Finding Hope for LGBT in Trump’s America

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Yes, we’re actually here…

Like the rest of you, I feel numb, sick, terrified, and angry. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t supposed to be possible. But, we’re here. Donald Trump is going to be president for the next 4 years. What’s more, he gets a Republican majority in Congress and now a vacancy on the Supreme Court to fill. All of this is frightening, and in this moment it’s hard to find anything but darkness ahead.

I’ve spent all day searching for hope. It hasn’t been easy, but I knew there had to be some somewhere. There must be a glimmer of light in all of this that, no matter how small, we can all hold to. As I meditated on it, I was able to find a perspective on all of this that’s, while not ideal, at least not an absolute Armageddon for our LGBT community. What I propose here won’t be easy. It’s going to take a great deal of struggle. But when faced with only one way forward, the only thing to do is suck it up and walk the path.

This is not the first time in my life the Republicans have held all the power. In the 2004 election, George W. Bush won re-election and was given the keys to a shiny new Republican majority in Congress. It was a very similar situation to today, but we’re not in the same America that existed in 2005. There is still racism, still homophobia and transphobia, but public opinion of homosexuality has come a long way. In the wake of such a vile, hateful man being elected to the White House, it’s easy to think that the country has regressed back to the days when homosexuality was majorly despised.

But it hasn’t.

To understand why Trump won, we have to get inside the head of the average Trump voter. Again, it can be very easy to think they all voted for him out of hate for minorities and the queer community, and it’s true that there are pockets of his base that did have such motivations. But they don’t represent most of them. Most of the people who voted for Trump didn’t do it because they hate gay people, or black people, or Hispanics, or Muslims. They did it because they hate Obamacare (which, sorry, will definitely be gone by the end of January; just go ahead and be ready for that because there’s no stopping it). They hated seeing jobs going overseas, they hated seeing small-town America get worse and worse.

Remember, Trump’s largest demographic by far was uneducated voters. These are people who may not fully understand economics, or foreign policy, or anything else that’s more “big picture”. Their concern was that the factory in their town has been closed for years and main street went with it. All Trump had to do was say “I’m going to get your job back from China,” and they were hooked. Can he actually do it? Of course not. But most of them don’t understand that and it’s going to be a sobering wake-up call later down the road. Trump’s supporters didn’t vote against our interests, but rather for their own. And while the end result of apathy is no different that that of hatred, they are not the same motivation and it’s important to keep that in perspective.

I work in a very rural part of North Carolina. Nearly all of my coworkers voted for Trump. The town was littered with Trump signs. People came into my store every day wearing Trump shirts. But here’s the thing about my store: all of my coworkers know I’m a transgender woman married to another woman and none of them have a problem with that. They treat me no differently. We work together, laugh together, and genuinely have a great relationship with each other. We have been in neighboring stalls in the same bathroom without a single problem. If they went into the voting booth to vote for Trump because they hated LGBT people, I wouldn’t be able to work there.

There are dark times ahead. Anti-LGBT legislation is likely on the horizon. An overturning of marriage equality is possible. Laws like HB2 here in North Carolina will likely keep popping up. We are currently powerless to stop the legislative machine ready to destroy us, but even those in Washington are still (at least in part) beholden to public opinion.  They want to keep their jobs, and that means keeping their base happy. This is where we find our way forward. The only way we combat LGBT hate laws is by having public opinion on our side, and that means being visible in the community like never before. Trump’s base needs to know that we’re their neighbors, their coworkers, their teammates, their friends, and even their family. They didn’t vote for our interests because our interests don’t touch them. I know for a fact my coworkers wouldn’t support an overturning of gay marriage, and I still believe that this holds true for most of the country–even those on the right.

So what does this mean we do? What’s the next step? Well, this is where it gets tough. Step one is to forgive the people in your life who voted for Donald Trump. Yes, I know it’s hard. In my panic-fueled anger last night I lashed out at the Trump supporters in my life online and I shouldn’t have done that. Ever since Michelle Obama uttered the phrase, “when they go low, we go high,” I’ve tried to make that my motto to live by. Last night I didn’t do that, and I sent apologies to those I wronged.

