Of all the images that have poured in since the election – global marches, protest signs, memes, videos – my favorite by far is of this one: a group of around 200 queer people overtaking the Vice President’s Washington DC neighborhood wearing their queer regalia, sweaty and dancing in crowds on the streets, twerking on cars, and asserting their right not only to exist, but to thrive in all their glory. The dance party was initiated by the queer-based grassroots movement called Werk for Peace, which was founded by Firas Nasr, in tribute to the 49 beautiful souls who were killed, and 53 injured, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It’s nothing new to say that clubs have been safe havens for many of us as we came into our identities, seeking community and acceptance. But what I love about the concept of taking dance to the streets as a form of protest is that it thrusts us out of our safe enclaves and into visible spaces. Werk for Peace has inverted the queer club and made the world our catwalk.
It’s a given that our community is on edge, and bracing for what comes next. And as a woman, it is deeply triggering to have had a sexual predator voted into the White House. The idea that he has been entrusted to enter the White House and walk, sleep, eat, tantrum, and touch our physical history feels like a violation in itself. It’s within the narcissistic realm of possibilities that he could paint the oval office gold and replace every piece of art with portraits of himself, before he rolls up his sleeves and tries to strip us of every right we’ve earned to please his religious zealot campaign contributors. But before he does that, let’s dance.
For the last eight years the LGBTQ+ community has made amazing strides. We won marriage equality and legal protections against job discrimination, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, won political positions, and even earned the right to be Boy Scout leaders. But there are still many battles to fight, especially for our trans and gender non-conforming community members who are fighting for their right to choose the bathrooms that match their gender identity and protection from an epidemic of violent hate crimes. It’s natural to wonder what the first strike will be when the President is wild card assembling a cabinet of queer-hating white supremacists and the Vice President is a staunch supporter of conversion therapy (aka torture) and wants to decimate our community. But hey, I was going to try not to get heavy.
There’s a popular therapeutic technique where a person is called upon to write a different ending to a traumatic event. For instance, a client may recall a childhood story where they felt trapped within a frightening or abusive situation. The therapist asks them what they wish they could have done in that situation. The client wishes they could have run away. The therapist prompts them to recall the story, but this time to imagine themselves running away just in time, escaping the situation and the ensuing trauma. In this way the client rewrites their story and relieves some trauma.
Since the election, I feel an underlying sense of trauma that has lessened my resilience in many situations. I realize it’s because I grew up in a very conservative Greek, male-dominated household where my mother, sister, and I were isolated from others, and had little if any self-determination. I was expected to leave the house only once I married a man. Having a misogynist, predatory, and controlling President in the White House rings all my warning bells; him being in power is symbolic of a national dysfunctional family relationship. When I see the First Lady’s face crumble after the President delivers her a stern look, I am taken right back to my volatile home of origin. But they aren’t our parents, and we aren’t their trapped children. We will write our own ending to this story.
This is the year to be Queer – with a capital Q. In this climate, Queer includes all us queer folks across the spectrum of sexuality, gender, physical ability, presentation, and anatomical gloriousness. But it isn’t only us. Because truth is, in the current political climate, if you aren’t a straight, white, patriarchy-loving religious zealot, you’re queer too. That’s why understanding and honoring intersectionality and coalition building is so important. It’s us and them and there is strength in numbers. So let’s link arms with our millions. If you forget who they are, replay the footage from January 21, 2017. All over our country and around the world as far as Antarctica and Nairobi, people marched. That is cause for celebration. Whether you’ve never marched before or you’ve marched a million times, you are all welcome to this party.
The way we’re going to fight back is by loving each other strong. Donate to legal organizations that protect our rights. Organize political actions and post daily reminders of what we can do each day to make change. Be like Pam Howell and bake an extra turkey for the local LGBT kids homeless center on Thanksgiving. Start a writing collective or make copies of your poems to pass out on the street like Michelle Tea did back in the day. Be like Firas Nasr and werk it on the roof of a car in front of the Vice President’s house. Do your art. You don’t have to be a star to be exceptional. We have a chance every day to be kind and to bring love and creativity into this world. When times feel hard—and they will—remember that we are surrounded by amazing, inspiring people who are ready to fight to create and protect the world we want. The fight takes many forms, whether it’s activism or art or kindness. Let us flower when they want us to wither. Let us grow when they want us to shrink. Find love each day. That’s how we’ll survive. We will persist.