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LGBT People Worry About Life Under The Trump Administration

Brendan Mahoney, Jenni Vega, Tony Moya
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Brendan Mahoney, Jenni Vega and Tony Moya all are nervous about the new administration - but they're also committed to being openly who they are, regardless of what the future holds.

Two middle-aged men and a young woman are sitting around a small, round table. It’s the first time they’ve ever met, but it only takes a few minutes for the conversation to flow easily. They all vividly recall the night they realized Donald Trump would be their next president.

For 52-year-old Tony Moya, “it was disbelief, shock, like someone punched you in the stomach,” he said.

Brendan Mahoney, 59, was at a Phoenix hotel, where Democrats were holding what was supposed to be a victory celebration for Hillary Clinton.

“Although it wasn’t a celebration, and I left early,” Mahoney said. “Just said, ‘Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to do this.’”

And 19-year-old Jenni Vega, who uses the pronoun “they," was surrounded by LGBT and undocumented college students.

“And afterwards, it was the flush of crying,” Vega said, “and if it wasn’t the flush of crying, it was people wondering what their next step was.”

That’s because, while Donald Trump has called himself a supporter of the LGBT community, many of his cabinet picks and his vice president oppose LGBT rights. Moya, who is gay, Latino and married, thinks Trump’s opinions can turn on a dime.

So even though Trump has said he’s “fine"  with the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, “I don’t, for once, believe that,” Moya said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

And that uncertainty is terrifying for Moya, and everyone at the table. They believe Trump has invigorated people who don’t want to understand them, and might even hate them.

Jenni Vega, a Hispanic, genderqueer woman, said some days, it can be hard to even go outside.

“I really have to push forward and love myself, take care of myself,” Vega said, “especially now in this era and time where we have this person that’s like, ‘No, I don’t want you. I don’t want you here. I don’t want your kind here. I don’t want you existing. I don’t want you being this.’”

Because Vega presents in a feminine way, people don’t immediately know they’re gender-queer. Vega worries how others must feel, those more vulnerable, trans folks, the undocumented, the people who simply cannot hide.

Brendan Mahoney worries about them too, much more than himself. As a white lawyer who’s been out since he was 19, he has a certain amount of privilege and years of emotional armor.

“The reality is, I know I’m not going to suffer as much harm as other people are, that I worry about,” Mahoney said. “There are other people that are going to feel it much worse. I’ll survive it.”

And who does he worry about the most?

“Undocumented, the most,” he said, “and Muslims.”

Mahoney’s empathy with other marginalized groups attacked by Trump has caused him to lose a few friends.

“You care more about saving a couple hundred dollars in taxes than you do about the family down the street that’s being threatened with deportation,” he said. “You are not my friend. I have misjudged you.”

Someone who hasn’t had those conversations yet is Tony Moya, who works in a conservative office setting. Right after the election, he heard some people saying this was the most exciting time of their lives.

“It just too raw for me to say anything, so I conveniently avoided that. I think now, if someone were to tell me that, then I’d engage with them,” Moya said, with a light chuckle.

And does he feel a duty to be openly who he is?

“It’s really funny,” he said. “Now more than ever.”

Moya, and the others at this table, said that’s not changing, no matter how long Trump is in the White House.

Stina Sieg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2018.