Hillary Clinton told an audience of LGBT advocates Thursday night that the progress they’ve achieved in recent years may not be secure under the Donald Trump administration, and urged them to keep fighting.
“I know that the election hit a lot of us hard,” Clinton said of her bitter loss to Trump in November. “But I can tell you this: Even when it feels tempting to pull the covers over your head, please keep going.”
The audience at the fundraising dinner for The Center, an LGBT community group in New York, greeted Clinton with multiple standing ovations and cheers as she accepted the organization’s Trailblazer Award. One of the biggest cheers came when she reiterated remarks she made in Geneva in 2011 as secretary of state: “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
“But I think we have to face the fact that we may not ever be able to count on this administration to lead on LGBT issues,” Clinton said. “Let’s remember, 2018, the midterm elections … We can never stop fighting.” It wasn’t just in the U.S., Clinton said, that “we’re seeing clouds gathering on the horizon.”
“We’ve heard terrifying accounts from Chechnya of gay and bisexual men being taken from their homes and families, tortured, even killed,” she said. “The United States government — yes, this government — should demand an end to the persecution of innocent people.”
In America, she said, “the progress that we fought for … that we celebrated and maybe even (took) for granted may not be as secure as we once expected.” She spoke of protections for transgender students being rescinded, and proposed cuts in funding for HIV and AIDS research.
“I thought of all our efforts to try to achieve an AIDS-free generation, and we were on the way,” she said. “We can, if we stay on that path, finally realize that dream — but not if we are forced off.”
Clinton’s appearance was one of several in recent months where she has been greeted with huge ovations — including several at Broadway shows. She joked at the dinner that she realized she was “preaching to the choir,” but added: “That’s OK, I love standing ovations.”
She also quipped that the evening had posed a dilemma for her: She’d had the choice, she said, of attending the dinner or seeing Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!”
“I really struggled to figure out which event would best reflect my commitment to the community,” she said, adding that she had struck a compromise — she put on her “Sunday Clothes” — a song title in the show— and came to the dinner. Clinton ended her speech by sharing what she called her new mantra — “the kind of thing that does pop into your head when you’re out in the woods.”
“When a good friend or loved one says, ‘Quit yelling at the television set,'” she said, “Just remember: we need to resist, insist, persist and enlist.”
Also honored was designer Marc Jacobs, who received the group’s Visionary Award and is a longtime Clinton supporter. When asked what he thought Clinton should do now — she has said her only plans for the moment are working on her book and finding new ways to help people — he said, “I wish she were doing what we voted for her to do. But that didn’t happen.”
Clinton herself gave no hints in her speech about her future, but did note that she had made a new discovery: “Sleep is good.”
“I highly recommend it,” she said. “When I wasn’t walking in the woods, I was catching up on my sleep.”