I wrote this piece in response to the 2016 election. At the time I had yet to come out as genderqueer femme. I came out as genderqueer femme in December 2019. You can read about that journey here.
I think it’s safe to say that I’m angry a lot these days.
It takes a lot of energy to be this pissed off and I don’t have a lot of gumption to spare. My resources are allocated to loving my spouse and my dog, supporting my friends and family, advocating for social change, fighting Lupus, finishing the book I’m writing, and blogging about it all.
Still, I find ways to let anger get the best of me. Last night I had one of those panicky rage storms that left me shouting at the television and wishing whole swaths of the population contracted swine flu. Seriously, it’s not like they’re even helpful venting sessions anymore. I just feel horrible for a bit and then less horrible after I manage to distract myself with something shiny.
Yesterday it was all about the GOP health care bill. I was freaking out because if this bill passes, then my family is monumentally screwed. So yeah, rage. But instead of being focused on Senators and lobbyists, it was centered on the family members I know of, who voted for Trump and consistently vote Republican.
I used to be able to say that they were otherwise good people. They came to Jamie and I’s wedding 10 years ago. They tell us they love us. I used to see our political differences as something that we could overcome and that if we made space to show them what the world was like outside of their comfort zone, their compassion would win out over their fear.
I mean, they meant well, didn’t they? There’s a fancy phrase us therapists use, benevolent intent. It means that even though someone does something shitty (actively fighting against a woman’s right to have agency over her own body), it’s important to look at their intent, not their actions. They might be doing this shitty thing because they wanted something good to happen (to protect children).
I thought if I focused on that benevolent intent, protecting children, we could begin to discuss how access to women’s health care and safe, legal abortions are doing more to keep kids safe than abstinence education and closing women’s health care clinics. I wanted to believe that was the case in relation to marriage equality, LGBTQIA+ civil rights, POC’s civil rights, gun control issues, and first amendment freedoms. You name it, I thought if we spend time together, and they love me, how can they not eventually find compassion for what makes me the person they say they love?
I’m amazed I got to 46, had the life experiences I’ve had, and still managed to be that hopeful and optimistic.
Then November 8, 2016 happened.
Now, I just feel betrayed.
To my extended family’s credit, I didn’t articulate any of this before the election, I didn’t think I needed to. I thought knowing me was enough, but it’s not. So, I’m going to lay it out there. Even if they don’t get it, even if I’m wrong, at least they’ll know why I get that weird, screwed up look on my face and stutter when they say they love me. Maybe, they’ll start to understand why it’s so hard for me to say it back:
Dear Members of My Family and Friends that Voted for Donald Trump & the Republican Platform in 2016:
Did you know that your vote hurt me?
If the shoe was on the other foot, and Hillary Clinton had won last November, I’m sure there would be things happening in the world now that might have made you uncomfortable, but there wouldn’t be anything actively hurting you, would there? Your life on November 9, 2016 wouldn’t have looked remarkably different from your life on November 7, 2016, would it?
I know you’d still be scared that abortions were killing babies and that your marriage was somehow diminished because LGBTQIA+ folks you’ve never met and never will, were able to get married. I know you’d feel like your faith was under attack because transgender kids want to pee in a bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. But I’m willing to bet transgender folks were peeing in bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity without incident before you even knew what transgender meant, and you still have your faith, don’t you? Aren’t we all diminished if a little girl, who you will never meet, born with primary biological male sex traits, commits suicide because she was forced to undergo conversion treatment that caused her irreparable psychological and emotional damage? I know you don’t want to see a child suffer, so why did you vote in a way that brought so many LGBTQIA+ kids one step closer to harm?
Sure, you don’t know these people, but can you at least concede that their freedom and happiness doesn’t threaten yours?
Yet you made a choice on November 8, 2016 and here we are.
Well, your choice hurt me. I wanted you to know that there is at least one person that you do know who will suffer because of your vote. Jamie and I are scrambling to understand what is going to happen to us if this health care bill passes. It threatens our access to doctors, life-sustaining medicine, and Jamie’s job. We stand to lose everything. Will you support us if Jamie gets laid off? Will you help us pay for health insurance that covers his heart medication and the treatment for Lupus that I need, that costs $35,000 a year?
I gave you the benefit of the doubt because I trusted that you were a person who wouldn’t actively harm other people. Now when I look at you, all I see is another person who discounts the lives of those who are different from them, because they are ignorant or afraid of a world where their hegemony is threatened.
I am one of those “different” people that you devalue; I feel like you have never seen me, and that any affection between us was a lie. If you were just another person on the street who called me a “dyke” or a “hippie bitch” or a “Slut”, or a “liberal piece of shit,” I’d be able to write you off. I do have pretty thick skin, you know. You’re aware of the work I love to do and you know that I can roll with the punches.
But I trusted you to not be one of those people.
So, If you want to remain part of my life, cool, but we’ve got some repair work to do, because your actions hurt me, my husband, and the people I love, including you.
I am a pansexual cis-woman. You’ve known me for over a decade. You said you loved me, but your vote for the Republican platform told me that you honestly believe that some of the most important and formative relationships that I’ve had are at the best in your estimation wrong-headed and illegitimate and at the worst depraved;
I am a rape survivor and your vote for Donald Trump said that you don’t care about anyone’s safety, about my safety. You said with your vote that it’s acceptable to sexually assault someone if you are rich enough or famous enough to get away with it. How do I trust you after a statement like that?
I have a chronic illness. You said you’ve prayed for me. You’ve given Jamie and I emotional, material, and financial support, but now you are actively fighting for a bill that will, most likely, limit the time I have left with you and the people I love.
I am living with your political choices in a way that you have never had to live with mine.
Help me to understand what I am supposed to do with that?