Before Tuesday, November 8th, being a lesbian was just one piece of who I was. At any given moment, if someone stopped me and asked me to define who I was, I might have started by saying that I am a teacher. I might have started by saying that I am a mom. I might have started by saying that I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer, a reader or someone who is cranky when I do not get enough sleep.
But the world changed for me on Tuesday, November 8th. Or more accurately, it began to change on Wednesday, November 9th.
In the early hours of Wednesday, I started to feel differently about who I am. I felt like suddenly, I was being defined by just one thing. Suddenly, the fact that I am a lesbian started to feel like it was defining who I was. I had never felt my gayness, my other-ness, so acutely. As I set off into the world on Wednesday, the fact that I was not a part of the majority felt shockingly and glaringly obvious. Maybe not to others, but to me.
To me, I felt like I was a target. To me, I felt like I was unsafe. To me, I felt like I was under attack.
Discovering (or maybe knowing all along, but finally seeing it out in the open) that half of the country is okay electing a man who ran on a platform of hate, is okay with electing a vice president who created one of the most anti-LGBT sets of laws for his state, is okay with wanting change so badly that they do not care about the millions of people who will put at risk when this change is put into affect, discovering all of that has a way of making those of us who are at risk feel unsafe.
For those of you who have not talked to a gay person since Wednesday morning or to those of you who have not, yourself, felt like a victim or a target, or to those of you who know and love people who are gay but have been struggling to understand what it might feel like, let me tell you a little bit of what I have been thinking about and feeling since Wednesday.
On Wednesday, I drove to home after work. I drove to my house. The house we have lived in and loved in for the past six years. The house that is located in a very diverse neighborhood and is surrounded by lovely neighbors who have never been anything other than neighborly. I parked in front of my house before I walked over to pick my daughter up from her school around the corner. As I pulled up to my house, as I parked, I looked carefully for signs of anti-gay graffiti. I had spent much of my ride home worried that I would find some kind of awful words left for us on our home. I had made a plan in my head already about how I was going to remove any hateful messages before my three-year-old daughter had a chance to see them. Every single time I have pulled up to my house since then, I have checked the house for vandalism.
On Wednesday, we heard from friends who were scrambling to find an affordable lawyer in order to complete a second-parent adoption for children that had always belonged to both of the moms in the family but had only been physically born to one of them. Feeling uncertain about how our rights might change, those of us in the LGBT community are feeling the need to take legal protections to ensure that our families are not ripped apart. That our families are protected.
On Thursday, we heard that those who are trans are also scrambling, trying to find the fastest way to complete paperwork that would allow them to change the gender on official documents before this is no longer an option.
On Friday, I began to worry that the way we felt this past spring as we drove across the sate of North Carolina (a feeling that I describe HERE) was soon going to be the way that we felt in our own state and in every state across the country. On Friday afternoon, my wife and I honestly had a discussion about what we would do if we were ever with our daughter and we were refused service because of the fact that we are gay. This is something we are planning for.
This morning, my wife sat at the end of our bed in tears because she was sharing about how scared she is to even walk into the women’s bathroom anymore. My wife, who fits more physical appearance stereotypes of a gay woman, had to tell me that she was afraid to take our daughter into the bathroom by herself in public right now. After reading stories of those who have faced anti-LGBT harassment in the days since the election, this fear felt more real than ever.
And on all of the days since the election, I have been too afraid to share these thoughts and truths with most of the people who love me because I know that their instinct will be to reassure me. To tell me everything is going to be okay. To tell me that our neighborhood is safe, to tell me that we are safe, to tell me that no one can change the status of our family.
But those reassurances, they have a way of making me feel worse.
To reassure me feels like a dismissal of my fears that feel very, very real to me. Because the truth is that the world has changed. Hate has just won. Those who hate feel as if they were just granted permission to allow that hate to spew into the world unchecked. We see it in the rise of hate-fueled attacks. The world feels different to those of us who are an “other” and the difference feels so scary. That fear is real.
