When Donald Trump won the presidency two years ago, I made a promise to myself to never give up. Many of my friends felt the same way. We knew the next four years were going to be a test to see if we would either let Trump take over the country or stand up and fight for the inherent worth and dignity of all Americans.
Now, nearly two years later, many of us are burned out. We’re tired of checking our phones every morning to see what Trump’s done now. We’re tired of confronting politicians and speaking truth to power, only to find out they’ll go ahead and confirm Brett Kavanaugh anyway. We’re tired of waking up in the morning to find out Trump is planning on rolling back transgender rights or aligning himself with white nationalists.
The trans community along with many other groups of people are under a constant amount of strain and stress waiting to see what terrible thing Trump and his administration will do next. That politics-related stress, or what therapists are calling “Trump Anxiety Disorder,” is on the rise and when that stress gets out of control, we can lose control of ourselves.
For me, all of the stress and anxiety of living as a trans person in our current political climate led to a year of daily binge drinking. I started the recovery process back in December, but I’ve had three relapses so far. Each relapse was a reminder that I need to take better care of my mental health so I won’t binge drink again.
“Real self-care involves taking care of our bodies, our minds and our spirits ... especially for those of us who face intersecting forms of oppression.”
Famed writer and activist Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” And in a time like this, when one of the most powerful leaders in the world is trying to erase the humanity of so many of our diverse citizens, self-care may be one of the most powerful tools we can use to defeat the problematic powers that be.
“Self-care” is one of those buzzwords that everyone loves to talk about, but it’s been divorced from its original radical roots thanks to capitalism. When we think of self-care, we automatically think of bath bombs, manicures, pedicures and gorging on pizza. While these things are not bad in and of themselves (I definitely ordered an emergency pizza after Kavanaugh was confirmed), consuming makeup and high calories isn’t self-care; it’s self-indulgence.
Real self-care involves taking care of our bodies, our minds and our spirits ... especially for those of us who face intersecting forms of oppression.
For example, as I mentioned in a previous article, bisexuals like me have worse mental health than our straight and gay peers. This is because of biphobia from both straight people and gay people, lack of resources for bisexuals and prevalence of sexual assault. Likewise, my fellow nonbinary trans people struggle with mental health issues more than trans men and trans women, and this also comes from a mixture of invisibility, transphobia and sexual assault.
Since Trump came into office, we’ve seen his administration hand down one oppressive, bigoted doctrine after another. Trump has tried to ban Muslims and people from Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States. He famously said there were bad people “on both sides” of the alt-right, neo-Nazi riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one girl dead. And, emboldened by Trump, legislators across the country are enacting voter suppression tactics to ensure Trump’s reign of terror can continue.
We live, as bell hooks famously said, under an “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” (I wish to add “cisheteronormative” and “ableist” to the list) that constantly reminds us that anyone who doesn’t fit into its norms shouldn’t be seen as fully human. Under these conditions, it’s easy to lose hope and energy. So we need to take care of our full selves in order to have enough strength to fight back.
“The opposition wants us to lose our hope and our energy, but we will choose to take care of ourselves and love ourselves and fight another day.”
There are many ways to take care of oneself to gain strength to fight another day. I’ve been taking inventory of major stressors in my life, which include watching way too much news, reading way too many hot takes on social media, and the overwhelming feeling of utter helplessness watching the world burn down. Now I try to limit my media intake ― both social and news ― and think about things I can change instead of the things I can’t.
I can’t throw Trump out of the White House personally, but I can canvass for progressive candidates running for Congress in my district. Likewise, I can’t single-handedly end anti-LGBTQ bigotry around the world, but I can help volunteer at my local LGBTQ support group to help create a safer space for local queer and trans kids. Taking these steps has greatly improved my mental health and gives me strength to continue to fight back.
Regardless of whether the blue wave comes to save us in the midterms, the resistance still has a long way to go. Trump will no doubt continue to attack racial justice, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, so those of us who will suffer the most under his tyranny need to prioritize our health and well-being above all else.
The opposition wants us to fail, but we will choose to take care of ourselves and love ourselves for spite. By taking care of ourselves, we are becoming stronger and are better equipped to fight back. That’s why self-care isn’t just about bubble baths and fatty foods; it’s a radical act of political warfare.