A Rainbow Wave? LGBTQ Liberal Political Perspectives During Trump’s Presidency: an Exploration of Sexual, Gender, and Queer Identity Gaps

Abstract

Negativity toward LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, genderqueer/non-binary, asexual, and queer) people and rights during Trump’s presidency ushered in a “rainbow wave” of LGBTQ voters. Yet the particulars of LGBTQ political perspectives remain underexplored. The current study examines sexual, gender, and queer identity gaps in liberalism among a nationally representative sample of US adults aged 18+ stratified by US census categories of age, gender, ethnicity, and census region (N = 3104; LGBTQ non-heterosexual: n = 1555) collected from Survey Sampling International (SSI) online panelists in the weeks after the November 2018 polls. Specifically, sexual identity (heterosexual, lesbian/gay, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual), gender identity (cis man, cis woman, trans man, trans woman, and non-binary), and queer identity are explored as they relate to liberal perspectives (liberal ideology; law/policy support of those in poverty, racial/ethnic minorities, immigrants, and women; feminist identity). Building from Worthen’s (2018) social justice/empathic concern theoretical framework, liberal perspectives among LGBTQ people were theorized as constructed from personal experiences with stigma and empathic concern for other stigmatized people. Findings demonstrate tensions between trans individuals and liberalism while also confirming lesbian/gay liberalism and illuminating three additional groups of liberals in the LGBTQ community: pansexual, non-binary, and queer individuals. Together, these patterns support the existence of “luminous lavender liberalism” among the political perspectives of LGBTQ people.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    For the purposes of this paper, asexual individuals are included as a part of the LGBTQ community. However, it is important to note that asexual individuals and their experiences differ from those who express sexual interests in others (Carrigan, 2011; Hoffarth et al., 2016). In addition, despite efforts that attempt to appeal to potential commonalities of both asexual and LGBTQ people as stigmatized sexual minorities, asexual people are sometimes excluded from the LGBTQ umbrella in various ways (Colborne, 2018; Pinto, 2014).

  2. 2.

    For example, although the 1969 Stonewall uprising (which is often credited as the watershed demonstration that began the US gay liberation movement) was instigated and supported by two trans women of color, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, these women have been repeatedly erased from discussions about LGBTQ rights. Scholars argue that this is because Stonewall and its accompanying activism have been dominated by White gay cis men while people of color have been relegated to the margins of LGBTQ liberation. Today, this erasure is still evident (Stryker, 2008).

  3. 3.

    It is unknown how many of these emails were actually received and read by the potential respondents so an exact response rate is also unknown. For example, junk mail filters could have prevented potential respondents from seeing the email invitation, some may have opened the email but decided not to click the link to access the survey, and some may have been deemed ineligible due to identity quotas being met as requested by the author and set by SSI (5 of the 8 identity quotas were met).

  4. 4.

    The survey was held open for 19 days in efforts to meet the quotas set for the LGBT groups. Five quotas were met as follows: gay men (5 days in), bisexual women (7 days in), lesbian women (8 days in), cis men and cis women (16 days in). The quotas for the remaining three groups (bisexual men, trans men, and trans women) were not met. The survey was closed because SSI believed it was not realistic to expect these quotas to fill in a reasonable amount of time.

  5. 5.

    For both liberal ideology and feminist identity, responses were collapsed into 0/1 categories because the frequency tables revealed an obvious split between the feminist identity/not feminist identity groups (47%/53%) and liberal/not liberal groups (44%/56%).

  6. 6.

    There are many colors that represent different groups in the LGBTQ community which often correspond to pride flags. The most well known is the traditional pride flag which consists of six rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and purple). However, there are dozens of other flags and color representations in the LGBTQ community. For example, the pansexual pride flag includes yellow to represent non-binary people along with pink to represent femininities and blue to represent masculinities (Sobel, 2018).

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The data collection utilized in this project was funded by the University of Oklahoma Office of the Vice President for Research via the Faculty Investment Program.

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Correspondence to Meredith G. F. Worthen.

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Worthen, M.G.F. A Rainbow Wave? LGBTQ Liberal Political Perspectives During Trump’s Presidency: an Exploration of Sexual, Gender, and Queer Identity Gaps. Sex Res Soc Policy 17, 263–284 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-019-00393-1

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Keywords

  • Liberal political perspectives
  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Bisexual
  • Pansexual
  • Asexual
  • Transgender
  • Non-binary
  • Queer
  • Trump