So while none of my neighbors might harbor any hatred for me and for my family, I do not know what this new atmosphere of hate is going to bring our way. So when I pull up to my house and I look for signs of graffiti, I am not overreacting. I am reacting to the reality that we are now living in. At least that is how it feels to me. And when people tell me not to worry, it just does not help. I am worried. I have reason to worry. I do not need you to rush me out of my worry because it is uncomfortable for you or because you do not understand it.
Our rights, they are so fragile, they still feel so new. We made so much progress, so quickly, that we all still remember what it feels like to have fewer rights, to legally not be protected in the ways that other people are. We remember that feeling and we remember that fear. We remember that lack of equality. It is all too fresh, too raw, too scary to think about going back to living that way. And yet, here we are.
So to have people reassure me that I have nothing to worry about, that just doesn’t help. Often, these are the same people who tried to reassure me that Donald Trump would never get elected in the first place.
When people send me articles, written by lawyers, that tell me that I do not need to worry about the Supreme Court reversing the marriage equality act, I do not feel reassured. Just weeks ago, I was reading articles that people sent me, written by experts, that told me that I did not need to worry about Trump and Pence actually winning the presidential election. So excuse me if I do not feel comforted by experts. Everything that has happened in the last few days has made me feel as if I can never be too certain of my safety. Of my equality.
So what DO I want? If I am not looking for reassurance, if I am not looking to be told I have nothing to worry about, if I am not looking to be told we are going to be okay, what, then, am I looking for? Here is what brings me comfort:
When those I love reach out to me and ask me how I am doing. That brings me comfort.
When I am too far into my own fear and anxiety to reach back, knowing that people are thinking of me and will continue reaching out, that brings me comfort.
When people ask how I am doing and are willing to sit and listen to the truth of my answer, no matter how much discomfort it might bring, that brings me comfort.
When people hear my fears and acknowledge that there is cause for fear, that brings me comfort.
When people tell me that they know my rights are under attack and they tell me that they are going to be there to help me fight for them, that brings me comfort.
When people tell me that if and when someone comes towards my family with hate, they will be there to stand next to me and stand up with me, that brings me comfort.
When people do more than tell me they will stand with me in the face of hate, but instead look to their own families and their own classrooms and find ways to raise children with less hate in their hearts, that brings me comfort.
Walking into a home or a classroom and seeing books that have LGBT characters and LGBT families, that brings me comfort.
Hearing parents and teachers using the words gay and lesbian and transgender so that those words become more normal than words of hate, that brings me comfort.
Instead of hearing people ask me, “What can we do?” having people tell me, “Here’s what I have done because of what you have shared with me,” that brings me comfort.
And more than anything, being a part of the fight to help protect all of those who are at-risk and fearful right now, that brings me an immense amount of comfort.
Because there are so many people right now who are feeling what I am feeling, or much, much worse. And being able to listen to their stories, to acknowledge their fears, to lean in to the discomfort that their reality brings us all, that is one of the most powerful things that any of us can do.
And right now, I am not quite ready to fight. I will be. But right now, my fear, my anxiety, and my depression are winning out. They won’t win forever. But for now, they are. So I am relying on the rest of you for a little bit. I will be back out there fighting for what is right, but right now I need to be here, curled up in my hole for just a while longer.
I need to feel this grief now because, ultimately, it is what will motivate me to fight like hell to make this world better. I cannot be rushed through this sadness now, because later it is what will propel me to do the hard work within myself, within my classroom and within my own family. I need to feel the full weight of this injustice now because in a few more days it is what is going to spur me into further action.
Because as scared as I feel right now, I know that there are so many young LGBT people living in this country that are feeling all of this and much, much more. And if we do not start soon to make this world better for them and for everyone else who is feeling vulnerable right now, we are going to be in danger of losing so many beautiful and important lives.
And for them. For all of those people out there who are in their own holes of despair, we all have a lot of work to do. So for now, we can wear our safety pins, we can write our words of outrage, but soon we must pull ourselves out of our stupor and start taking actions to dramatically change the way this country thinks. Because that is where the real work will begin.