Pride

'Our Work Is Just Starting': 12 LGBTQ Artists Talk America's Future Under Biden-Harris

On the evening of November 7, 2020, president-elect Joe Biden made American history during his victory speech. “I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history,” he said. Biden acknowledged different political ideologies, ages, races and demographics and then thanked his supporters who identified as “gay, straight, transgender.”

With those words, Biden became the first president-elect to acknowledge transgender Americans in a victory speech. He became the second to acknowledge gay Americans, following president Barack Obama’s use of the word in his 2008 victory speech.

“Joe Biden is a fantastic ally and champion for the queer community. He's made a big, positive impression with the LGBTQ community of voters," says Jennifer Fiore, senior vice president of communications and marketing for Human Rights Campaign. "He is really walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”

In the 2020 presidential election, LGBTQ voters were a key factor in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' victory over President Donald Trump. According to Andrew Flores, an assistant professor of government at American University and a visiting scholar at UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute (a research center specializing in sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy), LGBTQ voters made up a record percentage of this year's electorate. "Regardless of what source you examine, turnout among LGBT voters was either way up, or a larger share of the electorate identified as LGBT than is prior years," he tells Billboard. "Estimates of 2020 suggest that 8 to 11 percent of voters identified as LGBT, far higher than prior years where it was 3 to 5 percent."

Christy Mallory, the legal director at UCLA's Williams Institute, tells Billboard she wasn't surprised to see such massive turnout from the LGBTQ community, largely in support of Biden and Harris. "President-elect Biden has this very developed platform for advancing LGBTQ equality; definitely the most comprehensive we've seen from any presidential nominee, and any elected president," she says. "It addresses so many areas where LGBT people continue to face disparities and hardships, and where the law hasn't advanced yet to fully protect them from discrimination."

With a Biden administration on the horizon, many in the LGBTQ community are eagerly anticipating how the administration will tackle important issues within the community, including undoing the Trump administration's rollbacks of transgender rights, passing the Equality Act, and instituting federal protections for queer, trans and non-binary Americans.

"There's a lot of ways that a Biden administration could move the needle forward, even if Congress doesn't," Mallory explains. Should Democrats fail to take control of Congress in the two upcoming Georgia runoff elections, she says, the Biden administration could advise all federal agencies to use the Supreme Court's Bostock v. Clayton County decision to provide hundreds of protections for LGBTQ Americans under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

"Artists and celebrities who align themselves with political candidates do so because they know there is more to their work than just the art," Fiore says. "There is a political impact with what they do, and they have a tremendous impact with communities that, when mobilized effectively, can sway elections."

Billboard chatted with 12 LGBTQ artists about the future of America under a Biden-Harris administration. Below, Billy Porter, Big Freedia, Shea Diamond and others discuss their reactions to Biden and Harris' victory, the policies they would like to see put in place under the new administration, and what their fans can do in the meantime to make their voices heard.

Big Freedia

“I cried tears of joy. We’ve been all living under such stress for the last four years, so to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel is such a relief. I hope Biden and Harris work to push forward where Obama left off. I’d like to see protections of trans students at school, and to ensure that they can serve in our military, for starters.

“If nothing else, this election has taught us that we must vote. Every one of us. We can’t get disillusioned by anyone, especially someone like our current president and the people who back him. There are so many organizations to get involved, whatever your passion or cause is. There’s the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence and the National Center for Transgender Equality are two great organizations who work to keep our kids safe.”

Billy Porter

"I was relieved. Happy, yes, but relieved. After four long years, we can finally exhale. But don’t get it twisted. Over 70 MILLION people voted for Trump. Half of this country is still ok with everything he’s done — rolling back rights, attacking his own citizens, not respecting or upholding the Constitution, being petty and spiteful and ugly and encouraging and inciting his constituents towards acts of intolerance and violence. We have a LOT of work to do. But I am relieved, and I am hopeful.

