Within hours of hosting the first-ever LGBTQ Presidential Forum (sponsored by The Advocate, GLAAD, One Iowa, and The Gazette) on Friday, Pose star Angelica Ross was spurred to leave social media because of harassment from supporters of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. At the forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she called on Sanders — the only major candidate to miss two LGBTQ events — to explain his absence. She also lambasted the Trump administration for its horrendous treatment of transgender people. Within 24 hours of the event, she announced she would take a break from social media.
In her opening remarks at the forum, Ross spoke of the epidemic of murders of trans women — and trans women of color in particular — and she called out the Trump administration for its policies that threaten the safety of trans people.
“One of the reasons I’m here tonight is because the Trump administration is harming transgender Americans. So let’s just review, why don’t we, just a handful of those moves,” Ross said.
“The administration moved to revoke trans health care and discrimination protections. They made it more difficult for homeless trans people to access shelters,” she said. “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — her decision to stop investigating the complaints of trans students hurts trans students across the country when Secretary DeVos should be helping to make sure every student can learn.”
While the Sanders campaign explained that he was missing the forum to tour historically Black colleges and universities, he is also the only major candidate who has scheduling conflicts for the Human Rights Campaign and CNN’s LGBTQ Town Hall slated for October 10 in Los Angeles.
The Guardian asked Ross how she felt about candidates like Sanders and Beto O’Rourke (who missed the forum but is slated to make the Town Hall) missing LGBTQ-specific events.
“I was disappointed to not see all of the candidates here. I was further disappointed to hear this was not the only LGBTQ event Bernie was making other commitments for. You don’t show up for both of our LGBTQ events? That’s obviously telling us all we need to know,” she said.
The candidates at Friday’s forum were Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Joe Sestak, and Marianne Williamson. Those slated for the HRC/CNN Town Hall include Harris, Warren, Biden, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Booker, Tom Steyer, O’Rourke, and Castro.
Ross acknowledged that Sanders had missed the forum to visit HBCUs but also pointed out that he was missing the intersections of people of color and queer people.
“I’m going to risk being super real here for a second. When you’re on the campaign trail, what’s happening a lot — and what a lot of these candidates have to avoid — is being seen as looking for a photo op. To be seen in certain communities and spaces. I heard that he was not only visiting the [historically Black colleges and universities] but also visiting an old Black barbershop.
“I’m already struggling as a Black trans advocate to get folks in my own Black community to understand that being Black and being LGBTQ are not mutually exclusive. What I hope Bernie would learn is you don’t have to pander to just one aspect of the Black community. If he would have been at the LGBTQ forum tonight, he would have seen we were talking about issues affecting people of color. I think it was a huge misstep on his part. And I’m not here for any of the excuses. I say, ‘Make it up to me. Make it up to us.’”
Over the weekend, Ross’s Twitter feed was jammed with accusatory, often hateful tweets from social media users who took offense at her comments about Trump and about Sanders.