The day after our fateful presidential election, I posted this on Facebook:
I was hoping it was a dream... :-( My heart is heavy. If you voted for Trump, please know that the hatred he has given a voice genuinely makes me more afraid to be who I am. ME... THE PERSON YOU KNOW... NOT SOME STATISTIC ON CABLE NEWS. Fear won, and now I’m afraid. And yet, I know it’s nothing next to what non- [cis] male [&] people of color must feel. We have so much work to do.
Several people, from my conservative family & friends, were surprised at my reaction and wondered why I would be so afraid. After all, as a gay man, though I have dealt with some discrimination over the years, by in large, I live a happy and privileged life. How could Trump’s presidency really make me fearful? He says he supports the LGBT community, doesn’t he?
Earlier this week, a dear friend of mine, originally from the Quad Cities area of Illinois/Iowa, contacted me regarding seemingly unbelievable statements made by an elected County Board Member from Henry County, IL. This man, Jacob Waller, reacting to a lesbian couple winning the local Valentine’s Day “Cutest Couple Contest,” took to Facebook with comments such as:
I’m not afraid of homos. They’re just out of line and disgusting. I’m not afraid of mosquitoes, rats, cock roaches or cock suckers, they’re smaller than me, more disgusting than me, and have nothing to beat me with… But I just have to make sure they’re kept under control.
I should still be able to accomplish my dreams of gassing and impaling the gays by policy of county board and my faithfully dedicated SS officers.
When the fallout to his comments began, Waller defended himself, in part, by claiming that “As a county board member, we NEVER handle anything to do with the ‘LGBT Community’.”
KWQC of the Quad Cities reported that, in response to Waller’s comments, Henry County Chairman Roger Gradert, had personally asked him to resign, but didn’t do so on behalf of the board. In an e-mail response to a concerned constituent, Mr. Gradert said, “Why does there have to be such extreme adversity on each side. Somehow we must all learn to just live with it. Leave the skunk alone if you don’t want sprayed.”
THIS is what scares me about the Trump presidency. Jacob Waller is what scares me about a Trump presidency. Roger Gradert is what scares me about a Trump presidency. A Trump presidency not only empowers the Jacob Wallers of the world to spew the hatred that lives within, but, even more dangerously, it excuses the apathy of the Roger Graderts. It fosters an environment in which hate can thrive, and where “we must all learn to just live with it.”
What’s inspiring is the reaction of the people of the Quad Cities. Hali Riley, who was born and raised in the area and now lives in New York, is returning to town and organizing a response to Roger Gradert and the Henry County Board by calling for the resignation of Jacob Waller. She is encouraging area residents to attend and speak out at the Henry County Board meeting on March 16.
Why, you may ask, do I care? I’m not from the Quad Cities. I don’t know the “cutest couple” winners. I’ve never met Jacob Waller or Roger Gradert. I’ll likely never have any interaction with the Henry County Board. I care, because I understand what it’s like to grow up as a gay kid in a community that, at best, ignores the ravings of hateful individuals and, at worst, espouses them from on high. I care, because, unlike Roger Gradert, I refuse to “learn to just live with it.” I care, because we have made way too much progress over the last few years to remain silent. I care, because the Jacob Wallers of the world will only get away with it if we let them.
I may very well get sprayed by the skunk, but I’ll wear that scent with pride.