"It was the morning after the election. The bottle of Champagne I’d opened as part of an anticipated victory celebration still sat on the coffee table, only one-third finished, the unconsumed flat remainder marking the exact moment that my future, as a transgender American, became uncertain.
I wanted to hear Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, but she was late to the podium. On TV, a commentator speculated that Mrs. Clinton had lost because of her party’s focus on things like trans rights — “boutique issues,” they were called.
A boutique — a place where you’d shop for, say, artisan pantyhose — is not the first place I’d associate with an individual’s quest for equal protection under the law, but then what did I know? I was now one of the people from whom the country had been “taken back.”
The phrase echoed unpleasantly in my mind. A boutique issue? Is this what my fellow Americans had thought of my fight for dignity all along?
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. This summer, Bill Maher cautioned that “there’s no room for boutique issues in an Armageddon election.” He volunteered to put his own pet cause — “legalized weed” — to one side if it would help the party win Ohio. “And you know me, I have seeds in my urine.” Apparently providing a person like me with health care and protecting me from violence and discrimination in the workplace were on the same order of magnitude as the right to roll a doober.
Nov. 8 is over, and legalized pot did very well, thank you. The future of L.G.B.T. rights is more tenuous.
This is not only because Donald J. Trump’s administration is filling up with people who oppose L.G.B.T. equality. It’s because the Democrats may now dismiss our urgent needs as unaffordable luxuries, and back off the fight. As a local Democratic official in Ohio put it in a memo to the Clinton campaign: “Look, I’m as progressive as anybody, O.K.? But people in the heartland thought the Democratic Party cared more about where someone else went to the restroom than whether they had a good-paying job.”
I was present in 2014 when President Obama signed an executive order expanding a ban on L.G.B.T. discrimination in the workplace, so close to the president that I could have thrown glitter into his graying hair if I’d taken the notion. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.
That order could be one of the first things to go in January when President Trump “erases the Obama presidency” on Day 1 of his administration (in the words of Stephen Moore, a Trump adviser and Heritage Foundation fellow). Other issues on the chopping block could include the lifting of the ban on transgender military service and the Justice Department’s backing of trans students under Title IX.
Mr. Trump has occasionally expressed support for L.G.B.T. issues, although, as usual, it’s impossible to know his core values. He has opposed a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. And yet he’s also pledged to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.
If his intentions are unclear, those of the people around him are anything but. Mike Pence, his vice president-elect, is one of the most extreme opponents of gay, lesbian and transgender people in the nation. In Indiana, he signed a bill to jail same-sex couples applying for a marriage license. He wanted to divert funding from H.I.V. programs to conversion therapy. He opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
On the state level, L.G.B.T. people face even greater losses. One advocacy group puts the number of anti-L.G.B.T. bills waiting to be introduced nationwide next year at more than 200. Texas is likely to lead the way. Its Senate Bill 242 would punish teachers who keep students’ sexual identities private from their parents — in effect forcing them to out the students. Senate Bill 92 would void local anti-discrimination ordinances. And the so-called Women’s Privacy Act, like House Bill 2 in North Carolina, would force transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate, regardless of their anatomy, appearance or identification.
Across the country, L.G.B.T. activists fear the advance of other laws pushing back against the progress that’s been made over the last eight years. Some will come in the form of First Amendment Defense Acts. These would legalize anti-L.G.B.T. discriminatory actions by employers, health care providers, landlords and other businesses — as long as these are motivated by religious belief.
Who will fight against these laws, if Democrats give up on their commitment to justice? Colin Jost, on “Saturday Night Live,” made light of this when he noted the new Tinder feature giving users 37 different gender options. He said, “It’s called ‘Why Democrats Lost the Election.’ ”
I don’t deny that a generalized fear of “political correctness” contributed to the resentment of some Trump voters. But Mrs. Clinton hardly campaigned as an L.G.B.T. firebrand. In fact, there’s really only one race in which L.G.B.T. rights played a major role — the governorship of North Carolina, where the Republican incumbent, Pat McCrory, rammed House Bill 2 through his Legislature last spring.
A recount is underway, but Mr. McCrory is for now at least 10,000 votes short of re-election. His relentless campaign against L.G.B.T. people led to an economic backlash from corporate America and — perhaps of greater offense to the people of North Carolina — from the N.C.A.A., which moved championship basketball games out of the state. If he hadn’t taken the issue on, he would most likely be on the threshold of his second term.
When Mr. Obama signed that executive order in 2014, he said, “We’ve got an obligation to make sure that the country we love remains a place where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started out, or what your last name is, or who you love — no matter what, you can make it in this country.”
This is not a boutique truth, but an American truth."