"First, a great deal of damage needs to be repaired from the past four years during the current administration. I am a Black man, before I am anything else. A Black man in America. You can not legislate away hate. It is so ingrained in our society. It is baked into the history of this country. Trump didn’t invent the radical right, but he did empower them. He gave them a safe space to express themselves. We can take away that “safe space” but they are still there. 70+ million of them. I don’t know how to make people care about one another. I don’t know how to make someone understand that me having equal rights – as a Black man, as a gay man – does not take anything away from you. My skin is weaponized. I don’t know how to change that part. There are a whole other 70+ million who voted for Biden and Harris. That lets me know that there are 70+ million allies out there and that gives me hope.

"We need to keep the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from allowing discrimination against transgender people in HUD funded shelters, which they are actively trying to allow them to do. We need to make sure that the U.S, Department of Health and Human Services starts enforcing established non-discrimination protections again for LGBTQ youth in runaway and homelessness youth programs they fund across the country. I am hopeful with a Biden/Harris administration that this will be a priority, but it will take us all working together and being united with them to drive the change that has been needed for far too long. 

"I don’t care which LGBTQ org you get involved with so long as we all get to work. We all need to support each other nationally and, more importantly, locally — we all need to support and get involved in our own states, in our own city government. Get informed and get to work in your own back yard. If we've learned anything from the past 4 years of this hellish administration is that complacency and apathy KILL. Get involved and let’s turn this around. We will not be denied our rights."

Bob the Drag Queen

"I'm trying to remember, because so much has happened since the election. I woke up to realize that Pennsylvania had flipped. I believe before I went to sleep, Georgia had flipped, and I woke up and Pennsylvania had flipped. I was elated, I went out into town — wearing my mask of course — and walked around L.A. listening to an entire city going crazy. I'm 34; I haven't lived through a ton of elections, but I've lived through enough, and I have never seen anything like that.

"I'm definitely interested in them revisiting this ban that Donald Trump put on trans people serving in the military, and making sure nothing like that can happen again. I would love to see some protections for Black Trans women, or trans people in general — like, full, legit protection under the law.

"I always love the Okra Project, which is making sure that no trans people go hungry. I think that, right now, it's crucial to speak up when you see injustice, and also voting for your local politics. You hear that? Voting in local elections is extremely important." 

Carlie Hanson

“It was overwhelming. It feels like it's been such a long year, and to finally get good news feels amazing. It was my first time voting and having my home state of Wisconsin pull through like it did was a really proud moment.

"The Coronavirus is obviously a top priority and it already feels like there is a smart, strategic approach being formed. As far as issues impacting particularly the LGBTQ community, it’ll just be so assuring to have people in office who I feel like will approach issues with compassion and logic. It’s a huge relief.

"I hope my fans just take care of each other and themselves and continue to be unafraid to speak out. That we all continue to pay attention and stay informed is so vital. The Human Rights Campaign is an awesome organization that's all about LGBTQ rights and making sure that there is equality for all. They have a ton of ways to get involved/volunteer, so definitely check them out."

Chaz Cardigan

“My immediate reaction was to wait until Fox News reported it before I considered the results official; the idea being that they would be the last to say anything. Honestly it took a while for it to sink in that day, but watching Biden’s and Harris’ speeches later that night I couldn’t help myself from absolutely bawling. The empathy, the gratitude, the humility — all of it was the exact opposite of the last four years and I felt like I’d woken up from a terrible sleep. 

“The Biden administration’s first orders of business have to be things that are threats to all Americans; approving and distributing a vaccine for COVD-19, pandemic relief for the working class, combating climate change, and criminal justice reform. Personally I don’t care about any action before those things are taken care of. Sure, yes, civil protections in wages, job security, and healthcare for people of all sexualities and gender identities have to be mandated by the law. BUT, I think we give bad-faith Republicans a lot of optical ammunition if you move on those issues before dealing with the larger systemic threats to the country's well-being.

