Mary Trump grew up gay in a family that hates difference

Sometimes that's exactly what sets you free

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Mary L. Trump, whose memoir about her uncle, the president — Too Much and Never Enough — has captivated the country, told the Washington Post that the entire nation had become a version of her “incredibly dysfunctional family.” Reading the book, you can see exactly who represents what elements.

Mary of course represents all of us who believe Donald Trump is, as Mary, a clinical psychologist, states, a dangerous “sociopath.”

How is it that Mary, unlike so many else in a family that exhibited dysfunction and sociopathy, turned out to be a person who cared deeply about the world, about mental health, about people who are mistreated, and about the enormous harm that those like her uncle do to minorities, the United States and to the world? Sure, she could have come forward sooner — and she’s discussed her decisions and reasoning at length — but what made someone like her give up her privacy and come forward at this critical time?

One aspect of Mary Trump that stands out from the family is that she’s a lesbian, and how that experience set her apart from all of her close relatives, as is the case for many LGBTQ Americans. She grew up in the ‘70s, a time by which several revolutions had fomented on the streets of America, including the queer liberation movement, which was pushing against the anti-gay bigotry of the era. But many insular communities and families efficiently walled things off in those times. According to the Post:

“Homophobia was never an issue because nobody ever talked about gay people, well, until my grandmother called Elton John” a slur.

She didn’t experience an overt hatred of gay people specifically, but she saw a hatred of difference.

“My family was so anti-everything, anything that was different from them. So, I just assumed they were antigay, and that was something they would not tolerate,” she told The Advocate in an interview.

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Mary didn’t actually “come out” — not in the way in which people announce who they are to family and friends — but rather became romantically involved, didn’t hide it to others, including her biological family, and found her own family of friends whom she turned to for support. She “didn’t have anyone” in her biological family to rely upon to discuss any struggles regarding her sexual orientation, and she seems to have compartmentalized the biological family. That’s also something quite common among a lot of LGBTQ people, especially of Mary’s (and my) generation.

She explained to the Advocate:

We grew up in a homophobic world. Being gay was never spoken about. I mean, it was there sometimes. There were occasional comments about how gay people are. And then, on television or movies, how they were portrayed, so I got the message that it was wrong. And different. I wasn’t trying to be an example.

Everyone in her family is a “misogynist,” she said, and she believes Donald Trump is “uncomfortable with male homosexuality” because he “likes guys with no self-awareness.”

In her book, Mary Trump details her uncle’s narcissism, both from the perspective of a mental health professional and as someone who lived close to it — but also as a person who broke from the dysfunction and cruelty in the family. Though she could have become a Log Cabin Republican, like those gay Republicans who support Donald Trump, she views them as part of a “significant minority of people in this country who are comfortable voting against their own self-interest.”

Mary Trump sees the broader picture, and the importance of preserving marriage equality — under assault by Trump’s judges and his religious right followers — and the rights of transgender people, as well as how Donald Trump affects her as a lesbian and as a woman.

You can’t help but wonder if Mary would have been the same if she were heterosexual, and would be going public against her malevolent uncle. It’s quite possible. Mary and her brother were mistreated by the family after her father’s death — as Donald Trump and others tried to diminish their inheritance. And her father, Fred Jr., was treated brutally by his own father right up until his death. That certainly had a major influence on Mary.

But it’a still possible that growing up with privilege and being sheltered, she might not have seen that hatred of anyone different if she weren’t very different herself, as a non-heterosexual person.

We’re all the better for Mary perceiving that hatred and producing an up-close analysis — one that much of the media has taken more seriously than many other books and takes from those who’ve worked with her uncle — that confirms much of what we thought of Donald Trump and why he must be defeated.