Last summer, Donald Trump promised "to protect our LGBTQ citizens."

The assurance — seemingly the first time LGBTQ rights were acknowledged by a nominee at a Republican National Convention — came as a sigh of relief to some LGBTQ people and allies hoping for continued progress on queer rights, even in the event that Trump would win the election: Could lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans finally have a Republican ally in the White House?


To find out if Trump's promise held up, let's recap the first five months of his presidency as it pertains to LGBTQ rights:

1. Trump rescinded federal bathroom protections for transgender students.

Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

With Trump's approval, the Justice and Education Departments rejected guidelines suggested under President Barack Obama that allowed trans students across the country to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender.

The reversal gives state and local officials more sway in forcing kids to use the bathroom that aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth — a move that puts them even more at risk of violence.

2. Trump stopped data collection on LGBTQ seniors, making it difficult to know if and how certain programs affect them.

Photo by Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images.

The Trump administration pulled questions relating to sexual orientation and gender identity from an annual survey given to seniors by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The data collection is crucial in pinpointing where and how federal dollars should be spent on programs benefiting older Americans, NBC News reported, and could negatively affect services like transportation, caregiver support, and home-delivery meals for LGBTQ seniors.

3. Trump has surrounded himself with blatantly homophobic and transphobic officials with huge influence over policy.

Trump with Mike Pence. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Bringing years of abhorrent views on LGBTQ people and their rights to Washington, Trump's cabinet truly does showcase a remarkable collection of bigotry, Michelangelo Signorile reported in The Boston Globe.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' family foundation has donated millions of dollars toward groups solely focused on slashing LGBTQ rights. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price called Obama's transgender-inclusive policies "absurd." Attorney General Jeff Sessions has an "alarming record on LGBTQ equality," according to the Human Rights Campaign, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson once compared sex between people of the same gender to bestiality and pedophilia.

While he was governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence signed a bill into law allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ patrons based on religious beliefs and supported conversion therapy — a form of child abuse — for LGBTQ children.

Unsurprisingly, none of these people have showed signs of changing their beliefs on LGBTQ rights since taking office.

4. Trump's messaging and America-first fiscal priorities are emboldening anti-LGBTQ movements around the world.

Photo by Kirll Kudrjavtsev/AFP/Getty Images.

The "Trump Effect," as The Daily Beast coined it, is empowering hate groups worldwide — not only in regions like the Caribbean and Latin America, but in even the most LGBTQ-friendly countries, like the Netherlands and the U.K., according to OutRight International.

What's more, whatever budget passes through a GOP House and is signed by the president will likely slash tens of millions of dollars in funding for programs that prevent HIV transmission and protect LGBTQ people from persecution overseas.

5. Trump has done nothing to stop — or even condemn — the mass arrests and murders of gay, bisexual, and transgender men in Chechnya.

Photo by John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images.

Since April, at least 100 LGBTQ men have been arrested, tortured, and even killed by law enforcement — all while the Chechen government refuses to acknowledge LGBTQ people even exist there.

Many world leaders have spoken out against the atrocities. Not Trump.

6. Trump signed an executive order allowing for more leniency in letting churches get political.

Trump visits a Las Vegas church in October 2016. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

In early May, Trump signed an executive order that eased guidelines prohibiting churches from being politically active, Reuters reported. With the move, pastors and religious figures can more freely endorse political candidates without losing their tax-exempt status — a move that could result in more anti-LGBTQ political rhetoric being spewed from the pulpit.

And the order doesn't stop there.

7. Trump has allowed certain religious organizations to discriminate when it comes to health care provisions for LGBTQ employees.

Photo by Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images.

Under the same executive order, religious groups can now more easily deny health insurance to employees when the care conflicts with their beliefs. A Christian charity group, for example, could legally refuse to cover certain drugs related to HIV prevention or the costs associated with gender confirmation surgery for a trans person.

That is, Rabbi Denise L. Eger wrote for NewNextNow, "private health decisions between an individual and their medical team will be affected by the religious views of their employer."

