Donald Trump, gay icon?
For Keian Dayani of Seattle, totally. Dayani is a 29-year-old pharmacist, a Christian of Iranian descent.
He lives with his partner in a high-rise building downtown. Their views on taxes are just one thing they have in common – the lack of an income tax in Washington drew both of them to settle here.
Dayani answered a social media shout out from KUOW to talk about why he supports Trump. In Trump’s outspokenness, Dayani sees echoes of gay peoples’ experiences.
“We don’t take criticism of who we should be or what we should be lightly,” he said.
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Which is why Dayani calls Trump a gay icon.
“To advance our fight for the right to marry, the right to be employed, we’ve had to be pretty vocal. And Donald Trump is very, very vocal,” Dayani said.
Dayani said his top issue as a voter is the threat of terrorism and radical Islam. He also supports a wall on the border with Mexico and other measures to stop drug trafficking. In Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and her liberal supporters, Dayani sees a reluctance to talk about what he believes are major threats to the U.S.
“That is what Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been: We can’t talk about Islam,” he said. “Donald Trump talks about Islam.
“And you can’t talk about anchor babies. And Donald Trump talks about anchor babies.
“And you can’t talk about the wall. And he talks about the wall.”
He continued, “All of these things that weren’t allowed in the ‘safe space’ that is America – or that was America – are now being talked about at the loudest volume possible.”
In terms of rights and issues specific to gay and transgender people, Trump’s statements have been inconsistent. But Dayani said Trump seems more supportive of those rights than his Republican rival Ted Cruz.
Dayani called the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage liberating because that issue no longer factors into his vote.
“Gay Republicans, you can come out of the closet, for heaven’s sake, do it!” he said. “You can be yourselves.”
Dayani said most of his friends are liberals, who first assume his enthusiasm for Trump is ironic. But his views are very much in earnest, even when he equates Trump with Lady Gaga – he said both figures make important points “in a wildly entertaining way.”
Dayani admits his own background gives him the political cover to express his views in largely liberal Seattle.
“I understand I can have whatever view I want because I am gay and I am Middle Eastern, and that insulates me from any line of attack,” he said. “Can you imagine if I said the things I said with whiter skin? I’d be a complete pariah, fired from my job for sure.”
Trump appears friendlier to gay issues than other Republicans, according to a New York Times story from last month. He has attended weddings between two men and of Elton John and his partner, he said, “If two people dig each other, they dig each other.”
But gay icon is a stretch, given that he does not support same-sex marriage – a position he has held since at least 2000, according to the Times.
George Takei, the actor and social media star, tried to convince Trump otherwise but Trump “would not budge, saying he supported ‘traditional marriage.’”
“I was tempted to say, marrying multiple times is not traditional marriage,” Mr. Takei said of Mr. Trump, according to the Times. Trump has been married three times.
And according to the Human Rights Campaign, he said that if he were elected president, he would “strongly consider” appointing judges to overturn the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision.
The “gay icon” query draws a skeptical look from Kyle Curtis – he’s the president of the Seattle chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, a group for gay conservatives. He’s just out of college and works as a financial analyst in downtown Seattle.
He said Trump has mostly been elusive when it comes to addressing gay issues or meeting with gay Republicans.
“I do consider myself part of the establishment,” Curtis said. “It is a little disheartening to see that it’s boiled down to Trump.”
But Curtis said he doesn’t rule out supporting Trump: “That’s not to say that Trump won’t warm up to me or I won’t warm up to Trump, it’s that I don’t know him.”
Curtis says as a voter, he cares about smaller government and strong national defense. But as a college student, he has developed more liberal attitudes on social issues like transgender rights.
His group will oppose a ballot measure that would prevent transgender people from using the bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with, and they’ll try to do outreach to other Republicans on the issue. He said this will be a hard issue for his party, harder than same-sex marriage.
But he said, laughing, that it’s still easier than advocating a Republican agenda among gay liberals.
“I will take a Republican convention any day over [the Seattle Pride festival],” Curtis said. “I find that our group, we have much more success and relationship-building in the conservative community than we do within our own gay community.”
For one more perspective, I asked Andrew Russell his view on Trump being a gay icon. Russell’s the artistic director at Seattle’s Intiman Theater. He said he’s never heard that suggestion, and as a gay man, he doesn’t buy it.
“All gay icons are celebrators of change, of the outsider, they believe in fighting for the underdog, they believe in accepting everyone, and being weird. They wave their freak flag,” Russell said. “Yes, the actual definition, I think, of what makes a gay icon is someone who’s going to wave that flag and be Harvey Milk and take chances and make change. That’s not at all what this human [Trump] is doing.”
Russell’s personal gay icons include two of his uncles, along with Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Kushner and Liza Minnelli. He views Trump as a narcissist, more interested in excluding groups of people than helping the underdog.
Russell said gay people know what it’s like to be outsiders, and they have an obligation to use that knowledge.
“I can secretly know that I’m different but also get ‘in.’ That’s not a privilege that a lot of communities have. So I think gay men in particular have the chance to make a lot of change. And I think it’s critical for us to think about how we make that change.”
Russell hopes the Intiman’s upcoming theater festival will be one part of that endeavor.
“It’s absolutely appropriate that we do a full summer devoted to black female playwrights that are incredible storytellers and incredible Americans, in an effort to equalize the situation,” he said.
Russell said supports Clinton for president, as a candidate and as a woman. He believes she may prove iconic as the first female president, but the effects of that are unpredictable.
“We have no idea what that does to us, right? Look what a black president did,” he said. “It revealed our racism. It revealed how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.”