Ambassador Grenell’s Hypocritical Movement to Globally Decriminalize Homosexuality

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(Originally published on March 21, 2019 with The Student Post)

The Trump administration’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights, until recently, has been made clear. This ranging in both actions and inactions taken by the current office, and the legislative past of the officials of so.

Current actions thus far, include President Trump tweeting his ban on transgender individuals in the military, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rolling-back LGBTQ+ student protections, and the administration’s avoidance of involvement, and even acknowledgment, of the beatings and deaths of Russian LGBTQ+ people by Chechnya-region police.

Past actions include Secretary of State, former C.I.A. Director and former Representative, Mike Pompeo, co-sponsoring legislation that would have protected the tax-exempt status of non-profits organizations that hold beliefs that marriage must be between a man and a woman, among other related bills and stances of his. Additionally, Vice President and former Representative, Mike Pence, stating in his 2000 House campaign that H.I.V. treatment funds should only be directed to LGBTQ+ persons if they partake in “conversion” therapy.

Now, in a seemingly 180 degree turn, the Trump administration has declared an initiative to promote the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide. This is following the recent execution of a gay man due to his sexuality in Iran. Placed in charge of leading this effort, is the U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

Ambassador Richard Grenell was appointed to the position in April of last year by President Trump. He currently holds the title as the longest serving U.S. spokesman in the United Nations, from 2001–2008. He is also the first openly gay spokesman for a Republican presidential candidate; this being Grenell’s position as the National Security and Foreign Affairs Spokesman for then 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Grenell’s current positioning is ultimately a damaging contradiction for the LGBTQ+ community. The influential placement of Grenell, in relation to his identity and current circumstances of his work, creates an empty, if not false figure for a systematically oppressed community of continuously unmet needs.

Of course, Grenell does not have to be a representative of the LGBTQ+ community just because he is a gay man himself. One’s sexual orientation, though socially and internally significant, is still just a part of who you are. However, this changes as the Ambassador himself has willingly involved himself in support of the gay community, and the discussion of sexuality.

In an article published with Bild, a German conservatively-populist newspaper, Grenell states, “The truth for LGBT people is that we were born gay. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the idea that all of us are born free and equal in dignity and rights. People can disagree philosophically about homosexuality, but no person should ever be subject to criminal penalties because they are gay.”

I do have to acknowledge and express appreciation for Grenell coming forward, standing-up and validating the science and research behind the natural qualities of sexual orientation and gender identity. No matter particular outlet used, the ambassador did publically stand-up for the LGBTQ+ community. Of this, I thank Grenell for stating the truth, especially among his Republican colleagues.

I do need to draw attention though to the additional statement made by Grenell in his Bild article: “….being gay should be a wakeup call for anyone who supports basic human rights.” This statement by Grenell being absolute hypocrisy on his part.

I ask you Ambassador, as stated before, where were you when the administration you work for were intentionally dodging questions on Chechnya police assaulting and killing LGBTQ+ people in Russia? Where were you with the concrete research on transgender military readiness and financial cost when our own president moved to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from the military, stating reasons of “distraction,” “burden,” and fiscal healthcare concern; especially when the military spends at least five-times more of taxpayer dollars on erectile dysfunction treatment than transitional matters? Where were you when our own press secretary stated that the entire administration you work under was pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision that customer discrimination against LGBTQ+ people stands as valid after the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling?

How about now Mr. Grenell; where are you as Trump officials continue to advocate for the repeal of LGBTQ+ healthcare discrimination protections? Where are you as caravans containing now hundreds of LGBTQ+ people since November, fleeing violence back home, are ordered to be tear-gassed and refused entry into the U.S.? Where are you, especially as an Ambassador, as complications persist with the State Department halting visas in October for LGBTQ+ partners of our own diplomats?

Let this be clear: This new “global initiative” cannot be coincidental. Ambassador Grenell was put in charge, knowingly or not, of this power-grab at Iran. The initial announcement made as the Trump administration and Iran continues to have a tense, complicated and unclear relationship. To reiterate, this “initiative” was not made when Russia was violating the human rights of LGBTQ+ people.

This claimed “support” of the LGBTQ+ community is merely an opportunistic tactic, large or small, to intimidate and take advantage, by the Trump administration.

When asked of the initiative by a reporter, the president didn’t even know what the reporter was talking about. This immediately implied that the administration’s motive on the matter is not of genuine LGBTQ+ concern, as Trump did not even register the initiative. The Vice President, a known anti-LGBTQ+ advocate, had to backtrack on the president’s clueless incident and state his support of the initiative to cover Trump’s ignorance.

Regardless of if Ambassador Grenell chose to stick-up for the LGBTQ+ community or not, his sexual orientation holds cultural & political weight in which he is a part of. As he stated himself, being gay should be more of a reason to be involved in the upholding of basic human rights for all. In terms of my perspective of Grenell’s current standing, in reiteration, is overall contradictory and hypocritical. Desmond Tutu said it best: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor….”

As a gay man myself, I acknowledge the strength that political diversity brings to the LGBTQ+ community, as the same would be for most marginalized or oppressed groups. But in this case, especially with the level of conservatism, beyond Republicanism of this administration (debatably fascist-reminiscent), the fine-line thins in terms of broadening the LGBTQ+ political sphere and voice. Grenell’s reality is harmful neglection, and self-interest, as a willfully designated public servant.

Though maybe being contradictory myself by stating this, I would definitely take the opportunity to sit down and have coffee/tea or lunch with Ambassador Grenell. As research has shown, whether be with women in Congress, people of color or other minority and or oppressed peoples of differing political ideologies, Grenell and I would most likely be able to get along and come to a consensus because of our personal common thread.

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