I have said before that vulnerability is a sign of strength. Through my sneezy haze this morning after a fitfull night unable to breathe, I asked the twitterverse for everyone's favorite allergy tips.* Tonight's trip to the coffee shop for the third cup of the day (so tired and woozy from congestion and meds) confirmed that I am not the only sneezy, sniffly mess in Brooklyn.
Last night I was at Trader Joe’s and the cashier asked me how my day was going. I have a standing principal of authenticity and I don’t say “fine” unless it’s true. I try to give an honest answer. So I answered, “As a Gay American I’m really struggling in the wake of the calamitous election results.” He was not prepared for my answer and I watched him having a lot of Feelings as he rang up my groceries. I didn’t realize that my honest answer might be triggering to him, but sometimes I think cisgender White men need to be reminded of inconvenient truths.
And the inconvenient truth is, even as a Gay American, I’m a person with a lot of privilege, specifically White Privilege. I know the results are even more terrifying for people of color. I’m struggling in the unknowable future of a Drumpf* presidency. I don’t know what comes next for Muslim-Americans, undocumented people, people of color, gender non-conforming people, trans people, women, people of size, disabled people, any people dependent on Obamacare, and all of the other bodies of Americans that man metaphorically stood on top of or discarded while he used hatred to galvanize support.
I am remembering the legacy of resistance I come from. Before every event and performance I produce I do a circle prayer/offering of good intentions where I honor our queer ancestors. (If you’re curious what that looks like skip ahead to minute 9 of this video.) I don’t take for granted my ability to be a fat queer flamboyant femme, I know that just thirty years ago I wouldn’t have this access to express my authentic self. The ease I have being a weirdo in this world is because of the blood, sweat, and resistance of those people that came before.
It looks like it might get harder to be a weirdo for awhile. And at least I know that we have communities and we can create some really beautiful shit. And grass roots works a lot faster than government, the glacial pace of regression under Drumpf won’t be able to move as fast as we will. We can support each other and we can continue to make change.
From my friend Amber Hikes: “I, for one, am not done fighting. There’s not one aspect of my identity (Black, Woman and Queer) that gives up and goes quietly into the night. We ain’t going out like that. Game on.”
I’ve been working with the spiritual principal “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional,” and thinking through the ways I allow suffering into my life. I know that the pain from this election is real but I do not want to suffer. However, it’s super important to acknowledge our Feelings and process them, otherwise we end up just feeling them later—and paying interest.
Here are some strategies I’m using now to cope with all of the anger, grief, guilt, sadness, rage, and shock. I offer them to you as ideas. Take what you like and leave the rest.
Belief in my friends who are changing the world.
Giving me the most hope right now are my friends. When I start to spiral out into the what-ifs and the horror of 50 million people voting for someone who stands for so much hate, I can picture a friend and think about the ways they work to change the world.
I have surrounded myself with people who have big hearts and are bad asses, who see problems and dive in. These are people who work at non-profits or people who have corporate jobs and big volunteer lives. Who are artists who use their art to amplify anti-racism, experiences of marginalized people, who change people’s hearts and minds through self-expression. People with financial privilege that have a strong ethic of giving back and empowering people who don’t have the same privileges.
Especially people who are just everyday folks who speak up at the work lunch table or wherever to interrupt food shaming, racism, or “locker-room talk.” Frankly, I think that’s the most effective form of activism, one to one relationship-based conversations that help people have more compassion.**
It’s horrific to think about all the people who voted for hate (even if they couched it in different reasoning to make themselves feel better, a vote for Drumpf was a vote for White supremacy), but I believe so strongly in the people I know doing good it helps me have the faith to move forward.
My friend H. Alan Scott writes, “The Talmud says, ‘When the castle goes to ruin, castle is still its name; when the dunghill rises, still it is a dunghill.’ Drumpf is temporary, but if we focus, as a community, we’ll make the castle rise again.”
Have Faith Not Fear.
Earlier this year two people I knew had second bouts with cancer. This flipped me out because my partner is a cancer survivor. I started thinking about strategies to move forward without being afraid she’ll get cancer again. I could be worried and fearful 100% of the time if I let myself go into that thought spiral. I had the aha moment that I needed to remember to replace that fear with faith.
I have so much fear about the future of our country but I am choosing instead to have faith. Not faith in outcomes but faith moreso that we are going to work. I hope that people are galvanized enough to keep doing the work, keep having the uncomfortable conversations with people, keep standing in support. (Hey White folks who want to be in solidarity, here’s a great article about how to have those uncomfortable conversations with other White people. Here’s a great cartoon about how to interrupt Islamophobia.)
