On Tuesday night, President Trump delivered the annual State of the Union address before Congress. Trump took credit for what he called a “blue-collar boom” and generally sharpened his reelection messaging, but all we remember now is Nancy Pelosi standing behind the president ruthlessly tearing up a copy of his speech, page by page—and that shock-jock radio host Rush Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
If Trump’s speech isn’t your thing, there’s an alternative: the second-annual LGBTQ State of the Union address delivered by none other than Pose star and red carpet darling Billy Porter.
Shot for ViacomCBS’s LGBTQ channel Logo and posted to YouTube, social media and LogoTV.com about 10 hours before the congressional address, the queer SOTU provided a no-holds-barred counterpoint to the Trump administration’s policies.
The Logo digital project grew out of a pitch a few years back by social media manager Zach O’Connor, according to Logo editorial director Matthew Breen, and initially kicked off as a panel discussion with LGBTQ activists.
The 2020 speech is Porter’s second year in a row delivering his reflections as an unofficial leader of queer America. Standing between the American and rainbow pride flags, clad in an atypically subdued military-style coat, Porter addressed the nation in a serious tone.
“So far, our nation has survived the first term of Donald Trump,” said Porter with a knitted brow. “But who’s to say what another term would do to this country, to democracy and, truly—to the entire world?”
Porter went on to list Trump’s anti-LGBTQ policy moves while dismissing the administration’s positioning itself as friendly to the community. “[Trump’s] malice has been demonstrated in banning transgender service members with a tweet, as he did in July 2017,” Porter said, with a biting emphasis on the word tweet. “Last May, he expanded the so-called conscience rule that would allow healthcare workers to discriminate against queer people. And he gutted protections for federally funded homeless shelters for trans people.”
Remarking on the rise in hate crimes in the years since Trump took office, Porter said that “for some of us, each day under this administration is a matter of life and death,” before going on to address the epidemic of homicides of transgender women of color as well as noting the death of Dustin Parker, whose killing on New Year’s Day marked the first anti-trans homicide of 2020.
“I know it sounds dramatic,” said Porter after rattling off a list of grievances with Trump administration policies. “But if now is not the time for drama… child, when is?”
The LGBTQ State of the Union is hardly a standalone dip into politics for the Logo brand. Breen pointed to the network’s news and entertainment website NewNowNext consistently breaking stories, features on candidates like Julián Castro and exclusives such as following Pete Buttigieg on his visit to a shelter run by the Salvation Army—an organization racked with accusations of homophobia.
“We’ve significantly grown our political and electoral reporting and content on Logo’s digital platforms in the past several years, most notably with the 2018 midterm elections,” Breen said, pointing to the interactive map of all LGBTQ candidates running for office in 2018 created by Logo in partnership with the Victory Fund and BallotReady.
Porter’s speech even tackled foreign policy, calling out the federal government for “turning a blind eye” to Chechen refugees escaping that country’s violent state-sponsored anti-gay purge. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, either; Porter praised Utah for banning conversion therapy and listed a handful of surprising nations that legalized same-sex marriage last year (including Northern Ireland, Ecuador and Taiwan).
Closing with a perfect paean to Black History Month, Porter quoted writer James Baldwin to leave viewers with a touch of inspiration from a forefather of the community who survived what can only be described as an even worse political climate for gay Black men: the 1950s.
“In the words of the great James Baldwin: ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced,’” Porter said. “Let’s face the challenges of this new year and this new decade together. Thank you. May God bless the LGBTQ community, and may God bless the United States of America.”