It's nearly four o'clock in the morning, on Wednesday, November ninth, 2016. I'm laying, jaw clenched, tissue in hand, on my brother's couch, where I have been living for about two years, when he comes down the stairs, showered and ready for work. The television is on, playing news footage none of us really thought we'd ever see, and I have spent at least half of the last five hours in and out of tears, in and out of breath, in and out of reality, in and out of potential panic attacks. My brother sees that I am... distraught is probably the most likely word to use here, and says "I did not think he'd actually get it.
Are you ok?"
I am not ok.
I feel like I will never be ok again, because ...
"The man on the TV right now doesn't think that people like me should exist, and the guy standing beside him thinks it's OK to shock gay kids until the 'turn straight';" I look away from the TV, and at my brother. "I think it's safe to say I am not OK."
It has been nearly a week now, a week full of shock and fear and ripples of hatred and bilious outbursts across the country. It's been a week for graceful concession speeches made by a woman we have all let down, and peaceful marches that 'the other side' calls traitorous and Un-American (there's a word I never thought we'd have to bring back), that even more -neutral parties dismiss as 'liberals having a temper tantrum' and 'your side lost; you've got to put on your big people panties and get over it.'
We elected a misogynistic, racist, Islamophobic, possibly anti-Semitic, homophobic, classist, abelist eugenicist, to be our President. I am not sure this is a thing you get over.
Let me start with this: I come from a place of privilege. I am white; I was raised with enough money to complete both my high school and college education (although not without assuming significant debt along the way); I am not religious now, but when I was, it was the religion that most everybody around here practiced; I was assigned female at birth, and it fit me. I never had to question my gender identity or work with a body that didn't feel like it belonged to me. I know I don't have to live in the constant state of fear that many people do, because of their race or ethnicity, their gender identity, their religious practices,or their sexual identity.
My family doesn't know about my sexuality, if only because it has never been an issue: I'm too sick to date, so being slightly grey, being open to more things than they would necessarily assume I'm open to, well: It doesn't come up. I can certainly pass for straight in any situation, because it's not far from the truth.
My family does not know about my history with sexual abuse or harassment, except that my mother knew that my large breasts made me a target for boys pretty young, warned me more than once about how to stay out of the trouble they might 'cause.' That those warnings didn't always work, even with people I should have been able to trust? That's something they don't know.
My family does know I'm disabled, even though I don't tell the whole truth there either. There are certain truths about living in this body that even those closest to me would not understand, or should not have to burdened with (yes, I am aware that internalized ableism is a thing. I am also aware that knowing it is a thing is not enough to eradicate it from your own thoughts and behaviors). They know a lot about the abelism I have faced, but not all. I don't think you could ever tell it all. I have also had the privilege of 'passing' sometimes there too: I have definitely been identified as a 'good cripple' as opposed to a 'troublemaking' one. (Yes, those are quotes. They're also completely inaccurate, because I do not know anyone who creates more trouble than me, but people will believe what people want to believe.)
So I recognize that I am writing this next bit from a place of privilege, that there are many people, to whom Trump's election was NOT a startling turning point, to whom the idea that half our country was OK electing people into power who didn't want whole segments of our population to exist, was not a shock, and I want to say how sorry I am to those people.
I heard; I listened when you spoke; I saw and felt your fear and anger and disappointment; but I didn't know firsthand.
Even the evils I've already encountered - people who just yell "crippled bitch" at you as you're making your way through a public space, Facebook rants about how people on medicare are "con artists and moochers who deserve to die off", twitter wars and tv spots about the evils of the LGBTQA community (even the fact that the "community" itself allows itself to be shortened down to just the "LGBT" community) - none of that prepared me for the feeling of seeing, in stark numbers, that about half our country could support a man, a party, a legislative agenda, that seeks to delete large swaths of our citizens from the fabric of our country. Who could talk about sexual assault like it was a joke, and then have people agree with him, that it was something we are able to joke about. Who could lie about and mock people's religion, their history, their families, their sexuality, their appearance, their disabilities, their humanness, and have no one to stand up and say "This is too much. This is too far."
I was not prepared for that, and I'm so sorry that you were.
I'm sorry that being an ally - mostly online, because 1) I am too sick to be in public that often and 2) I don't know where people find the spoons for activism, when they can't find them for things like 'eating food today' - meant that I tried, but I didn't see the whole picture. I also recognize that I STILL am missing large parts of the picture, because they are not my experiences, and they never will be.
But I promise you,
I am listening, still.
I am trying, still.
I will do better, as much as I can, in any ways that I can.
Because that feeling has not left me, since last week. The one that feels like the world is ending, but not too many people actually care. The one that sees all the calls for cooperation with a man who just appointed a white supremacist to his council, and wants to vomit, wants to scream that this is not the world we were promised, it is not the world we've been fighting for. It's a feeling I would have rather spent my whole life never feeling, and that makes me so angry, because I have had the option not to experience it, where so many others have not.
There are children who have lived their whole lives feeling like this - feeling like nobody cares if they live or die, and would probably prefer it if they died, so long as they did it quietly and with as little fuss as possible.
There are women out there who have lived with men like this, who have experienced the things he jokes about so lightly, who were looking towards all of us to protect them THIS time, and who have been failed AGAIN.
There are LGBTQA teen, and adults, and senior citizens in our country who are panicked and petrified that they will lose what little progress they have made towards equality.
There are Jewish people and Muslim people and atheists and non-Christians who are wondering just how much of their belief system will be trampled this time, just how much of it will be used as a weapon against them.
There are hard working people fearing deportment, or afraid that their families will become divided unfairly and unnecessarily.
There are poor people who already know that this government will place them blame, and the burden, unfairly on them. Again.
There are people who are sick and disabled, mentally ill or physically ill - people like me - ,who know that they will not survive if the social safety net they depend on is dismantled, piece by piece. Who are already worrying about running out of meds, running out of money, running out of time, running out of life. (For so many reasons.)
There are people of color who have been fighting for survival, for equality, for removing barriers, for their LIVES, who depended upon the rest of us to protect them with our votes, and have to deal with yet another disappointment at our hands.
I cannot yet express how deeply ashamed I am of the decision our country has made - how I had to explain to my ten-year-old niece that not only hadn't we voted in our first woman president, but we had voted in a hate monger, a race-baiter, an honestly divisive and genuinely bad human being, while at the same time giving her hope (a hope I have to tell you I do not yet fully feel). I let her cry, and I told her that the man at the top is not everything, and that we wouldn't let them get away with anything, and that we were still going to fight and work for what is right. I was mostly bluffing, because I did not feel like I had anything more than lip service to give, on that morning.
But it's been a week, and I've read A LOT, and I know that I am not alone, in my fear, in my disgust, in my longing to make this as safe, as right, as possible. And that matters more than I can explain too, that there are people out there Doing Things. SafetyPins (with actions behind them); Pantsuit Nation; #WandsUp; #WhatsNext; All time high membership rates in the ACLU and donations to Planned Parenthood in Pence's name.... It's not just me, feeling this way, and some of the other people are going to know the right things to do.
I'm going to keep listening. I'm going to keep doing. I'm going to keep fighting, once I catch my breath.
I'll see you all out there. Thanks for staying, for listening. For letting me learn and know I have to do better.