Transmissions: Frustrated by Biden's Pride proclamation

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Wednesday June 12, 2024
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Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith

To honor June as Pride Month, President Joe Biden released a statement that both touts his administration's successes with LGBTQ rights, as well as highlights the challenges faced by all of us within the LGBTQ community in these homophobic and transphobic times.

Of note in the statement, titled "A Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Pride Month, 2024," was a strong condemnation about what transgender people are facing today.

"Families across the country face excruciating decisions to relocate to a different state to protect their children from dangerous and hateful anti-LGBTQI+ laws, which target transgender children, threaten families, and criminalize doctors and nurses," reads the statement, which was issued May 31. "These bills and laws attack our most basic values and freedoms as Americans: the right to be yourself, the right to make your own medical decisions, and the right to raise your own children. Some things should never be put at risk: your life, your safety, and your dignity."

It then continues, saying, "To the entire LGBTQI+ community — and especially transgender children — please know that your president and my entire administration have your back."

These are strong words from the president, and yet I find myself frustrated just the same.

I want to go back to the 2012 Joe Biden, when he was Barack Obama's vice president. During a campaign stop to support Obama's reelection campaign, Biden spoke to a woman at a campaign office in Florida. That woman, Linda Carragher Bourne, has a daughter who was crowned Miss Trans New England. Bourne pressed Biden, and asked him to help her daughter and others like her.

In response, Vice President Biden declared that transgender rights are "the civil rights issue of our time."

Democratic presidential hopeful Biden, posting to what was then Twitter back in January 2020, reiterated this message, saying, "Let's be clear: Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights."

In October of that year, as Biden was deep in the race against Republican President Donald Trump, he made a bold promise. "I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days — a priority that Donald Trump opposes," said Biden.

The Equality Act, long stalled in a hostile Congress, would have helped secure LGBTQ rights in this country. It would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity with respect to businesses, employment, housing, federally-funded programs, and other settings.

It remains no closer to passing, given GOP control of the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, LGBTQ rights have taken huge steps backward across the country, and would be all-but-lost should Trump win office again in 2024.

I also want to note Biden's statement this year, and his stance that he has the back of transgender people. This is not the first time we have heard this from his administration.

For example, he said the same thing in 2022, as Florida pressed for its "Don't Say Gay'' bill, now a law that is echoed in many other statehouses across the country.

"I have your back, and my administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve," said Biden then.

He said as much, again, during his 2022 State of the Union address, speaking about transgender youth, "I will always have your back as your president, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential," he said.

Last year, at a Pride event at the White House, again Biden said, "your president and my entire administration has your back."

Now, I don't doubt that Biden does feel that these words are true but, much like he had to have known that the possibility of passing the Equality Act in a largely Republican Congress was a non-starter in 2020, he has to also understand that we need a lot more than assurances of support in these times.

This isn't to say he's done nothing. There has been work done by his administration to foster LGBTQ rights, and to push back on so many attempts to attack the same. Yet all of these feel like they are not enough against an onslaught of assaults on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender people.

We need bolder action. We need a president who is using the full force of his administration to enact change, and who is willing to roll up his sleeves and work his own allies to press for our rights. We need a man of action right now.

Heck, we need a president who is willing to tell us exactly how he has our back, and who is willing to go out and make it clear that attacks on trans youth, on drag culture, and the whole of the LGBTQ community are political red meat that is also being used to cause very real harm. We need a Biden who is going to make it clear that this malarkey — to borrow a term that may be familiar to the president — will not stand.

I'll admit, however, that a president who seems unwilling to stand strongly against the humanitarian crises in Gaza — and who may be enacting harm of his own with a new asylum policy — may not be willing to do much more than provide cautious words.

Now sure, when it comes down to a choice between Biden and Trump, there is no question who I will mark my ballot for. I will vote for my own survival, and only one candidate may be able to provide that.

Until Biden is willing to do more than he is, however, I'm not sure how much better things can be. It's hard to have my back when it is so firmly against the wall, after all.

Gwen Smith expects more. You can find her at

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