I know what I’m asking for here seems incomprehensible. You feel betrayed, ignored, sacrificed, and all of those feelings are valid. But keeping public opinion of the LGBT community on an upward trend is the only hope we have right now. Burning bridges is not the answer. By all means demonstrate. We will hold rallies and protests, but we will not riot in the streets. We explain our fears to those who don’t understand and who voted against us, but we will not last out and cut people from our lives. We cannot lose those bonds, we cannot lose the community we’ve built nationwide.

There is still a lot of hatred out there for gay people and double that for transgender people, but trust me when I say it is far and above better than it was the last time Republicans controlled Washington. If we can keep that upward momentum, if we can manage not to lose the public favor we worked so hard to build, we might just be able to stem the tide of rights erosion before it starts.

So the first thing we need is forgiveness. After that we need visibility. This is true for the gay community but much more for the transgender community. Hate for LGBT comes from misinformation. It comes from pastors preaching about a God who isn’t about love. It comes from legislators looking for bogymen to make us afraid of so they can “save” us from them and keep their jobs. Opinions are formed by exposure to selective information, but they can be altered through personal experience.

Gay people, trans people, you’re going to have to let the world see you. They need to see you at the bank, at the grocery store, at the post office, at the school function. They need to know that they work with you, share your interests, and live next door.They need to see that we’re not freaks, not monsters, not pedophiles. LGBT is about community. It’s about celebrating diversity. We will stand together with our arms linked. We will not back down and we will not go away, but we will also not wall ourselves off. Our hands will remain reached out, even to those who either hate us or don’t understand us.

The depressing notion being shared by many today is that hate has won. That’s not true. Hate didn’t win. Divisiveness won. Misunderstanding won. LGBT activism will be needed now more than ever to make sure we build new bridges while keeping old ones from crumbling. It’s a hard road forward, but it’s the only road left.

“When they go low, we go high.” We have to live that, now more than ever, or everything will truly be lost.

-Faith

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The 4G Show Episode 4: Go Go Bat Nipples

This week things get a bit heated as Faith and Tig accidentally veer into politics while discussing several San Diego Comic Con announcements. Our fearless heroines also discuss the implications of feminine and gay styled villains.

Listen or download here.

Hosts: Faith Naff and Tig Pollum

Like what you hear? Please contribute to our Patreon!

Music: “Every Time You Look Around” by Gavin Dunne: used with permission.

Busting #BernieOrBust

(NOTE: This post is about politics. Don’t think this is going to become a normal thing. It’s just that we’re in a situation where the election is the most LGBT relevant issue at the moment and it’s all that’s on my mind to write about. I promise political posts will be rare from me.)

I’ve always found it interesting that our culture tends to describe advances using the same words. Whenever something better or worse comes along, we always describe it as if it’s the pinnacle of either its greatness or infamy. I’m 32 years old. I’ve grown up seeing the world change quite a bit, but each new advancement was touted as the absolute best possible. Have you seen a commercial for Verizon Wireless and their “blazing fast 4G-LTE network”? So have I, but I also remember commercials for “blazing fast” 3G, and “blazing fast” mobile web.

Now I’m not saying this is a bad or ignorant thing. These were all the apex of what could be achieved at the time, so we liked to use our most descriptive language. What makes me bring up this thought is my example of it going the other way. From 2000 to 2008, America was “led” by President George W. Bush. I’m not going to go into everything he did wrong, but let’s just highlight the endless, costly wars and tanked economy for now.

That was the president for my teenage to young adult years. That was when my eyes were starting to open to the bigger world around me. I got to experience Bush’s effect on America and all the ruin he put us in. Then, just like now, his dissenters took to our “blazing fast” internet to complain about him. One of the things I remember a lot of people doing was comparing Bush to Hitler. Like with the cell phone example, I can’t really begrudge it. I mean, sure, it comes from a place of ignorance on the global scale of history, but in the personal context of what we’d lived through, it was the worst situation we’d ever been in. We all knew Hitler was actually worse, but the Holocaust was that thing we learned about in school that happened a long ass time ago and the world had learned its lesson now. We were sure that in the modern-day, it couldn’t ever get worse than Bush.

