Two nights ago, a loud, bigoted, angry carrot was announced as our soon-to-be 45th president of the United States.
It was the moment so very many of us had been living in fear of for months. As a Latina transgender woman, it wasn’t something I planned on sticking around for, and as my other trans roommates and I sat on our living room couch, watching Netflix to ease the tension as we constantly refreshed the Google home page to see the latest updates as more and more precincts reported in, we wondered what we would do if the worst came to pass.
If you’d asked me just a few months ago, I would have had given a single answer without hesitation: Sweden.
That was my plan. In the event of a Trump presidency, Sweden was my escape route. I have friends there, it’s one of the most trans-friendly nations in the world as ranked by by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), and to be entirely honest, I may still go if things just get absolutely too dangerous here (My safety is not a currency to be exchanged for progress), but as of the moment, we’ve decided to stay for one simple reason:
As frightening as the prospect of a moldy, misogynist, racist yam in the oval office might seem, the fact of the matter is that not much has actually changed.
It’s not Trump I’m afraid of. It’s his supporters.
And we don’t really expect it to either. True, our first angry-cheese-puff president elect wasn’t the only Republican “victory” that night, but the Republican majority in congress isn’t exactly overwhelming, not to mention that not every Republican congressperson even supports the spray-tanned windbag, much less his more hateful platforms, which makes it that much less likely for any of his proposed initiatives to gain traction. It’s much more likely that we will instead witness another 4 to 8 years years of congressional gridlock, and even if he does nominate a like-minded Supreme Court justice, that still won’t really change much. Antonin Scalia was conservative to begin with, and out of the remaining justices, that still leaves five out of nine who were nominated by Liberal presidents. It’s entirely possible, likely even, that up to three or more further vacancies may open in the coming years, but that’s really yet to be seen, and to be honest, even his most frightening campaign promises simply lack teeth.
Over the course of his campaign, Trump has made many claims. And to be honest, I don’t believe half of them.
They’re outlandish, and we know it. We’ve been laughing at them for months. At times, it’s even been difficult to tell without checking the news source whether we were looking at genuine news or satire, not to mention that in most cases, campaign promises are worth about as much as an I-owe-you, and can be thought of in many cases as a sales pitch. There’s likely some truth there, (I have no doubt that Trump himself is likely ever bit as racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist as his campaign platforms would lead one to believe,) but paying careful attention to the history of his campaign, it’s easy to see a clear pattern one would expect from anyone wishing to appeal to a reactionary Republican party after eight years of a liberal presidency. Bear in mind that we are also talking about a man with a reputation for allegedly failing to deliver on promises, and suddenly there’s really not much left to fear.
That being said, I’m not entirely unwary, but it’s not Trump I’m afraid of. It’s his supporters.
Over the course of the past year, they’ve established a well-earned reputation for violence towards the people they hate, including trans people, but while this past Tuesday’s tragedy of an election outcome may only serve to embolden his supporters, the fact remains that hate in America for those who don’t fit the “default,” white, straight, cis, male archetype really isn’t anything new. People are just less afraid to be overt about it now that they’ve found a leader to unify behind and an echo chamber to reside in.
That definitely sounds like a recipe for violence, but that violence is already here, and it has been our whole lives.
Last year, 23 trans people (mostly trans women of color) were murdered in transphobic hate crimes. This year, we’ve lost 24. I’ve already been living with that risk every day since I came out, and over time, that’s really lost it’s teeth for me too. I do still wear custom dog-tags identifying my preferred name and authentic gender so that I (hopefully) won’t be misgendered post-mortem in case the worst ever comes to pass, but that’s not a decision I made out of fear. It’s an act of defiance against a systemically transphobic institution which was already in place long before I was born, is still here today, and will still be here next year regardless of who takes over the White House this upcoming January.
It’s part of a larger, overarching kyriarchy of oppression for which Trump has merely become the figurehead du-jour, and which marginalizes literally millions of Americans for the majority of our lives on the basis of our gender, race, orientation, health, ability, class, and any number of other factors, and while that institution may have been emboldened for a moment by the rantings of a week-old Jack-O-Lantern.
In my opinion, it’s a dying gasp at best.
Hate just isn’t as trendy as it used to be, and it shows in the fact that for all his bluster, Trump couldn’t actually pull off an honest victory. Even among the expected third party splits and other protest write-ins, Clinton won the popular vote, not Trump. Technically, until the electoral college actually votes in December, he hasn’t won at all, and there are already petitions circulating the internet with hundreds of thousands of signatures urging electors to mirror the popular vote, and even calling for an end to the electoral college as a whole.
We have fought too long and hard to go quietly without a fight. We cannot, and must not, run away.
It’s reflective of an attitude I’ve long held, which is rapidly becoming even more prevalent among human rights activists such as myself and the marginalized communities we represent, and are often ourselves a part of.
We have fought too long and hard to go quietly without a fight.
We cannot, and must not, run away. We must stand firm, and together, now more than ever in the intersectional struggle for true social justice and equality.
Not all of us have the privilege of being able to escape to safety.
For those who can, I’d never begrudge them that, as I said before, our safety is never a currency to be exchanged for progress, but there is safety in numbers, and more importantly in unity. This isn’t an LGBT struggle, or a women’s struggle, or a racial struggle. It’s all of those things and more. It’s a struggle as intersectional as the oppression I face every day as a queer, disabled trans woman of color. It’s a human rights struggle, and those of us who face that struggle cannot afford to run away, or to be divided against one another. We must stand together, and most importantly, we must take no shit.
If we ever want equal rights and protection within our lifetimes, we have to fight for them.
Often, hateful individuals are fond of citing the first amendment, which protects freedom of speech, but the fact remains: that same amendment protects us, too.
We have the right to tell it like it is. We have the right to demand justice. We have the right to peacefully protest, and urge our congresspeople to block regression just as much as much as those who foster hate have blocked progress for the past eight years. We have the right to say “enough is enough,” in terms that leave no room for misinterpretation, and if my time as an activist has taught me anything, our generation may very well be poised like no other American generation in history to make that happen.
We are amazing. We have conviction and determination. I firmly believe that we can topple the oppressive institutions of previous generations, even through a Trump presidency, even through a Pence vice presidency, but only if we stand and fight. We cannot afford to remain complacent. We cannot afford to hide. We cannot afford to wait around for someone else to do this for us. If we ever want equal rights and protection within our lifetimes, we have to fight for them.
The world is already changing for the better, and that doesn’t have to stop just because one hateful, soggy beet has potentially made his way into the oval office if that’s not what the people want.
This is not Trump’s America. It’s ours.
And it’s up to us to make our voices heard, now more than ever so we can keep it that way, and continue to build a more perfect union. I don’t know about you, but that’s my plan, and if I have anything to say about it:
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