[This is a blog I wrote after last year’s Presidential election.]
The other day I went to a doctor's appointment at a clinic, thinking how nice it was to have health care after a decade without it. I looked around the room, seeing faces of many colors, taking in the diversity that I consider one of America's greatest assets. Then it happened: my eyes landed on the television, and there, in all its black-and-white glory, was Leave It to Beaver, the color reduced to extremes and a plot line that felt prophetic, given where many U.S. citizens, on both sides of the dismal divide, see our country heading. One side applauds the regression. The other grieves until we can figure out what else to do.
On TV, poor June Cleaver didn't have a driver's license and when asked why, she replied that she simply didn't need one, not with strong men around her. They insisted she learn, and of course, once in the car, she took time to check her makeup in the rear view mirror before using both the "big" and "little" pedals and screeching backwards. No irony there.
I pulled out my driver's license. I'd only corrected the F to an M last week, and I'd felt both relieved and excited to do so. I didn't understand its urgency, however, until November 9th, when all of a sudden, I began to worry about what America in reverse would actually look like. Most likely the world of the Cleavers was never reality, even for the families it supposedly modeled. That doesn't stop some today from retroactively aspiring it to be the new reality TV.
I woke the day after the election to a lot of noise, including Hollywood gasping with its hand over its mouth in shock. Perhaps they don't watch their own creations because if they did, they might understand how a megalomaniac who fed his need for attention by stomping to the front of the soup line in our free-hand-out ratings race, a man who actually could have shot someone without it making a difference to his candidacy, wound up on his way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
We're now more than a week past what the majority of eligible voters consider a horror show of an election. Based on the campaign rhetoric and cabinet appointments, we have some idea what lies in store for those of us on the margins. Still, we’ve had to return to our jobs and talk with people who voted as if they wouldn't have to answer for it to their children. We have to plan holidays with family members who apparently forgot the lessons they'd taught us growing up.
Even those who love us, who told us they understood how we must feel must not understand that what we truly feel is betrayed not by the faction of our countrymen and women who think it's OK to claim that America is only for them—we always knew they were out there—but by those nearby. Many of us didn't believe that our friends and family would sign off on hate and divisiveness, just so their not-really-all-that-bad lives would improve.
Respectfully, I say you do not—you cannot—know how difficult the election was for me if you do not stand on the precipice of having basic civil liberties taken away, freedoms and rights that never should have been denied in the first place but were and very likely will be again. So no, you do not understand, but knowing that doesn't make me feel any better. Instead, I feel worse because it means that you don't care about the quality of my life as much as you say you do. That said, I wonder if I could've taken more of a risk to help you understand.
I'd started numerous emails to friends and family members, which I never sent because I didn't want to create a rift between us. I wanted to maintain the grand illusion that our relationship could handle discord, and I did so by not challenging it. Maybe it felt too familiar, having lived behind a façade for way too many years, but no matter how deep the division sat, if I thought that keeping "us" intact meant making myself invisible—again—I should have known something was off. That's on me. I regret that I kept silent in those weeks before the election. The rift manifested anyway. After coming out as transgender, I thought the hard work was done. What I see now is that it was only beginning.
I am very concerned for the next generation. I want my nieces and nephew to grow up in a world in which they see the most powerful people display the same kindness and integrity they're being taught at home. I do not want the Commander-in-Chief to be someone who thinks the Golden Rule is a decorating tip. If I'd treated others with even a small fraction of the disrespect and disregard that Donald Trump has, the people who raised me would think I was a monster.
Let's be clear. Like most supporters, I don't agree with every decision Secretary Clinton has made, but based on actions over the course of her lifetime, I believe at her core, she (even still) wants to work with people to find solutions to some very difficult problems facing a constituency that includes the entire population of the U.S., and to do so with global awareness.
I voted for someone who would've gotten in there and done the roll-up-your-sleeves work necessary to find solutions. Not perfect solutions and not solutions that would only benefit me. I expect some of them wouldn't because that's what compromise means. The answers are never, ever, ever going to mean everyone agrees, but I don't think that needs to happen in order for us to do better. I also think someone who has never held political office in his life—never been a public servant of any kind—and whose idea of intricacy involves dropping tweets is a dangerous choice in a time when the issues are more complex than ever.
I've been told I live in a bubble, but my fellow Americans, if any of us thinks only one sliver of the population is what makes us strong as a country, you're in your own shrinking blister of people who do.
I know I’m not alone. A candidate who built her life and campaign—imperfectly at times—on being Stronger Together got the plurality of votes in this country...by a lot. The man slated to be the 45th President is everything I was taught not to be. When kids in the future say, "I want to be President," I doubt their parents will have them memorize some of the Republican candidate’s gems. Instead they'll hand them the Gettysburg Address, teach them about civic duty, about people like Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr., and say things to them like, “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can." For the few who don't know, that's what Hillary Clinton's mother taught her.
I also want to make it clear: for me, this is not nor has it ever been only about LGBT rights. When people say my life under a Trump presidency won’t be that bad because he once said he didn’t agree with the bathroom laws in North Carolina and held up a rainbow flag at a campaign rally, understand that even if that’s the case—which I highly doubt given the people he’s chosen to surround himself with—there are others whose lives have already gotten worse, who live in fear, who’ve had their bodies bruised and property defaced, who now need to work double-time just to be heard and seen as equal. I care about them, too. I believe we owe it to each other to speak up, and I’m sorry for not having done so more often with those closest to me.
So friends and family who voted for Trump, what I really want to know is: was your life so bad? Because when there is no one left to speak for me, I want you to look in the mirror and ask: How much did your life improve because of his presidency and was it enough? Only you can know the answer. I and the next generation, to whom you owe an explanation, will be waiting.
P.S. For kids who want to be President, here's a collection of quotes by people who understood that leadership requires more than a narcissistic desire to be in charge.
"I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty." - Woodrow Wilson
"When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly." - George Washington
"If national pride is ever justifiable or excusable it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information, and benevolence." - John Adams
"Think about every problem, every challenge, we face. The solution to each starts with education." - George H.W. Bush
"It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law - for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." - Barack Obama
"A president's hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is right." - Lyndon Johnson
"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." - Franklin D. Roosevelt