TW/CW: Graphic Images of violence against LGBTQ+, Transphobia, Homophobia, Use of the word Qu**r, Mentions of Suicide.
I have written at length about my identity and how it relates to our political climate.
When I attempt to highlight the negative impact the Trump administration has had on minority communities (specifically LGBTQ+ in this instance) I am nearly always ‘reminded’ by the older generation that I should actually be grateful about “how far we have come”.
This is always bewildering to me, and I am never quite prepared for when someone’s response to my concern about human rights, about MY rights, is to remind me I should actually be THANKING the heterosexual community for not just outright gay-bashing me on sight, as if that’s not something that still happens anyway.
The improvements to my life I am told that I should be grateful for are, ironically, the basic human rights that any white, cisgender, straight person in America already has. The right to not get fired for being trans, the right to marry the person I love, the right for a doctor to have to save my goddamn life whether or not he agrees with my “lifestyle”. These are things a lot of Americans take for granted every day, things most have probably never thought about.
But queer people are reminded. Every. Single. Day.
So lets go through what an essentially average day in my life is like, to illustrate what it means to live as a queer individual in one of the most liberal cities in America, Boston.
I wake up to my alarm in the morning, and get up. I prepare for my day. While getting dressed, I agonize over what to wear. My clothing options are limited, as they are for many trans individuals. I pull on my black work pants, lamenting over the fact they have no pockets. They are from the women’s section, because I find that trying to find men’s pants that fit me is a daunting task, filled with dysphoria. Shopping too long in the men’s section gives me great discomfort if there are other men around. I can feel their eyes boring into me, an obviously queer person.
As I dress, I also pull on my binder, an article of fabric that compresses my breasts. Even with it on, It is obvious to most what is under it. I am an overweight and “well endowed” individual; no matter what I do I cannot really pass right now. Binders cost at least $35 a pop, and I have to replace mine often due to the amount of wear they get. My binder is older and looser now. I’ll need to buy a new one soon, even though I am trying to conserve money. On the other hand, a looser binder is easier for me; new binders are uncomfortable, even painful at times. If I wear them all day at work I sometimes get lightheaded or nauseous. But the alternative is devastating to my mental health.
Once I am ready I call an uber or a lyft to take me to work. My name on the app is Elias, and about 50% of the time my driver will look at me suspiciously as I slip into the car. “Elias?” They will ask, putting the kind of emphasis on it that I understand all too well. “Yes.” Is all I will say. I try to concentrate on deepening my voice.
Once a driver even pushed the interaction further. “You know that is a boy’s name?”
As we drive to my work, and as the driver lets me out, I will almost always be addressed at some point as “Miss” or “Ma’am”. I will force a smile and nod. Water off a duck’s back and all that.
I head in to work.
I am not “out” at work.
The name on the office door, in my email, on all the papers around, is Elise.
I don’t hate this name. In fact I honestly like it. But the name was also assigned a gender unfairly, and it implies to those who see it, long before they meet me, that I am a woman.
Throughout the day I will endure more gendered terms, bestowed upon me with little thought and good intention. Miss. Ma’am. Mami.
Friendly coworkers will call me sis, girl, lady.
It isn’t their fault. They don’t know.
But what if they did?
It is amazing how a person’s attitude can shift when they learn you are queer. The warmth and familiarity is replaced with cold resentment. As if I was lying to them. As if I chose to hide what I am as a fun game.
One of my coworkers had a “Make America Great Again” hat above his desk when I began. It made my stomach twist with anxiety.
The America that Trump wants, that he promised, does not include me. Despite the selective memories of many people in my life who voted for him, his intentions toward the LGBTQ community were always clear to us. The writing was on the wall.
The same day he took office, all language including the LGBTQ community was erased off of the White House government website. Since then he has successfully erased us in many other places as well.
He has made it legal and acceptable to discriminate against Lgbtq+ people in the military, schools, public spaces, healthcare, and workplaces. People can, and are, fired in many places for being LGBTQ+.
If I came out at work, I would not be fired. My place of employment is relatively diverse, and a couple of other employees are out as LGBTQ+ in some capacity. Most coworkers assume I am a lesbian right now already.
But if I came out, my relationships would likely change. There would be that ever lurking air of discomfort.My family still has difficulty with my pronouns, so the odds of coworkers learning them is slim. But now instead of just feeling internally bad about being gendered incorrectly, the knowledge would be public.
Coworkers might misgender me, and then spend the next several seconds making a big deal out of the incident, peppering me with “I’m sorry”s and “It’s just so hard”s.
Every time an incident like this occurs (whether it be with family, friends, or acquaintances) I am forced to sit in simmering humiliation while I am reminded by the other person that they are doing their best, but I am just such an inconvenience.
That is the single word I would use to describe my identity in relation to the world. An inconvenience.
“It’s inconvenient to learn to use new pronouns.”
“It’s inconvenient for me to learn to use singular they to describe a person.”
“It’s inconvenient to remember to use your new name.”
“Its going to be inconvenient to change your name on things.”
These are excuses I have heard multiple times since coming out, from many people, including people who love me, even including other people in the LGBTQ+ community. I am treated as if my identity is a fad, akin to remembering which anime I like best so that they can successfully Christmas shop for me. The same people who swiftly correct themselves if they misgender a dog will spend literal minutes reflecting on how hard it is for them to remember to adjust their vocab for the happiness and mental wellbeing of someone they love. They need me to know that they are not a bad person for doing this, and that they love me all the same.
