban dictionary says, “Being Woke means being aware. Knowing whats going on in the community. (Relating to Racism and Social Injustice).” If we include– as we must– homophobia in our definition of Social Injustice, we must also frame Trump’s seeming Islamophobia in its rightful woke context.
Trump clearly grounded his Islamophobia in a fierce, even fabulous, commitment to LGBTQ rights as he addressed the RNC Thursday night at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans arena:
Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBTQ community. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.
A cursory textual analysis reveals the problematic nature of Trump’s argument. There is no proof that the man who murdered 49 people at the Pulse night club in Orlando was influenced by Islam. And Trump conflates Islam with an inherently violent and hateful ideology. Perhaps most troubling is Trump’s exoneration of the homophobia, violence and hate perpetuated by his own religion, Christianity, and by his very own running-mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who self- identifies as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” And yet, despite his intersectional self-definition, Pence’s record, which includes pushing through the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” allowing businesses to turn away and corporation to deny health insurance to LGBTQ people, suggests he has not freed himself of the shackles of homophobia.
But Donald Trump, at the very least, is laying bare what we talk about when we talk about intersectional identity politics. And he should be commended for initiating this much needed conversation.
In order to further support his subversive rejection of heteronormativity , we must push Trump even further, empowering him to use his unique voice to give voice to the voiceless. Of course, we must do this in a way that honors his authenticity, uniqueness, and agency. What better way to do this than by turning to Trump’s own words and recasting them in the radical voice he has already discovered. Here is just one example of how he could apply his woke and intersectional framing to things he has already said:
“I will build a
great wallsafe space– and nobody builds safe spaces better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great safe space, and I will make straight, cis, able-bodies, men Mexicopay for that safe space. Mark my words.”
It is incumbent upon us to thoroughly reflect on, process and unpack the potential wokeness of Trump. And yet, we would also be remiss if we failed to interrogate this question. I will be offering more thoughts and sharing some concrete suggestion in a follow-up post.
In the mean time, I urge readers to share their own ideas on Twitter. Please tag me, @kthalps, and use the hashtag #WokeTrump.