In 1948, when the American writer Patricia Highsmith started writing The Price of Salt, her seminal novel of lesbian love, she knew it would be difficult to find a publisher as an openly queer author. At the time, as she reflected in her 1989 afterword to the novel, it was already difficult enough just to be out as a lesbian in New York. “Those were the days,” she wrote, “when gay bars were a dark door somewhere in Manhattan, where people wanting to go to a certain bar got off the subway a station before or after the convenient one, lest they be suspected of being a homosexual.” It would be career suicide, she feared, to be known as a “lesbian book-writer.” So when the publisher of her first novel, Strangers on a Train, rejected The Price of Salt, she released the latter elsewhere under a pseudonym, Claire Morgan. It went on to become one of the most important works of queer American fiction.
The United States in 2016 is generally more accepting of queer writers than the country Highsmith described. But some of the rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump and a number of his supporters paints LGBT people in much the same way that they were seen in Highsmith’s day: as people who don’t deserve the same rights as other Americans. In January 2016, Trump told the Fox News host Chris Wallace that he would “strongly consider” appointing conservative justices who could repeal the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal last year. In June 2015, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has a long history of opposition to LGBT rights, had responded more strongly to the decision, reaffirming his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.