“Call your representatives, call your senators, often. We have to hold the Biden/Harris administration accountable to their mandate. This administration has been given the single most progressive platform in the history of the country, and we should be optimistic that they can get it done, but we have to hold them accountable daily. Turn the heat up. Our work is just starting.”

Daya

“My immediate reaction was something of relief and hope. It felt like a validation of all the work that’s been done over the past four years on a local and national level. We don’t have all the answers with a Biden/Harris ticket, but we have more of an opportunity to have our voices be heard, and that’s progress. We’re just going to have to stay vigilant and hold them accountable to achieve the future we want. And it’s empowering to know that on some level, we can really do that. 

“I hope that Biden and Harris restore protections for LGBTQ+ people in healthcare and in the workplace that the Trump administration so maliciously tried to dismantle. I hope they denounce the attack made on trans people on joining the military and restore their right to serve. I especially hope they prioritize policies that protect and service black trans men and women, as we are consistently seeing the worst attacks on them of all the LGBTQ+ community. I’d like to see them push for more progressive policies like the Green New Deal, prison reform, gun control, and affordable healthcare to all to ensure a more safe and equitable future for everyone. 

“I think if we’ve seen one thing [in this election], it’s that we really do hold power. While sometimes we may not see the immediate gratification of it, most times, if we keep applying pressure in the right places, the seemingly impossible can happen. I hope we continue to use social media as a means for dialogue and spreading meaningful & actionable steps to combat these types of injustices, whether it’s organizing on the ground or making calls to representatives to push for more progressive policies. I’d encourage people to follow the activists whose values they align with & who do have the right info and resources and are leading so much of the work. Just a few I love are: Black Lives Matter, ACLU, GLAAD, Everytown, The Marsha P Johnson Institute … but there are so, so many more.”

Joy Oladokun

“My immediate reaction was relief … obviously. I think I am part of a smaller group of people that is still a little bit anxious to see what our current president is going to try to do in the next 70 days. I’m glad that people showed up and that they showed up in the way that they did. As we can see from the dumb lawsuits, the numbers do make a difference and so many people said we’re not going to have this anymore, and that’s a big deal. 

“First and foremost, before any queer policies, I think we just need help during the pandemic. Especially lower income families of color. People are suffering and are working as essential workers or have lost their jobs…and they don’t have decades of generational wealth to fall back on. I hope that people can get together and pass some stimulus for the economy so that people can live. As far as rights, I would really, really like for Transgender kids to be taken care of. And I think all the protections that were rolled out about gay couples wanting to adopt, I would want those to be rolled back sooner rather than later. Because those are day to day things that impact our livelihood that were taken away from us. 

“Keep making noise. We saw it with BLM this summer. We even saw it in the election. People are really mobilizing to vote. People are still organizing to make sure this administration concedes. The momentum, the pressure, our collective voice is very important. I actually want to encourage people to look at what is happening at their city or state level for what they are passionate about. For instance, I try to help out Launch Pad which is a local cold weather shelter for local queer youth. That comes from a drive of knowing that that is just down the street. I think we need to be more aware of who is taking care of the LGBTQ community around us."

Justin Tranter

“I screamed. I cried. I applauded. I hugged my niece. I just kept thinking about how amazing it’s going to be that all of our movement leaders and activists are going to be able to move things forward, not just do endless damage control. 

“On day one I hope they roll back Trump’s executive order that banned Trans people from the military. And after that I hope the Equality Act is passed. And I hope serious change is made to address the climate crisis we are living/dying in. 

“We MUST win both senate seats in the January runoff election in Georgia. That’s the only way we are going to see BIG change made over the next four years. Follow Fair Fight to learn how to help Georgia take progress all the way.”