Fast forward eight years and now we’re staring down the barrel of a Donald Trump presidency. Trump’s rise has been a wakeup call for my generation that words mean things. We called Bush Hitler as a way of expressing he was the absolute worst. But now we’re faced with a candidate who is frighteningly similar to Hitler on an actual level (blaming minority groups for the downfall of the nation; promising to make the country great again by getting rid of the filth). Our past expressions of anger have robbed the comparison of any real weight.

“Trump is like Hitler!”

“Yea, you said that about Bush, too.”

“No, I really mean it this time!”

“Whatever.”

See the problem? 3G was ‘blazing fast’ once upon a time, but hindsight is 20/20 and the words have lost their impact.

To say the least, this election cycle has been a cluster-fuck of emotional turmoil. The Republicans have seen the rise of a leader I didn’t think was possible without sacrificing a virgin to some dark god and the Democrats have allowed cheating and voter suppression to ensure their primary process was basically a waste of time. I’m a Bernie girl; always was. Sanders was the first candidate basically in my whole life that I 100% believed in. I wanted him to win. I still think he could have won in a 100% fair primary election. But that didnt’ happen.

Still, I said from the beginning that I would back whomever got the Democrat nomination and I still stand by that. Clinton will get my vote. She will get my vote because she’s the best chance I, my family, and my community has. A lot of my fellow Sanders supporters have not done the same. The #BernieOrBust movement has sought to throw a wrench in the system by pledging to vote 3rd party, write Bernie in, or just not vote as a means of boycotting the 2 party system and the illusion of choice.

On the surface, it’s a noble thing. The system is corrupt. Hillary’s win does have a dark shadow cast over it. The idea of taking on City Hall as it were sounds brave and romantic, but in the context of what’s going on it’s dangerous and alarmingly short-sighted.

In trying to understand the Bust crowd, I’ve noticed that a lot of them seem to be in their late teens to early twenties. This puts a very important context to their way of thinking. They are at the age I was during the “Bush is Hitler” years. With that in mind, I want to make my plea to them to change their mind in a way that hopefully puts everything into perspective and doesn’t belittle what they’re trying to achieve.

Here goes…

Dear #BernieOrBust people,

I get it. I wanted Sanders to be president more than anything. I’m a lot older than a lot of you and I’ve never seen a candidate so perfect for the highest office in all my life. I also agree with you that the primary process was a load of shit. In a fair election, Sanders might have won. Hillary’s campaign worked with party leaders to ensure Sanders didn’t win. All of that is valid. Clinton has done some shady things before and isn’t the strongest candidate to go up against Trump. All of that is true. All of that is valid.

Vote for her anyway.

I’m going to wager you’re somewhere in your early 20’s. Let’s ballpark it and say you’re 22. That’s probably a good average age for the Busters. If you’re 22 then you were born in 1994. When Bush was elected you were 6 years old. You were 7 when 9/11 happened. That’s not old enough to really understand what was happening. I was about  your age during Desert Storm (the last time a Bush sent us to fight in the Middle East). I remember not understanding it beyond the fact that we’re fighting a war in the desert. Your understanding of Iraqi Freedom and the War on Terror was likely similar.

When Obama took office you were 14, and as you grew into more mature thinking, you did so under a charismatic, compassionate, and intelligent leader. A lot of your actual world view was likely shaped in this time. You also got to see an explosion of social progress during the time in your life when you were old enough to comprehend it. You’ve seen the wars scaled back or ended. You’ve seen Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense Of Marriage Act sent to the trash where they belong. You witnessed the passing of the Affordable Care Act. You experienced the economy turn around, unemployment fall, and the lives of Americans overall improve.

What’s more, you’ve seen amazing advancements for the LGBT community. The White House was lit up in rainbows, pride was given an official month on the calendar, the Stonewall Inn was named a national landmark, marriage equality came to state after state before finally going nation-wide. Your teen and young adult years have been a flurry of social and economic progress, and you’ve been able to experience it on a ‘blazing fast’ internet that would have blown teenage me’s mind.

