Since the election I've woken up terrified, fearing for my wellbeing more than I have in a decade.
So many of us can name friends, family members, and others closeby who voted for candidates that intend to strip LGBTQ+ people, Muslims, people of color, immigrants, or otherwise nonmainstream communities of rights. They would limit our access to services and dehumanize our identities. We are traumatized and furious, not merely at the results but also at the people we might have trusted (or not).
And in the next few days we are headed home for the holidays, something often traumatic in itself. We may get misgendered or be subject to countless other forms of discrimination; now we must spend time with family members who have voted against us and we feel that much more emotionally vulnerable. What to do?
When I heard the political leanings about a dear family friend, I sent a scathing email.
Knowing her to be a confident, independent woman who has built a successful business, I could not understand how she might vote for someone so evidently misogynistic.
Given her family legacy as the daughter of refugees, it seemed baffling that she would vote for someone xenophobic.
Since she is religiously observant, I found it hard to comprehend how she voted for candidates who pride themselves on unethical, immoral life choices.
And most personally to me, I was deeply disturbed and offended that she might vote for a ticket so intolerant of my life as someone queer and trans, the lives of my friends, of those of my community, and of people in all marginalized communities. Politicians supportive of the upcoming administration seek to impose a narrow-minded view of society upon our country and have worked diligently to further legislation that would have the nonconforming among us back in the closets, eking out existences in the shadows, restricting us to the margins of society. They incite violence, hatred, and bigotry of all forms: racism, sexism, antisemitism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and so much else. They have made clear that one of their first intentions is to repeal protections against transgender youth, some of the most vulnerable in the LGBTQ+ community: these kids are bullied in schools and on the streets, just as I had been, and often feel threatened even by their families. Now they will be under siege by the very government charged with their protection. These adolescents are me, 30 years apart.
This person's vote was not merely political but personal: it suggests she was willing to overlook the rhetoric, the immorality, and all the other forms of bigotry, and that she placed her 'hope for a strong leader' ahead of my safety. Whether intended as such or not, her vote was an assault on me and all I hold dear. She wrote back saying she finally understood the adage "never talk religion or politics."
And now I will face her on Thursday.
For some in our communities, going home may be too emotionally unsafe. Feel free to avoid; 'miss the bus' and spend the days instead with friends walking in nature or on the couch with Netflix and a blanket. There are countless good (and trashy) movies to watch, and untold seasons of television yet to binge. Reject turkey and order pizza.
Some have no choice but to visit with family, yet still are unable to tolerate the anxiety. Deep breaths, and there is no shame locking oneself away with a laptop or cellphone to focus on 'last minute homework' or a 'report due at work'. Take a plate of food to a bedroom while you Instant Message, text or Skype with friends, and remember it will be over soon.
But for those of us who are able, now, possibly more than ever, it is critical we talk about politics. If the people in our lives are so utterly naïve or indifferent to the impact this rhetoric and the proposed legislations will have on us, we MUST make them even more aware. We must make clear our rage and suffering especially to those closest to us, and to their friends, and to all the acquaintances we encounter, reminding them that their choices are not merely abstract, detached conclusions of economic calculation but instead are statements about how much they value our identities and our lives. We must tell them over the dinner table. We must tell them at work. We must tell them on the streets. We cannot not talk about it until we live in the pluralistic, welcoming society we all hope this country to be.
Now I wake reenergized. And so as the holidays approach and every day thereafter, as we gather with our families, I would urge every one of us who can to confront our reluctance and instead force those conversations. Refuse to let those people sit around the table comfortably in their ignorance. These exchanges may be awkward, but they are essential forms of nonviolent resistance.
In this way, we retake power.