8. Trump is fighting for health care reform that would force thousands of HIV-positive people off their care.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

LGBTQ Americans (particularly gay and bisexual men of color and trans women) have been disproportionately affected by the AIDS epidemic, which is why moves by the GOP to overhaul the Affordable Care Act is setting off alarm bells for advocates everywhere.

Behind closed doors, Republicans are drafting a health care bill that will likely reverse the bulk of key Obamacare provisions. Earlier legislative efforts suggest the bill, if passed, could decimate our progress on defeating HIV/AIDS by dismantling the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion and making certain HIV drugs inaccessible to those who need them most.

Trump's complete disregard for prioritizing a national strategy on the issue is one big reason why a number of experts just resigned from the White House's HIV/AIDS advisory panel.

"As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care," the experts penned for Newsweek on June 16.

9. Trump's education department is scaling back civil rights investigations, hurting kids who are transgender in the process.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo by Manel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

The Washington Post reported on June 17 that the Department of Education is dropping a consequential discrimination case involving a trans student in Ohio who was harassed by teachers and students and barred from using the bathroom that corresponds with her gender.

Because Trump rescinded federal guidelines protecting trans students in February (see #1 on this list), the department reversed its decision to deem the school's actions as discriminatory, officials said.

It may be just one case — but it's indicative of an even more worrying big picture. The move is part of a larger shift away from enforcing civil rights laws through the department, and that change in attitude and policy is one the Ohio student's advocates are calling "dangerous" for LGBTQ students nationwide.

10. Trump is quietly removing mentions of LGBTQ people and their rights on federal webpages.

[rebelmouse-image 19527403 dam="1" original_size="750x420" caption="The Obama White House's LGBTQ page has been replaced with this generic page." expand=1]The Obama White House's LGBTQ page has been replaced with this generic page.

Just as Trump was inaugurated into office, several White House pages on various issues temporarily disappeared as the new administration took over — not an uncommon hiccup during a presidential transition. Obama's page dedicated to LGBTQ matters, however, still hasn't been replaced.

On June 15, the Department of Commerce removed sexual orientation and gender identity from a list of protected groups in its equal employment opportunity statement, BuzzFeed News noticed. (After the report published —and the department faced swift backlash — the list was updated to include LGBTQ protections once again.)

Federal websites lay out what the president and his administration's priorities are. Erasing them from government websites is a clear sign that the challenges faced by LGBTQ people aren't of immediate concern for Trump and his administration.

11. Trump's proposed travel ban barred LGBTQ refugees from entering the U.S., putting them more at risk of violence.

A transgender refugee from Honduras who is temporarily staying in Mexico hopes to make it to the U.S. eventually. Photo by Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images.

Trump's executive order on immigration served as a blanket ban on refugees coming from a handful of Muslim-majority countries. Among those fleeing their homelands for safety and security, though, are LGBTQ people escaping persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Take Ramtin Zigorat. He's a 27-year-old LGBTQ activist and refugee stranded in Turkey after being sentenced to death in Iran for being gay. The UNHCR had granted him admission to the U.S., but that was put on hold after Trump's travel ban. He's one of many.

"Maybe they will kill me tomorrow," he told CNN back in March. "You always live with this fear."

12. Trump decided against including questions related to sexual orientation or gender identity on the 2020 census.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Questions on those matters have never been on the census. But a proposal to include them in the 2020 survey was rejected by the Census Bureau, leaving LGBTQ people invisible, yet again, in one of the most crucial collections of federal data we have.

If data doesn't exist on a marginalized population, it becomes impossibly more difficult to service their specific needs.

13. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch — a right-leaning justice with a questionable track record on LGBTQ rights — to the Supreme Court.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

Arguably one of the most lasting impacts Trump will have on civil rights is his picks for the Supreme Court — which is why his decision to nominate right-leaning Gorsuch has LGBTQ advocates on edge.

"For a conservative, he may stake out some admirably unorthodox positions on the bench," wrote Slate's Mark Joseph Stern after noting Gorsuch's bigoted stances on transgender equality and gay marriage. "But an embrace of LGBTQ rights will not be one of them."

So, to get back to the initial question: Do lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans finally have a Republican ally in the White House?  

The evidence speaks for itself.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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