Following the US election on Nov 8, 2016, we asked Dowsers contributors to discuss the moods and music the results inspired. We collected their responses in a series, After the Election.
New York, June, 1969. After decades of harassment, brutalization, and homophobia at the hands of the NYPD, a group of queer folks who frequented the now infamous Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village spontaneously decided to fight back, meeting violence with violence. The Stonewall Riots, as they became known, lasted mere days but changed the course of history, carving out, as they did, a legitimized space in the American civil rights movement for the queer community.
And, at least in the Western world, we’ve been on a fairly positive track since. Always moving forward (even it it’s at a snail’s pace), garnering small but significant legal victories along the way. Even though America is a bewilderingly divided place, where states that practice extreme prejudice (North Carolina, I’m looking at you) butt up against liberal sanctuaries, the overwhelming ideology regarding LGBTQ rights has been one of momentum and progress.
And then Trump was somehow elected president (lower-case by design), and along with his implicit approval of hate-speech and bigotry came the likelihood of an army of cronies who would turn this bigotry into policy and law. There’s already been a sharp increase in incidents of hate speech and violence since election day, and who knows how far that will go once the imposter officially takes office.
I woke up on November 9 in absolute despair. As a queer woman, married to a queer, transgender, immigrant man, I felt the results of this election through every fiber of my body. As did every equality-seeking woman in the world; as did every person of color; every immigrant; every LGBTQ person. These results surely meant the undoing of decades of progress, a halting in our forward-moving momentum. And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m white, university-educated, and just about considered economically middle-class (we own a house, we have two cars). My husband is also white, having emigrated from London, England. He has a green card, and he’s married to me, a US citizen, so I guess he’s one of the “good” kinds of immigrants. And sure, he’s transgender, but he’s also bald with a huge beard and a deep voice, so unless anyone has cause to root around in his pants, no one would ever guess that he wasn’t born a dude.
Because of this, we’re afforded a veil of invisibility, and I’m ashamed to say that in the past fortnight, I’ve been so grateful for it. When we lived in London, I fought with every part of my being to make myself visible and vocal, as a queer woman. I encouraged my husband to do the same. We lived in a liberal bubble, and notions of personal safety rarely crossed our minds. There’s so much power in visibility, so much grace, so much pride. And yet, now living in rural America (OK, upstate NY is hardly the boondocks: we live in a decidedly gay enclave in a very liberal neighborhood. But we have Trump-supporting, gun-toting neighbors, and that is more terrifying than I even know how to articulate), I’ve suddenly felt the need to hide.
And then Transgender Day of Remembrance rolled around. The beloved and I took ourselves along to a local candlelit service, and listened to the list of names, a heartbreaking tradition where the seemingly unending names of our trans brothers and sisters who have been brutally murdered this year are read aloud. In that room filled with untold amounts of love and support, of tears and sadness and joy and solidarity, the universe shifted slightly, and I quietly found my strength again.
America didn’t vote for hate: In fact, overwhelmingly, America voted for progress. If it were just a numbers game, Hillary would have trounced Trump. But antiquated electoral systems will do what antiquated electoral systems do best: reward the people who’ve figured out how best to manipulate them. And just because some old white dude managed to shout, insult, and bully his way into office, doesn’t mean we owe him or his politics of hate anything.
So, every day, I’m going to put this playlist on, and I’m going to remind myself why I’m so proud to be part of the LGBTQ legacy. Because this mix is a celebration; of pride, of authenticity, of political integrity; of activism; of queerness; of frailty; of fallibility; of the innate nature of humanity. I’m going to dance, laugh, cry, and shout, and then I’m going to put as much love as I can muster out into the universe. I’m going to reach my arms out to every person who doesn’t have as much privilege and safety as I do, and do everything I can to take care of my people.
Because that’s we do in the face of hate: We love. And in that, we stay true to who we are, and we change the world, one step at a time.