After news this week that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner “heroically” worked to sink an anti-LGBT executive order most likely penned by Steve the, “Leni Riefenstahl” of the alt-right , Bannon, the Trump administration continues to completely confuse the American public by attempting to make inroads in potentially unlikely places to combat Trump’s historically low approval ratings. The Trump administration is working on reaching out to a group conservatives have often been in opposition too: the LGBTQ+ community, a group which Trump’s team generally just refers to as “the gays.” Perhaps even more confusingly, the chosen emissary is none other than the famously anti-LGBT Mike Pence. This move, while aligning with the Trump campaign’s proclivity towards infuriatingly biting irony, also seems to stem from Pence’s uncanny ability to connect with marginalized groups, as evinced by the incredible chemistry between Pence and a black barber in Norristown, PA which was captured on video this August, a moment some argue tipped Pennsylvania in favor of Trump.
According to Trump aides who are actively serving as media leaks because they fear a spiral into fascism, Pence sat down with a small focus group of LGBT activists who were told that they would be meeting with a Trump team to advise on pro- LGBT policies. Though some activists admitted that it seemed implausible, as one source put it “Literally anything could be true at this point, so who even knows. It was worth a shot.” Pence reportedly entered the room to a disorienting chorus of expletives and gay slang followed by an intense round of interrogation by those in attendance. After attempting to calm the group by clumsily asking them in a stiff, rehearsed tone why they “were throwing so much shade”—quickly followed by the sign of the cross and a short prayer for forgiveness—Pence engaged the group.
Despite this being an outreach effort, it seems that Pence was largely unwilling to have a nuanced discussion regarding LGBTQ+ relevant issues; Pence spent the majority of his time asking why the rumor of an inaugural ball dance with Caitlyn Jenner didn’t just fix everything. When asked about his stance on rerouting HIV prevention funding to pseudo-scientific “conversion therapy” as a Congressional candidate in 2000, Pence stood by his statements, saying that, “I find the activities you all engage in, frankly, kind of gross, and, therefore it’s perfectly within my rights to divert life-saving funding. It’s what Jesus would do.” When pressed on the fact that there is no medical basis for “conversion therapy,” Pence ducked the inquiry, offering only a non-answer, “Well, it’s very complicated neurology that finds its roots in the little-known psychoanalytic literature of Old Testament, plus, electroshock therapy itself is a whole other discussion; I’d rather not bore you with the intricacies of it all.”
Speaking to the draconian religious freedom law Pence signed into action—and eventually amended under criticism—in 2015, and his opposition to an anti-LGBT workplace discrimination law in 2007, Pence was more direct, “As a Christian first, I truly believe that being forced to provide LGBT people with employment or with baked goods against one’s own principles is a denial of religious freedoms. But let’s be clear, I don’t hate LGBT people, it just makes me sad that you’re, like around; there’s a big difference there. I just think others should be able to cut you off from the ability to subsist. Moreover, the wedding cake is the theological pinnacle of any wedding ceremony. That’s the real reason why I criminalized you guys even applying for marriage licenses, it’s because the sanctity of Christianity is based in matrimonial sponge cake.” To be sure, the issue of marriage equality is largely settled given President-elect Trump’s resounding complacency with the ruling – Trump’s strong stance on being “fine” with the Court’s decision brings some of Pence’s fears about the degradation of society as a result of a foster child having two moms to a moot point. Still, issues of equality when it comes to transgender rights, for example, are still very much up in the air in the coming years.
Given the highly conflictual nature of the meeting, any conciliatory aspects of the discussion seemed unlikely. That said, Pence did have a final trick up his sleeve to try to assuage relations between the Trump administration and the LGBTQ+ community. “It would be great if you could just stop. Just stop organizing and stop asking for equitable consideration in public policy and, you know, in life generally,” pleaded Pence, “Then we won’t have to actually sign the religious freedom bill that Steve Ba-we’ve all been working on. After all, that’s why we upheld federal workplace protections for you all, just to get you to settle down.”
Those in attendance responded with wry laughter, producing witty, pre-made protest signs seemingly out of nowhere and immediately organizing multiple public marches via Facebook before leaving Pence, chanting “Love Trumps Hate” as they went.