Kat Cunning

“I was waking up in LA and my NY family sent me videos of people banging pots and pans. It was only around 8AM on a quiet street but I ran outside and started yelling. I started playing the f--k Donald Trump song [“FDT” by YG & Nipsey Hussle] and dancing, and sort of didn’t stop doing that all day. I know there’s a lot of work to do, but it was so cathartic to hear a president and vice president speak with proper grammar that night, and I took the opportunity to feel pure relief.

“First and foremost, I want to see them make tangible efforts to address violence against queer people, especially Black trans women. They have promised to make prosecuting their murderers a priority, which seems like a no-brainer. It’s the tip of a gigantic systemic iceberg that deserves research and federal financial resources. I also want to see them focus on LGBTQ+ equality when it comes to building family. The right to do that as a queer person doesn’t end with the right to marry. Many government-funded foster cares and adoption agencies still discriminate against LGBTQ+ and same sex couples or make it harder for them in the application process. These same policies put LGBTQ+ youth at risk in unsafe or unsupportive homes and contribute to the epidemic of queer homeless youth.

“Lastly, I want them to amend documents that only validate binary gender markers. There are so many times I have to fill out a document on which I can’t select 'nonbinary.' It doesn’t seem like the most tangible change, but it’s a small action that could go a long way toward representing queer identities.

“This year, we’ve reminded ourselves of the power of the people. Don’t be afraid to take to the streets or to use whatever form of expression you can to make your voice heard, and to stand as an ally where you can be physically present. Aside from that, donating and getting involved with The Okra Project or For The Gworls is a great way to help protect and give a voice to Black Trans people. The Trevor Project is a great place for and in support of LGBTQ youth.”

Peppermint

I was waiting with bated breath all weekend and was so excited on Saturday when the race had been called. I was in Washington DC by coincidence and was so delighted to see people immediately taking to the streets. I was getting my breakfast at the restaurant and heard people screaming and hollering, it took me a while to figure out what it was but obviously I joined in right away.

“I think the list [of potential policies] is long, especially after everything we've experienced in 2020, but addressing the pandemic is paramount. At the same time, health care and the economy are obviously high up on the list and are all interconnected. Another important issue is addressing voter suppression and gerrymandering, closing some of the loopholes that allow the politicians to engage in activities that are against the best interest of the people in this country. I hope folks will continue to have the uncomfortable but very important conversations that will push this over the edge to true Equality.”

Ryan Cassata

“My initial reaction was relief. I felt lighter. My sense of hope grew greater. It has been a rough 4 years for LGBTQ people under this administration. I am hopeful that we are moving towards change. We also get our first female VP. It's huge. This gives me a lot of hope. 

“We need stricter discrimination laws. LGBTQ people should not be discriminated against or turned away because they are LGBTQ, from housing, from medical care, from businesses, from anywhere. The Trump administration has made it legal to turn away LGBTQ people for religious reasons. This needs to be undone. We need safer and stricter protections so that we can be more safe. Trans people, especially trans women of color are being murdered at a high rate. This issue needs to be tackled. We need safety. I want to see justice for Breonna Taylor and other innocent black people who were murdered. I want to see this administration change the police force and system so innocent people are not being killed.

“Awareness is so important. We need to continue to use our social media platforms to speak about these issues. To not let people forget them."

Shea Diamond

“[I thought] that Democrats would have to literally drag Trump out of the White House because he would never willingly leave or concede! But I also thought about how historic it is to see Kamala Harris as the first woman to be nominated as vice president, and also being a woman of color that I actually got the opportunity to talk with about some important issues that affect my community. That gave me insight into her personality and her ability to hold herself accountable. It restored my confidence in her leadership and I know that she is in fact the best person for the job!

“The first thing I would like to see for my beloved community is for this administration to pass the Equality Act! I would like to also see laws that are specifically designed to protect Trans people against violence and senseless killings! I would like to see my fans show support to all LGBTQ organizations as it will be a group effort to ensure these laws are passed, Some of my suggestions would be, Human Rights Campaign, ACLU, GLAAD, and the NAACP.”

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