Now it’s time to elect a new president and you’re old enough to vote! Even better than that, you got to campaign and vote for Bernie Sanders; an actual socialist! An actual believer in European style social constructs that put healthcare and education in everyone’s reach! He wants to legalize pot and punish those who fucked stuff up to where you’re not able to afford a house or find a decent paying job! Everything is going so well!

And he didn’t win.

Look, I was as crushed as you are. It broke my heart to know I wasn’t going to be able to vote for Sanders in November. Like I said, he’s the best presidential candidate I’ve ever seen! I get the anger, the heartbreak. I share it all. But my generation understands something a little better than yours just because of what we’ve experienced: change comes slowly. When you’ve experienced an explosion of social progression, it’s easy to think it always works that fast. But it doesn’t. Sanders would have been that continued rapid progression like we’ve been seeing and want to continue seeing. Given the context of your worldview, seeing the brakes pumped can feel like a full stop or even a reverse. It’s like being on the interstate for hours going 80 and then having to go 35 once you’re back in the city. It can feel like you came to a dead stop, but you didn’t. You’re still moving, still going forward, and that’s what’s important.

This is what I want you to understand. Clinton does not represent backwards movement. We just might be getting off the interstate for a few miles. Every progressive advancement of the last 8 years she supports. She supports gay marriage, trans military service, Obamacare, raising minimum wage, and a lot of other things. See, what you’re mad about isn’t the issues, it’s the process. You’re mad that the election was rigged (to a degree). You’re mad that things weren’t fair. You’re made that a politician can be dishonest, do shady things, make backdoor deals, and still win. What’s worse, you’re seeing all of this in the age of Wikileaks and Anonymous, which shines a brighter spotlight on those things then has ever been possible before.

In the face of all that, you want to continue fighting the good fight, to stand up for what you believe in. If we elect Clinton, then we’re not moving forward, not progressing! Wrong. We are still progressing, just not as fast as you’ve become accustomed to. See, young adults see the corruption in the Democratic ranks and see a betrayal of the American system, a great injustice that must be stopped before it’s allowed to get away with its wrongdoings.

My generation and those before me see…politics. This is nothing new, it just has more transparency than before. We know elections aren’t always fair, that politicians do messed up shit behind closed doors, make secret deals. That’s normal. What we’re trying to get you to understand is that “buying in” to the process isn’t a betrayal of the American election system, it’s just not a change  we’re going to see this go around. Not voting for Clinton because of these scandals is like winning thousands of dollars in the lottery and refusing it because you didn’t hit the jackpot. Sometimes you don’t get everything you fought for. Sometimes you have to be willing to compromise in order to not lose what you have obtained.

See, in being so angry about the process, you’re failing to notice the progress we have made. Again, it’s not really your fault. You grew up in a different time. You have a mindset of things as the way they are having been the norm forever because they’ve been a part of your forever. You have a president who supports gay marriage, who recognizes the struggles of transgender Americans. That’s awesome, but it wasn’t always the case. You may or may not know this, but Obama first campaigned against gay marriage! Supporting “traditional” marriage was part of his original campaign in 2008, but the LGBT community still overwhelmingly supported him. Why? Why would we vote for a man who didn’t fight for what we wanted? Because he was the best chance of moving forward. He wasn’t with us then, but he was smart enough and compassionate enough to be swayed in the future.

As I said earlier, you probably don’t remember much about the Bush years, but that actually was a time of moving backwards. The housing market collapsed, the stock market crashed, unemployment skyrocketed, war seemed endless, and LGBT advancement halted! Here’s another thing you might not know: under Bush we came frighteningly close to a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. If that had passed, it wouldn’t be legal anywhere today because amendments are nearly impossible to get rid of. That was terrifying! Obama didn’t support gay marriage, but he didn’t support an amendment banning it forever, and that’s why we voted for him. He was slow progression, not going backwards. We weren’t getting everything we wanted up front, but the assurance of moving forward was there.

