Mary and I stayed up to watch the election. I made a special snack plate for us to enjoy while we watched the first woman become president-elect. As we ate the crackers and salami and olives, disbelief and then fear began to set in. How could this be happening? Is the race really this close? And then, realization that Clinton would not win the election. That the Republicans would control the House, Senate, Presidency and the Supreme Court for years to come.
We turned off the television at 3 am after we learned that Clinton had conceded to Trump.
Stunned. Completely shocked. What is there to say?
When I looked on the internet for a reminder of the last time House, Senate, and Presidency were all held by Republicans, it informed me the last time was from 2001 to 2007. Really, that isn’t so long ago.
To have a clearer picture, though, it is important to remember the mid-90s wave of social conservatism… aka hate in policy form. Particularly for the gays, of which I am one. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 1994. The Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
Really, all through my 20s and into my 30s… basically until Obama was elected president, it was made clear in so many ways, every day, that I didn’t deserve rights. That I was less-than, that I wasn’t part of the “real” America.
In truth, having grown up in a rural California town were the main industries were logging and dairy farming, I really didn’t expect much. When I came out as gay in high school, and the boys who I had gone to preschool, kindergarten, grades 1-12 with yelled “faggot” at me across the high school lawn, I wasn’t surprised. I just thickened my shell. When I went to college in rural Wisconsin, and people yelled “dyke” out of their cars windows as they drove down main street, I just put another layer of protection between me and the rest of the world. But, really, I wasn’t surprised. As someone young and angry, I didn’t expect anything else from the world.
“They” were haters, the whole world was full of haters. The government was full of haters, and they’d take away anything precious I dared to create. They undermined my financial and emotional health by denying me the right to see my partner in the hospital or make medical decisions for them, kept me from the thousands of dollars of tax breaks that should of been my right through marriage, and of course – even in states like California were I lived for years – the amount my employer contributed towards my partner’s health benefit through my job was taxed… taxes which cost me about $2000 a year.
That was normal. That was my old normal.
My new normal, thankfully, is different. I have relaxed. I have mellowed. The world has become safer for people like me. Since coming to Vermont nine years ago, I haven’t been directly verbally harassed. Yes, there are times that it is clear I’m unwelcome like I discussed here Unspoken Hostility, but no real threats of physical violence. For most people, my homosexuality isn’t really worth getting upset over, or really even noticing. My coworkers and others sometimes responded with discomfort as my gender expression left the tenuous boundaries of cis gendered living, but again – no direct words, no direct violence.
Age, changing social perceptions, and the safety of Vermont made my fight reflex decrease, year by year. If someone touches me unexpectedly now, I no longer cock my fist back as I turn, ready to fight. Instead, I’ll just mildly look over my shoulder with a questioning expression, and turn prepared to chat. I’ve grown to understand people – democrats, republicans, libertarians, progressives, undecided – are just people. They are acting in a way they think is in their best interest. They make mistakes. They evolve and learn. We all want to be happy. We all want to be safe. How we get there, whether others have to be pressed down in order to lift ourselves up… that is where we disagree.
~ Short break to watch Hillary’s Concession Speech ~
I appreciate Secretary Clinton more, every time I see her speak. She is a public servant who has spent her life helping other people. That is worthy of respect.
It hurts me, it saddens me that the campaign of “she’s a liar” that was begun by the Republican party when Hillary Clinton dared to weigh in on policy as Arkansas’ First Lady, that was repeated and built upon and pushed and shouted every year after… it actually worked. It fucking actually worked. But I suppose if you push and push and say something enough, people eventually give in and believe it, or at least don’t dispute it. It’s called bulldozing – a facet of bullying.
But let’s talk about the future. The future of 2017, the future of the next four years.
I did a quick check on the possibility of democrats taking back the Senate in 2018 (because they don’t have a chance at the House)… and it doesn’t look good. More than likely, because many Democratic seats are up for grabs in 2018 and only a few Republican seats, Republicans will likely increase their hold of the Senate. Shit, right?
And the Supreme Court. Double shit. Actual threat to Roe v. Wade? Fuck. Let alone queers right to marry.
