Like most people in America, I’ve got a whole lot of thoughts following the recent election. I’ll spare you all the storm of stories freely circulating on Twitter, on Facebook, on everywhere I look online recently. I’m not here to be angry or burn the motherfucker down, even though that’s a part of what I’m feeling. More than anything, though, I’m feeling sad. Tears have welled up in my eyes more times this week than I even know how to count. I’m hurting and this is where I come to relieve the pressure churning under my passive demeanor.
Our country has elected a president who has repeatedly stated that Mexicans are criminals. That black people are lazy. That Muslims are terrorists. We have elected a vice president who believes that my gender identity is something to be cured with violent “conversion therapy” that pushes people to the point of caving in to the pressure and becoming something other than what they are. We have elected men who empower the racists, the xenophobes, the white supremacist disease festering in the so-called heart of America. We have elected hate.
I’ve spent a lot of time this week locked in a sort of mental shutdown. I go through the motions of daily life. I shower, I work, I eat. I tend to the needs of my children and my wife as best I’m able. It’s harder than it used to be. I don’t even have a good explanation as to why. Under the veneer of continuing life as it has been and will be, there’s a dull ache in my chest and a throbbing in my mind. I watch a flood of fear and pain wash over my social media, and I watch backlash against it play out; it’s like watching a movie, but the actors are my friends and the villains slink behind a white-toothed grin that asks for unity while prying the country into pieces.
At the same time, I’m starkly faced with my own decisive privilege. I’m white. While I’m a trans woman, I still seem the same as any other cis male on the outside. I don’t bear the markers of the oppressed. I don’t feel the lash of hatred when I walk the streets. To those who don’t know me, and many of those who do, I’m still just some 30-something white guy whose allegiance in the divided state of our country is largely unknown. It sounds stupid, probably, but I hate that; I hate that I, for my declarations of thick skin, can’t bear the burden more. I hate that bigots, homophobes, and transphobes don’t see who I am. I want to grab them by the shoulders and scream it into their faces, to grab their attention and draw it away from the more apparent recipients among us. I want to be a lightning rod to draw the hate from people whose “otherness” is more plainly visible.
Before the election played out the way it did, I started doing small things to feel more feminine. Invisible things like shaving the legs I keep hidden behind full-length pants, using scented lotions. These are tiny insurrections of myself; small steps that are only for me, and keep my true self just as hidden as it would be without them. Lately, I’ve been thinking about doing more, but I’m still struggling to imagine what to do, who to be without crossing a line that’s going to get my family hurt. That’s a stronger concern than it ever was before; normalized hate stalks the sidewalks and alleys, and I’m terrified of bringing that down upon my children in some vain attempt to force the world to know who I am.
More than anything, though, I’m struggling because I want to help. I want to reach out and comfort my brothers and sisters who are literally bleeding; I want to stand up to the rejection of our humanity. I want to tear down hate and replace it with something brighter. I want to shout from mountaintops that our nation needs diversity. I want to break the hold that racism and hatred are taking in our schools, in our cities, in our communities. I want to be a force for positive change and I don’t know how to do it. I want to show people that the sun will rise, but I’m struggling to see the light on the horizon myself. I want to tell every single marginalized person that they matter. That their existence isn’t just valid, but it is important. I want to do so many things that I don’t even know what they are or where to look to begin.
So I do the same thing I’ve always done when my own thoughts elude me. I write. I put form to them and try to find the string that will show me a path to travel, even when I know in some capacity that there is no path. There’s no trodden ground to follow, there’s no signpost to point me on my way. There are only these words, these thoughts, these struggles amplified in my own selfish introspection. As we prepare for the coming changing of our government, I sit and wallow in thoughts about how much I’d like to do, with no idea how to do it because I’ve spent my entire life staying separate from our entire process. I can say, now, that I’ve voted in a presidential election; this was my first, though I’ve voted on state and local matters in the past, though not as often as I likely should have.
And now, faced with the horror that the people I’ve called myself an ally to saw coming and sounded the alarms for, I find that I’m crushed by the weight of my own inaction. I’ve been stupid, I’ve been lazy, and I’ve failed to be the person I project. I haven’t lived the values I speak. I’m a shitty ally, and I’m incredibly sorry that it’s taken this drastic an event for me to even notice how bad it’s become. Sure, I’ve signal-boosted. I’ve told friends and coworkers that sexist comments, racist comments, homophobic comments have no place in our society. It has been, quite literally, the least that I could do and now that I want to do more, it’s too late to right the wrongs I’ve done. So I do the same thing I’ve always done; I write. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. It’s not enough.
I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. I don’t know how to be the person I want to be and I don’t want to ask for help, not because I’m proud, but because I’m privileged. I don’t want to ask for help because I want to be the one helping, and I’ve been so inert in my own existence and so wrapped up in my own affairs that I’ve already failed the people who needed me. I don’t know how to help, and I don’t know how to address the glaring mistakes of my past. I guess all I can do is try to move forward and listen more closely when the warnings sound around me. I have to be better, because if I can’t do that then I don’t deserve to say a damn thing anymore. I have to be better because I have to hope that the world will be better, or I will drown.
To all the people I’ve failed: I’m sorry. I know it’s too late to say it, and I don’t expect you to accept my apology. That’s on me, and it never will be on anyone else. I hope that I can help. I promise to try.