Fast forward to today. The Democrats have adopted the most pro LGBT platform in our nation’s history. It supports marriage equality, ending conversion therapy, and even transgender rights. Fuck, they let a transgender woman speak at the convention! That would  not have happened in 2008! The Democrats have never been as safe a bet for continuing to move forward as they are now, but the #BernieOrBust crowd could throw all of that away because 99% isn’t as good as 100%

And keep in mind that those things we’re mad about aren’t exactly being forgiven. The corruption has been uncovered. Wasserman-Schultz had to step down to a chorus of boos. Backdoor deals and shady politics may have won again, but they didn’t make it out without injury and the stage is set to fight them even harder next time. What’s more, Bernie’s popularity and rise is a big reason why the Democrat platform is as progressive this time as it is. Clinton has taken up a lot of the things Bernie was fighting for. Sanders always said it was about us and not him, and it’s more important that his ideas and passion make it to the Oval Office than him.

Busters, I implore you, don’t throw this away out of spite. Stein and Johnson are not good alternatives to vote for even if they did have chance in Hell of winning. We are on the verge of electing a man who will not only halt progression, he’ll put us back on the interstate going back the other way, back farther than you or I are old enough to remember! One thing we have in common is we’ve both always been live in a world where abortion couldn’t be banned. Trump could easily form a Supreme Court that overturns Roe V Wade and sees that undone (and he’s said he plans to). This is a man who seeks to end marriage equality, deport immigrants, demonize Muslims, it’s scary stuff. In the face of that, when we’re walking on the edge of such a disastrous future, can you please be willing to accept slow but continued  progression? Can that please be good enough for you?

I hope so, because my future depends on it…

-Faith

Getting Political But Not Really

The internet is a fun place to debate stuff. It may be the land of cat videos, like-farming swindles, and “Ten Things You Won’t Believe Look Like X”. But it can also be a place of sharing ideas, gaining momentum for a cause, or changing your friend’s political stances on important issues.

Just kidding. Can you imagine?

Yes, occasionally you do find things online that actually matter (we really hope this site turns out to be one of them for you). The internet is the place where movements start. News spreads online faster than the newspaper industry of only a few decades ago could have dreamed. Yet, sadly, with such a powerful tool for informing and mobilizing at our disposal, many people are actively trying to remain ignorant and/or apathetic when it comes to the world around them.

As much as I hate to say it, geek culture is about one of the worst for this trend of trying to keep themselves in a current-events free bubble. We’ve all seen it. We’ve all read a comment or twenty on YouTube groaning about people inserting politics into their games, music, movies, podcasts, let’s play videos, unboxings, and kids reacting to stuff us old people use to use every day. Now, there can be some merit to that. Not every piece of media is its creator’s equivalent of Atlas Shrugged or Bioshock Infinite, and sometimes you just wanna take a break from the stuff that makes you think so you can chill out and kill zombies. I get that. I respect that. Hell, I do that. I love my thought-provoking experiences that entertain me as well as expand my mind, but I also love re watching Futurama episodes for the millionth time while I catch up with Twitter.

The problem I see is two-fold. Firstly, a lot of nerd culture seems to want to remove all political or social influence from media so it can all just be one big lump of thought-free fun. To them, thinking is never allowed during play time. Secondly, these people seem to have adapted a definition of “political stuff” that is way too broad. Those of you know know me well know that I proudly wear the title of Social Justice Warrior (SJW), but I pretty much do that as a laugh. The term was dreamed up to describe anyone who has the audacity to raise their hand and respectfully request that maybe the media that’s consumed by an extremely diverse public maybe be more representative of that public; or perhaps the venues that bring us that media consider a broader spectrum of people. That’s not “inserting politics” into media. That’s just customer feedback.

Big difference.

Anyway, what set me off on this whole think-piece was a comment I heard talking about one of my favorite events of the year: Con Carolinas.  Those of you who know me know I love this event. Hell, it’s likely where you know me from. I look forward to this con all year. It’s fun, it’s well run, and it’s the one time a year where me and all my wacky author friends get to hang out in a hallway all weekend. This year was an interesting one since, this being a North Carolina convention, it was the first time the show was held while HB2 was law. For those who don’t know, HB2 is a piece of dog-shit legislation enacted by the North Carolina general assembly and signed by Governor Pat Douche-nozzle McCrory that basically makes it illegal for transgender people like me to use the bathroom that matches our gender identities in a public building.