Unlike in my 20s and early 30s – the last time I had to deal with crazy conservatism in power – I am in a very vulnerable position. I’ve gone from a working, able-bodied, gender-normative-enough woman to a butch woman unable to work, who receives disability.
My income is dependent on Social Security. There are all sorts of ideas out there on the conservative side of things – that Social Security should be privatized, that benefits needs to immediately be cut. As someone who is able to pay my bills and not much more… all I think is – what am I suppose to do with even less money?
I am truly blessed to have my health insurance through my previous employer. If that wasn’t the case, I’d be on “Obamacare” because I don’t qualify for Medicare for at least another year (need to be disabled 2 years before become eligible). The same Obamacare that Trump vows to destroy in his first 100 days.
My right to marry? See my partner in the hospital? Luckily, I live in Vermont, and the state has it’s own right-to-marry and civil union laws. It was neat, though, to know that if I changed states, I’d still have those rights. How long until the right-to-marry is terminated?
And Trump’s dismissal of concussions, wondering out loud how a “bump on the head” can really cause any problems. I understand. I wondered if it really could cause the problems others were saying it could. Until I experienced it myself. And now I know. It can. How will his disbelief impact my benefits? My ability to receive medical care?
With the repeal of Obamacare comes the re-creation of the idea of pre-existing conditions and lifetime limits on medical benefits. So, if I ever lose my health insurance, any future insurance can refuse to cover me for anything that might relate to a head injury. FYI – that’s everything.
All of that said. What am I going to do?
In the past, I just turned off the television, skipped that section of the newspaper, refused to talk about all the stupid shit the U.S. was choosing. I’m a grown up now. I don’t want to go back into a hole, just surviving. I believe I have the right to exist, grow, thrive. I will not back down nor disappear.
But I am so much weaker than I once was. My mental health teeters, honestly, on such a narrow edge.
It does. One thing, two things in a row not going my way and I can easily spiral down into despair. That easily. A function of the reality of a head injury, the limited energy, the limited coping skills.
Before my injury, I would just add another layer of armor, turn up my anger, and go forward. Not talking, not interacting with others about it. Avoiding, still, but I was able to keep a safe space around my spirit where all the horrible things that were happening weren’t impacting me.
I was already stumbling before this election. Two nights ago, I started a romantic interlude with Mary – just a simple 20 or 30 minute thing. After five minutes of kissing and touching, I became deeply physically exhausted and dull-minded. Just like that, my ability, my plans were done. I cried. It is so frustrating not to have the energy to enjoy the simple things life offers.
Yesterday morning, my friend Brie came over and we made some more videos. I was tired, felt off and flat. I didn’t bring the *fun* to the video needed. I felt deflated the rest of the day, so frustrated that I wasn’t able to bring that spark needed to make a good video to share with you all.
I was so down, I decided not to drink during election night. I had been putting off having my last margarita for weeks, just to save it for election night. But last night came, and I knew I was skating on the edge of depression, of a spiral downward… and alcohol is a depressant that effects me in a significant way, so I drank water instead.
And then the election.
How am I suppose to deal with this new darkness? This new heavy cloud of threat and weight and sadness that will cloud my life, and the world’s, for the next four years? How am I suppose to deal with that, when I can’t even manage to have a few frustrating experiences without losing myself, my positive spirit?
I don’t know.
I don’t have a place of power to pivot from, I do not have reserves to rally myself to create positive lasting change. Not really.
But I don’t want to be silent. Quick thinking is no longer a skill I possess, and smooth words were never my thing. I can’t look at the news because the slightest sadness can ruin my whole day. The image of a police officer comforting his horse after it’d been hit by a car is still with me. It’s been months, a year?, and I only saw the image for a second… and tears are filling my eyes as I type this. An injured horse undoes me. How am I suppose to deal with this, something truly difficult and horrible and hard?
I suppose, though, that most people are asking themselves that. How to deal? Because the truth is, the day goes on. Regardless of what atrocities lie in our future, one day follows another. And just as one demagogue comes to power, time also moves that same person out of that seat of power. One day, one hour, one moment at a time.
Here’s a positive quote for you all that I saw on my friend’s fb page.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” -MLK Jr, 1967
A good thought to end on.