Yesterday (and most days before that) I came out as an avid supporter of Hillary Clinton.
October 11 is “Coming Out Day” here in the USA, a day for the LGBTQ community to rejoice and be brave in communal visibility. I co-opted it to come out for Hillary, and I’ll do it again today, tomorrow, and every day. Because as an out lesbian I understand why it’s powerful and dangerous and disruptive every time I do.
What does it mean to come out in support of Hillary Clinton, a woman I admire, and who also draws intense public vitriol? It means that I invite everyone with whom I share my support for her to think of me as an embodiment of what she stands for (an unapologetic, powerful woman). I become an avatar for Hillary Clinton – a caricature who’s been drawn with violent, broad, indiscriminate Sharpie strokes in culture wars for decades. A smeared, tattered canvas painted with all the good, bad, and ugly things America has ever thrown at women. And let’s be clear; throwing awful things at Hillary Clinton (women) is fair game.
Which is why I refuse to spend time here apologizing for her “flaws.” OMG. She’s not the incarnation of every hope and dream every single American has ever had for our Democracy. I get it. And I still love her.
Back to the world of the complex. When I say #imwithher, I do something dangerous. People will have no trouble maligning me, because I am now a part of Hillary and what she stands for. Coming out for Hillary means you’re willing to let people throw all that ugly at you.
While I strongly believe there is no actual “enthusiasm gap,” when it comes to Hillary, I absolutely believe there is a reluctance to “come out” for Hillary.
Signing up to be disliked is a difficult thing to do. The human need to be accepted and loved comes from deep in our bones and our DNA. It’s dangerous to be on the outside of the tribe. So taking an action that puts you on the outside, even if it’s just this low-level sort of disdain kind of outsiderness, isn’t inherent. Even standing next to someone who’s outside of the tribe is hardwired out of us.
But demonstrating our otherness and demystifying it is the most powerful way we can create inclusion. It’s what the LGBT movement learned a couple decades ago. The most powerful way we can redefine normal is to come out as other; then to say, “I am secretly other. But I still love you - and you still love me.” Or maybe, more accurately, “It might take a minute or two for you to realize it, but I promise, you still love me.”
Coming out as your own personal definition of ‘other’ seizes the power of those who would define it in a way that persecutes you.
When we do it en masse, it has a cumulative effect. When you can’t walk down the street without seeing someone you once thought of as other, momentum takes hold. Humans are lazy; we see something often enough and it becomes routine. It stops being a threat.
There are a lot of ways to support Hillary Clinton. Door knocking, calling, registering voters, hosting a staffer, donating; all direct actions. But don’t discount your button. Don’t discount your yard sign. Don’t discount your Facebook post or your Tweet or your t-shirt or your bumper sticker. Don’t make them a substitute for direct action, but make them actions that you take.
Some people will frown at you. More people will smile at you. And some people won’t react at all. But they will see you. And for every frown or smile you get, you get a dozen more impressions that might seem neutral. But understand that they only begin as neutral. You are now a part of redefining the popular narrative. You are disrupting the notion that to publicly support Hillary Clinton is distasteful, and strange and weird and other. Because it’s not.
Supporting Hillary Clinton is awesome. Your friends and neighbors deserve to be in on it.
Coming out is the most powerful action you can take for liberation, personally and politically. It will change the narrative about women in this country and the world.
This truth is a hard and fast lesson, and one we absolutely have to apply to our support of Hillary Clinton. To revise a saying by John Wesley, one of Hillary’s favorites: come out, come out – ‘by all the means you can - in all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.’