US elections: LGBTQ+ voters urged to fight ‘facism and white supremacy’ at the ballot box

People sit at a table while others come in to vote during the US midterm elections

The US elections present an opportunity to fight the “rise of fascism and white supremacy” in America, according to a GLSEN director.

The midterm elections on 8 November could be a crucial turning point for LGBTQ+ rights in the US.

Currently, the Democrats control the House and have vice president Kamala Harris has the deciding vote in a divided Senate – though this isn’t enough to break the 60-vote filibuster.

It means Biden has had difficulty passing legislation such as the Equality Act – and things could be about to get worse

Republicans are favoured to win a majority in the House, while the Senate remains a toss-up. If the GOP wins both houses, they’re almost certain to push an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.

Republicans introduced a federal ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in October, attempting to ban discussions of LGBTQ+ identities in schools across the country. On a state level, Republicans have implemented legislation banning trans students from competing in school sports, and are increasingly targeting gender-affirming care for trans youth

Aaron Ridings, chief of staff and deputy executive director for public policy and research of Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), tells PinkNews this comes amid a “coordinated attack on basic civil rights across this country”.

“It’s really important that, regardless of the specifics of a particular bill, it’s all about the same thing – taking away basic civil and education rights,” Riding says. 

“These curriculum censorship laws, athletic bans and healthcare bans are all reminiscent of the ‘No Promo Homo’ laws that we fought right after GLSEN was founded in the 1990s.”

Several people gather in a building to cast their votes during the US midterm elections

Suicide prevention groups have urged conservative lawmakers to stop pushing forward with their “discriminatory” policies. (Getty)

Riding notes “extreme anti-LGBTQ+ groups” are “laser-focused on LGBTQ+ youth in K-12 schools”.

“It’s shameful that lawmakers are trying to do the job of educators. That they’re trying to win elections – thinking this will stir up their base – and it’s all at the expense of the wellbeing and achievement of young people.” 

Over 81 per cent of LGBTQ+ students across the US felt unsafe at school because of “at least one of their actual or perceived personal characteristics”, according to a GLSEN report released in October. 

Almost a third of these students missed at least one full day of school over concerns for their safety. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and LGBTQ+ suicide prevention charity The Trevor Project have urged conservative lawmakers to stop with their “discriminatory” policies. They warned “increased experiences of victimisation” coupled with anti-LGBTQ+ bills “contribute to higher risk for anxiety, depression, and attempting suicide among trans youth”. 

“It’s important when we’re considering the impact of these attacks on basic civil rights that are centred at the intersection of LGBTQ+ youth in K-12 education that all of this is happening, and the broader context of a time of mass disruption and trauma,” Ridings says. 

He continues: “Young people were in remote learning environments, hybrid learning environments, going back to brick and mortar setting. 

“That’s against the broader backdrop of Trumpism and the ascendancy of fascism and white supremacy. When we look at the impact that these bills have, and in particular, what folks say about them, it has a chilling effect. 

“That negatively impacts the wellbeing of young people, particularly transgender and non-binary youth are at the epicentre of these attacks.”

Ridings says there is still hope and time for LGBTQ+ and allied communities to make their voices heard and vote before Election Day. 

“The rise of fascism and white supremacy represents an extinction-level threat to our decades-long struggle for basic civil and education rights across the country,” Ridings said. “It’s more important now than ever before to register and to vote.”

He continues: “The consequences of LGBTQ+ and allied communities not making their voices heard is an elimination of basic civil and education rights, and a fearful future and something that we’ve not known before.

“Instead, show up. We make our voices heard, and we keep moving towards our vision – a positive school transformation where LGBTQ+ youth can, at a minimum, be safe and ultimately thrive and reach their full potential.”