Remembering times we had a dip in social progress and we came back.
When Prop 8 passed in CA and it outlawed gay marriage, everyone was so mad! There were protests in solidarity all over the country! But the thing I couldn’t forget in that time (2008) was that when I was in college there was a similar referendum on the ballot (Prop 22 in March of 2000) that passed with a 10% greater margin. I was sad that gay marriage was still outlawed in CA but at the same time also impressed at how much the margin had changed. Prop 8 passed by only a sliver.
I genuinely believe social progress is the way forward and that our social justice work is working. I think the Drumpf election is a setback and a wake-up call to apathy and White complacency. If you feel you didn’t do enough work on this election, you can pick it up now and start working on ways to shift the world. (10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism.)
I remember when Bush won the election in 2000. I was 21 and we thought we should all move to Canada. I don’t think that anymore, I am going to stay here and fight because I believe we can continue to move social progress forward. I’m going to tap my mentor activists for their experiences of hope and how they moved forward during the GWB years. This is worse, but we have so much we can build on.
I also believe that the amount of talk about rape culture going on in the election has helped shift the conversation, emboldened women and is teaching more consent on a wide scale. A silver lining from this traumatic election cycle.
My friend Danielle Berrin is a Senior Editor at the Jewish Journal, pictured here delivering “Manna from Heaven” after blessing the Challah at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner. Because of the talk of Drumpf’s sexual assaults, she chose to come out in her newspaper about having been sexually assaulted during an interview with a prominent journalist. She put herself at personal and professional risk to do so, since women are so often lambasted for talking about sexual assault experiences. Her story has had an a-typical result, with the assailant outing himself and ultimately resigning from prominent positions. I was surprised and grateful that Danielle has received so much support. This is a new era where sexual assault survivors are becoming more and more supported. The more of us who speak out against rape culture and sexual assault the faster we will change things so entitled men like Drumpf don’t just get to grab whoever they want whenever they want. Photo by Rick Sorkin.
Rage and anger are totally valid emotions. So is a feeling of powerlessness. The first step to processing pain is validating your feelings. Protests are a great way to channel anger, so are art projects, cooking, and exercise. Figure out what you need to do to identify the feelings you’re feeling in the wake of the election and figure out a way to channel them so that you can refresh yourself for the work ahead.
Whenever I go through loss or get hard news my first stop is self care. After Grandmother’s recent lung cancer diagnosis I committed to a daily meditation practice and I’m proud to say I’ve been consistent for 25 days and that’s my longest daily meditation stretch so far.
In a world and culture that doesn’t value my body, my gender or my sexuality I know I have to value it the most. Self care is an act of resistance and it is really important that we prioritize this.
I encourage you to do a self care inventory. How are you caring for yourself? What ways can you adjust your life to make room for the things that increase your capacity to care for yourself? Self care stretches time and enables your fuel for the revolution. Make self care dates with friends and check in with each other about following through with self care.
Right now I’m in a “detox from America” and am doing all I can to cleanse my mind from this stuff and support my resilience.
Kate Bornstein says this about suicide—do whatever you need to do to stay alive, just don’t be mean. Figure out what you need to do and do it, because we need you to stay alive.
From my friend Magaly Ickes-Jones: “My first generation Cuban/Nicaraguan-American, gender non-conforming, queer, Latinx, veteran, political scientist lover of the U.S. Constitution heart is bruised and battered by the unamerican hatred, ignorance, and fear that fueled American voters yesterday. I’ll heal and it will get better. I appreciate the comfort of my loved ones and these words and the promise that can’t be taken back: ‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’ -Preamble to the U.S Constitution”
I am going to do what I know to do and look for support from my loved ones as we hold each other up. I’m going to stick to my faith. I believe we are going to work together stronger. We’re going to be okay. It’s what I have to tell myself every time a new cancer diagnosis comes into my life, every time I mourn a friend, every time I try something and fail. I remind myself that everything is okay in the end, and if it’s not okay it’s not the end. It’s not the end.
*I installed that app from the amazing John Oliver video “Make Donald Drumpf again” and so now all I ever read is Drumpf online and it makes me feel good. Thought with 30 million views it sadly still didn’t change the election results.
**I like the idea of spreading kindness rather than calling it “political correctness.” My work in the world is to support activist resilience and I want to help people do this work more effectively. If you have questions about how to do that, hit me up and I will work to get it answered.