but it is a blog about words.
I’ve always believed political opinions and religious beliefs have no place around the holiday dinner table or specifically in my blog or social media posts. I tend to be a non-confrontational person who doesn’t normally get wrapped up in the politics of Washington, who’d rather smooth over disagreements than pick at them until they bleed. Things are different now.
After this exhausting and terrifying election cycle, I’m still struggling to find solid ground on which to stand, and I’m still struggling to find the right words. Like so many others, I write so that my voice is added to the collective voices of the oppressed, of the disillusioned, of those persecuted for not fitting into the white/middle class male mold of a Donald Trump America.
As a lesbian writer who writes lesbian stories and poetry, I am constantly pushing the boundaries of literature just by being who I am and writing what I want. That has never been an intentional rallying cry for me. I did not grow up in the 1960s during Stonewall and I’ve never felt the need to carry a sign in protest to anything. I’ve always been incredibly complacent in the freedoms that I enjoy. Truth be told, I’ve had it pretty easy.
Recently I attended my publisher’s (Sapphire Books) Left Coast Lesbian Literary Conference in Palm Springs, CA and had the amazing opportunity to meet and talk with Lee Lynch. Lee is an extraordinary woman who has spent her entire career fighting for LGBT rights and fighting to write realistic portrayals of lesbian life and love. During her keynote address at the Palm Springs Public Library, Lee was asked a question by a straight woman. The woman wanted to know if Lee wrote specifically to change the minds of, or educate, straight people. Lee’s answer was swift and forceful. She sat in a room of mostly lesbian authors and readers and she lifted her head and said, “I write for them. Someone has to write for them.”
It was such a powerful statement; one I took back to the hotel with me and thought about for hours afterwards. At dinner, I had tears in my eyes as I thanked Lee for all of her struggles. I told her I was so thankful for what she, and so many others, have done so that I may enjoy the rights I do.
Never before had I viewed my writing as a political statement simply because of who I was or what I chose to write about. For me, writing is like breathing. Telling stories is what I was born to do. It was never about the politics of sexuality, it was about creative inspiration and exploration. And for the first time, I am inspired to write for reasons outside myself because through my writing, a threatened LGBTQ+ voice will continue to be heard, whether I sell five books or 50,000. It is about a collective voice rising up to say “Your version of America is not my version of America.”
When Donald Trump won the election, I realized for the first time in my life that I, and so many others, are at risk of losing the very freedom I simply took for granted. As I saw him raise his hand in celebration, I also saw the evil shadow of the KKK raise their hands in celebration too and it shook me to my core.
My form of activism has always been practicing kindness but I don’t think that’s enough anymore. Our words can be even more powerful than our actions. And today, for me, it’s time for my words to combat his words and stand beside my brothers and sisters of every shade and color, of every religion, culture, sexuality, and background. The pen has always been mightier than the sword and my pen is now poised and ready to wage war.
Donald Trump built a rocket to the White House fueled by racist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-women words. He could have chosen any one of millions of words to bring people together to vote on his ideas for the future of America, but instead he selected only the words that mock those with disabilities, threaten a woman’s right to choose, frighten Hispanics, gays and transgender people, and terrify Muslims. His words intentionally did not unite, they created discord and amplified the voices of those who hate people for their inherent differences rather than exalt them. His words were his choice but sadder still, enough of our country chose him precisely for those very words that I abhor.
I deeply love this country. I know full well that many have struggled, fought and died before me in order to forge my freedoms and protect them. I have always been proud to be an American. My grandfather served in World War II. My father served. Many of my family members and friends sacrificed and served. Because of them we have the right to peacefully protest after an election. We have the right to disagree on political candidates or the direction of our country. We may not like that Donald Trump won, but our process is intact and he will be our next president – even if he lost the popular election by 947,333 votes (CNN 11/16/16) with nearly 97 million eligible voters NOT voting at all according to the United States Elections Project (http://www.electproject.org/2016g).
While I respect the transition of power in this country, I do not have to respect the man who is our president. Nor do I have to stand silent as he denigrates my friends, my colleagues, or me. I am embarrassed to be an American today and for the first time in my life, I fear that my freedom is in severe jeopardy.
This is how activists are born. Activists weren’t always activists. They were once ordinary people whose moral sense of right and wrong was pushed beyond its limit. This is how freedom fighters rise up and stand as one to march on Washington or City Hall. This is how men and women joined together with rainbow flags to riot against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Deep down, we know what is right and what is not. We know when we’ve insulted someone. We also know when we’ve been insulted and threatened.
To my gay and lesbian writer friends, you must keep writing. You must keep telling our stories because we now have an obligation to carry the torch of freedom so that our voices are not snuffed out by the will of our new President, so that the gains we have made in the last ten years are not obliterated.
To readers and allies, stand with the “Others.” Buy our books, attend shows about our lives. Protest peacefully in the streets. Join a local LGBTQ+ organization and offer your time and support. Stand with your friends of varying colors and religious beliefs. Mentor a young person who is growing up in a new era of fear and uncertainty. Help get out the vote in 2020 so that those 97 million people who were too lazy or apathetic to take a stand on the future of our country get out and vote.
We must stand up for the America we hold in our hearts and not allow words to tear us apart, but we must remember to do so with respect for our country, our system and each other without hurling insults or screaming obscenities back. The wise Rumi wrote: “Raise your words not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
There is a particular song lyric from the band the Weepies that resonates with me now more than ever before. It is: “I don’t need no trouble, but it’s plain to see sometimes trouble needs me.” Well, Mr. Trump, here I am. Here we all are. So choose your words wisely.