True Colors: The Lies of President Trump’s Pinkwashing


This month marks President Donald Trump’s talent of weaseling his way through one White House fiasco after another. At the time of writing this, the last tactic in his administration’s onslaught against immigrants was the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua and Haiti, and possibly for Honduras. TPS is an immigration benefit for nationals whose countries have been devastated by civil war, natural disasters, pandemic outbreaks, and “other extraordinary conditions.” These countries as well as the other two in the so-called Northern Triangle (El Salvador and Guatemala) also report high incidences of anti-LGBTQ violence. As such, the U.S. has a particular responsibility to keeping its doors open to immigrants in need.

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Of course, this is where the irony lies. Under its current administration, the U.S. is a far cry from being the liberal beacon of freedom it might have once promised–persecution abroad and, increasingly, persecution at home. While resisting the urge to pinkwash the U.S., the fact is that huge coastal cities like Los Angeles located along the coasts offer comparative respite from violence and stability to immigrants whose countries have been directly harmed by U.S. foreign policy.


Since President Trump took office, the mainstream LGBTQ movement in the U.S. has reacted to the many White House addresses, press conferences, and tweets that have been eroding hard-earned civil rights gains of the LGBTQ community. The Transgender Military Ban and the President’s support for the private companies to discriminate against LGBTQ employees are the first two transphobic and homophobic policies to come from the 45th Presidential administration.


Pinkwashing is a branding tactic that countries and corporations use to portray themselves as modern, tolerant, and progressive regarding LGBTQ ussues. Used initially to refer to breast cancer awareness, the LGBTQ usage of pinkwashing usually uses marriage reform and gay-friendly consumerism to push more controversial or unsavory qualities into the proverbial shadows. For example, despite the U.S. repealing the ban on gay marriage a few years back, the country’s host of civil and human rights abuses undermine its claims to progressive values.


Violence against gays and murders are common in the countries of the ‘Northern Triangle’ such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In terms of legislation, same-sex sex is not criminal, and laws have been put in place that ban LGBTQ discrimination. Certainly physical violence and assault against members of the LGBTQ community, in the U.S. and around the world. The major problem is the attitude the U.S. has decided to take when approaching the issue, especially when immigration programs exist to help vulnerable individuals.


Right to asylum is available to individuals who have “suffered persecution or fear they will suffer persecution” for being part of a specific group. In the early 90’s, some countries, including the U.S., began to accept LGBTQ asylum seekers. It holds seriously the practice of non-refoulement, or not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they are liable to be subjected to persecution.


Some countries have been accepting LGBTQ asylum seekers only as recently as the early 90’s. The U.S. had been comparatively welcoming to refugees and asylum seekers before September 11, 2001 when all manner of immigration became more difficult for everyone. This was not the case in the 1950’s, when LGBTQ immigrants could be deemed inadmissible for reasons of “psychological illness.” As of today, the U.S. is ranked 28 on a list of 43 industrialized countries that accept asylum seekers.


According to the Department of State website, consensual same-sex sex acts are criminalized in 80 countries. Many of these countries are either unable or unwilling to protect LGBTQ persons whose human rights are violated or abused. To their credit, the Department mentions how LGBTQ refugees are also often from countries caught torn by ethnic conflict, political unrest, or religious freedom. This is why it is crucial for the U.S. to keep every immigration channel available.


At this point, the greater share of the populations of several Latin American countries do not believe homosexuality should be criminalized. Countries dominated by evangelical churches have the hardest time dealing with Human Rights abuses for LGBTQ individuals. Alongside other reforms to protect individual rights through marriage reform and other civil liberties, LGBTQ activists must continue to advocate for whatever protections might be available.