Probably like many of the people that will read this, I have been trying to find words for how this past week and a half has me feeling. Broken, lost, and scared don’t seem to really encapsulate the storm that’s been raging in my heart and mind. I keep wanting to ask myself what kind of alternate reality I woke up to find myself in. But the more that I’ve reflected upon it, the more I’ve realized that this isn’t an alternate reality. This is the reality that I’ve always known was there. This is the reality that I grew up in. The reality that I thought that I had escaped or distanced myself from or had slinked back into the shadows to be forgotten. The reality of me walking down the halls of my middle and high schools to shouts of “fag.” The reality of my year book being taken in eighth grade only to be returned with “faggot” written on every single page. The reality of the “good ol’ boys” in my hometown starting a “petition” to have the single black family in town “removed.” The reality of guidance councilors who did nothing to help me or stop the constant emotional and sometimes physical attacks on me. The reality of cousins turning their heads while their friends told me that I deserved to get the shit kicked out of me for something that I myself hadn’t even figured out yet. That is the reality that I recognize and that is the America that many people know all too well. Over the past year and a half since the presidential campaign started, this reality has been threatening to rear it’s ugly, hateful head. And now, it’s here. “Hopeless” seems like a far better word to describe my feelings.
Following the election, I more or less went numb. Even a week and a half later, I’ve found it difficult to focus on much of anything for more than minutes at a time. The home that I’ve created with my fiancé has felt cold and foreign and empty, like it’s not even ours anymore and I’ve cried more than once on the train to and from work. I’ve been accused of being an “urban elite,” as if that’s even a thing. That because I live in a city, I’m out of touch with rural America. But an America that doesn’t allow LGBTQ people or people of color sounds a hell of a lot more “elite” to me. Rural America drove me out of my hometown with torches and pitchforks fifteen years ago, and now they’re trying to do it again. But I’m supposed to sit and empathize with them? Rural America has taken too much for me, and I’m just not sure I have any empathy left. We’ve all lost jobs. We all struggle to pay bills. These struggles are not exclusive to Rural America. But Rural America’s joblessness has nothing to do with a trans kid feeling safe and protected. What the hell does accepting swastikas painted on a girl’s locker in Cedarburg, Wisconsin have to do with getting Rural America their jobs back? What the fuck does terrorizing Muslims have to do with the economy?
This is everyone’s America. To succeed doesn’t mean that someone else has to fail. To die.
The one thing that I have realized again about myself since the election, however, is that I am built to fight. I am built to withstand the storm. I am built to rise up and fight for myself and for those who can’t. I will not go back to being the frightened kid, scared to walk down the street. I won’t be the boy who bit his tongue and was too scared to stand up to the bullies who made it their goal to break me or the people who were supposed to protect me and refused. But first, I need to rest and refuel. I have to replenish the energy that’s been drained from me. I have to walk and play the Hamilton soundtrack and attend Pride events and listen to knowledgeable and caring people. I have to plan my wedding and love my fiancé. And then I have to get to work.
A wise woman once told me that, “We’re allowed to take a break. But we’re not allowed to give up.”
And I won’t.