Now, the hotel where the con was held obviously isn’t a public building, but a lot of people in this state don’t fully understand the law, business owners included. I’ve met more than one business owner who thought HB2 required them to police their own bathrooms, which is not the case. The point is, with so much uncertainty, transgender guests and attendees (including myself) were contacting the con chair asking what Con Carolinas and the hotel’s policy was on enforcing HB2. It may seem like a no big deal thing to some, but when you’re transgender it can completely shake your entire reality. For example, I mentioned in my request for information that I would be canceling my appearance there if they were either entity to state that bathroom use would be policed–noting that I didn’t want to have to go all the way up to my hotel room each time I needed to pee.

Con Carolinas responded, stating neither they nor the hotel would be policing bathroom use. But they also reiterated that theirs was not a political organization and that they weren’t going to get involved in politics. Fair enough. I’m not looking to turn Con Carolinas into an official rally against HB2; I just wanna know if I can piss. The con chair wanted to be able to mark the bathrooms in such a way that conveyed the policy but also keep things geeky and fun.

Cleverly, the Prince symbol was placed on all the bathroom doors. It was a stroke of sly genius. It conveyed the message without having to make some kind of bold statement; it was topical since Prince had only just passed away; and, well, it was fun. Problem solved, right? Apparently not. While con went well and we all had a lot of fun. Someone complained to the con chair that the action was “shoving a political POV down their throat”.

Um…no?

This is what I mean about the notion of “political stuff” being to broadly defined. That wasn’t a political statement. There weren’t signs posted saying “DOWN WITH HB2” or “PAT MCCRORY THINKS HAN DIDN’T SHOOT FIRST”. There wasn’t anything political about it. It subtly conveyed a message to the public about con and hotel policy while keeping it fun and nerdy. Aside from actually making it political (because I love to do stuff like that) I can’t think of a better way to handle the situation.

At the beginning of the post I made two points about the idea of “putting political stuff” into nerd culture. Well, those two points coincide with each other. Like a yin-yang, they exist in a perfect circle of ignorance where one always leads to the other. See, the reason people don’t want to think about political stuff is because it breaks the bubble their mind lives in. And, I’m sorry to say it, but the vast majority of people you see complaining about this are white, cis-gendered men: people who face the least number of social boundaries. Thinking about political stuff means thinking about their own privilege, about how other people around them are probably having to work harder to have as much fun as they are because they’re facing obstacles they can’t imagine. It’s because of this aversion to enlightened thinking that the second point comes up. It’s not just the blatantly political stuff that makes them face these truths, but also anything that subtly reminds them of them. This is why a wacky sign that communicates a basic message is “political stuff”. This is why recasting a white character with a black actor is “political stuff”. This is why a video game protagonist just being a woman is “political stuff”.

It’s not political; it’s outside of your version of normal. You don’t want to play as a girl in your video games even though girls have been playing as male protagonists since Mario. You don’t want to see a cast of characters that doesn’t resemble your middle class suburban cul-de-sac, even though black, Latino, Asian, and Native people have been consuming the same media as you for years. And, I’m sorry you don’t like to be reminded that going to the goddamn bathroom can be a terrifying ordeal for transgender people, but I’ve been threatened with murder on multiple occasions just for needing to pee and a clear indication that I can be safe somewhere is worth more than gold to me.

You don’t hate political stuff; you hate facing your privilege. You hate the knowledge that you have it better than other people just because you are who you are. Most of all, you hate that facing these truths reminds you that you have a responsibility to do something about it. But you won’t, and we all know you won’t. If you were willing to make nerd culture inclusive you wouldn’t be so afraid of it when it when the subject pops up. If you were willing to share your toys you would have done it already without having to be asked. You won’t do any of that, and you don’t want to be reminded of it. So you go back to your yearly installment of Call of Duty and ask us all to just leave you alone.

And, for some reason, some of us keep giving you that privilege too.

-Faith