I was driving when I found out about the rioters breaching the Capitol building on January 6. My girlfriend, in the passenger seat, sat up a little straighter, her phone in her hands and told me what was happening. Disconnecting mine from the radio, she queued up CNN and I listened in an enraged and brief silence to the details.
I had to wrestle with the age-old question, ‘If not me, then who?’
When they spoke about Donald Trump’s role in egging on the rioters, I exploded in an expletive laced tirade. I really can’t say much about him without cursing like a drunken sailor. It was that and this helpless rage I feel whenever that subject arises—with every conversation, with every e-mail I receive on his transgressions, with every news headline of what he’s done to derail democracy and deprive anyone not a white, rich, Christian, cis gender, heterosexual man of their rights.
It’s been a lot of cursing the past four years.
My role with Out in Jersey is news editor. I am tasked with reporting the news. When I started my journalism career at age 18, I was a sportswriter and vowed never to write news because it was all just too much.
Years—and even decades—later, I have changed that tune. I had to wrestle with the age-old question, ‘If not me, then who?’ In the early years of my career writing for Out in Jersey, the nation was under the leadership of Barack Obama. Writing the news then was hopeful, with rights being given to many of those who fall under the LGBTQ+ rainbow.
When the circus that was the 2016 election was going on, I listened to some of my fellow members of the LGBTQ community talk about how they thought Trump was going to be fine despite running under the Republican ticket. The GOP was traditionally homo-and-Trans-phobic. I listened to my fellow LGBTQ members with apprehension. I remembered news stories I had read in the early to mid-1990s about how Trump wasn’t as gay friendly as he liked to say.
When Trump purportedly said the LGBTQ community LOVED him while on the campaign trail, my apprehension deepened. It became abject fear the closer we drew to the election. Going to bed on election night 2016, Hillary Clinton was leading. Waking up, a reality star with questionable business sense—and even murkier morals and ethics—was our new president.
My mom cried when she learned of Trump’s victory. She said to me, “I was a child during the Civil Rights protests (of the 1960s) and I had always hoped my children would never know that struggle. And now I have a child who is on the front lines of that fight.”
I knew his victory was bad for me and many others like me. Many are under the rainbow acronym, others are Black people, POC, or transgender. and just anyone who is not a white, rich, Christian, cis gender, heterosexual man. Four years later, I look back and realize just how naïve I was. I knew what the appointing of ultra conservative judges to the Supreme Court meant for my rights and others. I was dismissed as being dramatic or hysterical or jumping the gun because “that wouldn’t happen” to our civil rights. For the record, the idea of repealing marriage equality has been floated by two of the most conservative judges on the Supreme Court and at least one of Trump’s appointees was in agreement.
The fact that time has justified my alarm bells gives me no comfort. Writing about the ban on transgender military members and the astonishing and horrific amount of trans POC lives lost since he took office made me physically sick. Those who were truly committed to making sure our rights were stripped away were winning. The evangelicals are howling about how our souls are condemned to Hell and how we are subhuman. The ones who truly cared were the Kate Goslin-hair-cut-Lululemon-and-North-Face-wearing HOA member mothers who howled that we would corrupt their children and bring them into our deviant lifestyles.
The person who incited all of this with his adept thumb twirling on social media? He could have cared less. Absolute apathy toward us because we weren’t the majority that voted for him or lined his pockets or pledged fealty to him at his ego-strokes masquerading as ‘rallies.’ He tapped into the ugliness of America and exploited it for his own gain. Those on his coattails happily rode along, benefitting from his absolute apathetic attitude toward his own citizens, furthering their personal agendas while Trump focused solely on his favorite cause—himself.
What about those of us who were the targets?
I know I can step back into a closet and shut and lock the door if I feel I have no other choice. But what about my trans siblings, my Black siblings, my POC siblings? They are less able to do so. They can rarely hide who they are. There is nowhere for them to go. The only thing I felt I could do to help was to keep writing. Writing is the only way I knew how to vent my absolute helpless rage. For most of the past four years, the only writing I could do was for Out in Jersey because I knew the importance of getting this news to the community that needed it.
I know there are members of the LGBTQ community who voted for and continue to support Donald Trump. I have family members who do too. They know that I’m an out and proud leather dyke. I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around this.
Because of this, because every willing voice is necessary, I will keep writing
During an event I attended as Ms. New Jersey Leather, I had an attendee who I had been conversing just fine with, bring up Trump. Not knowing what his stance was, I kept my comments neutral—I do that until I know exactly what the hell I’m dealing with. He proceeded to extoll how GREAT Trump was for the LGBTQ community. As he droned on, I felt my mouth just opening wider and wider until my chin was just about on my chest. I stood there slack jawed, wearing a leather sash as a representative of a community that prides itself on being outlaws, and stared at him in shock. A gay man was telling me that I should just go ahead and accept Trump as my president because it’s the best thing for me.
I walked away from him without even excusing myself, something I’ve been raised to know was just plain rude. I had to walk away because a few days before I had written about the trans military ban. I was dumbfounded and frankly more than a little freaked out because of the casual way he basically told me to get with it.
This is the mindset. These are the people who follow and revere probably one of the most incompetent ‘leaders’ we’ve had in modern history. I don’t fall for the, “this isn’t my America” line because America has always been racist, oppressive, and not accepting to those among its citizens who fall outside a strict white supremacy mold. Yes, things have changed over the years but not fast enough, not nearly enough.
The anger that has exploded over the past two years is justified and it is long, long overdue. Those rights we strive for are deserved and will be fought for, no matter who sits in the office on Pennsylvania Avenue. Because of this, because every willing voice is necessary, I will keep writing.