It’s just that I am an inconvenience.
Being Out at work would just be one more instance of having to deal with being made to feel this way. And I’m not ready for that yet.
But back to my day.
On my break at work I check social media. I see that Trump has just okay-ed a changing of a previous anti-discrimination bill’s wording to remove protections for LGBTQ+ from being discriminated against in healthcare. I read in the comments that a person watched their transgender friend die on the side of a road after a car accident because paramedics who arrived on scene refused to treat her. They stood around, making fun of a dying woman because to them she was a joke.
I think about my own life. At worse, this means the same could theoretically happen to me. But even I have a degree of privilege here; Trans women, especially those of color, are far more discriminated against than I am.
But even at best, it means that in the future, my insurance may deny coverage to me of transition related medical procedures. It may mean that if I want/choose to begin hormone replacements, or have gender affirming surgery, I will be denied any kind of monetary coverage. And like most millennial’s, I don’t have the money to pay for medical costs out of pocket.
To some this may seem like a mere disappointment, but to Transgender people, gender affirming medical procedures can be the difference between life and death. The dysphoria caused by not passing can cause severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. In fact, somewhere around half of all Trans people have tried to commit suicide at some point in their lives.
The exact stats are hard to know, as LGBTQ+ are still not included in the national census. But there is also a scientifically proven statistical connection between gay marriage equality and childhood suicide rates. Child suicide attempts dropped by 134,000 cases per year in the United States after gay marriage was legalized. Scientists assume it is because the biggest at risk group for child suicides is in fact queer kids, who saw the passing of the law as hope for their future.
But Trump wants to undo that. He would prefer to erase the federal marriage equality ruling of 2015. He would sacrifice 134,000 children per year to do this.
To ‘Make America Great Again’.
The America that Trump promised, the one his rabid fanbase fantasizes about, the idea that got him elected, is an America where I would get gay-bashed on the street.
It is an America where I must hide who I am, or face legally protected discrimination. An America where if I don’t grow out my hair, and put on a dress, I could be fired from my job, denied healthcare, denied housing, beaten, and even murdered LEGALLY. And even if I survive but am homeless from all of this, Trump has already rolled back protection for trans people in homeless shelters too.
As I sit at my lunch break, trying to stomach my food as I read about Trump’s latest attacks on my existence, I know my future is uncertain. In the short time he has been President, Trump has steadily undid years, maybe decades worth of equality work for the LGBTQ+ community. For years we were building forward momentum, passing protections and gaining ground in equal rights. Now Trump is undoing all of that work. And worse, he is fueling a fire of growing, PROUD hatred and bigotry in America.
For a period of time, it was considered shocking and morally repulsive to call oneself a Nazi in America. Such a person would be completely ostracized, berated, fired, and more for holding such beliefs. But in Trump’s America, Nazi’s, white supremacists, transphobes, and more are not afraid to come out of the shadows anymore. They walk proudly down the streets of America, waving their flags and protected by police escorts. Trump tells them they have a right, they have free speech (which theoretically they do) but more importantly than that, he implies that they have a point. After Heather Heyer was murdered by a man for counter protesting at a white supremacy rally, Trump famously said that there “were very fine people, on both sides”.
I can remember vividly the night Trump was elected. I’d had a bad feeling all day. Part of me already knew the result, even as the optimists around me told me his election was impossible. As the votes poured in and the states slowly turned red, I drank, and I cried.
I knew to be afraid because unlike any other presidential campaign I had experienced, Trump’s was fueled solely by negativity. While Obama had run on a campaign of Hope, Trump ran on hate. He campaigned by stoking the fires of the most dangerous group of people in the United States: Angry White Men.
He convinced them that they were the ones getting the short end of the stick, that after it was all said and done, they were the ones being discriminated against. He (a billionaire) appealed to the poor by telling them he knew how they felt. He (a CEO) appealed to the uneducated by affirming that he was just like them. He (business man of corporations) appealed to the small business owners by telling them he cared. He (a man who outsourced his work to China) appealed to laid off workers by telling them he knew who was ‘taking’ their jobs. He appealed to the general man because he wasn’t “some politician”, but it was an incredible manipulation from someone who was, in the end, still nothing like them.
To all of you out there who voted for Trump, you must understand that he has never cared for you, or understood how you felt. Everything he has done has been solely for votes. I don’t even believe that Trump even has strong feeling about Queer people; he just simply doesn’t care. As most of his voter demographic hate us, it is simply easier to side with them.
Trump and his supporters want the “Great America” of yore (presumably circa 1950), but it is not a longing for a time that was better for anyone. Even them, ironically. Cis-Het-White-Men did not have “More” rights in the past. Everyone else just had less.
This is an example of false equivocation. “If women, gays, blacks, etc. have MORE rights now, it must be because they are TAKING my rights!” But Rights are not monopoloy money. There is not a finite amount to be dispersed. Equal Rights simply means what it implies, that minorities will receive the same rights as Cis-Het-White-Men.
China and Mexico are not “taking” your jobs, the billion dollar corporation you work for is giving them to them to save money because they don’t want to pay workers like you a fair wage.
Women don’t want to date you not because of feminism, but because you are a shitty person.
Science hasn’t changed to try to rewrite the narrative of gender and biological sex, it was always this way.
And there aren’t more LGBTQ+ nowadays because we are spreading to your kids like a disease…we just no longer need to hide in plain sight.
In the timeline of my average day, work is now ending and I am heading home. I greet my cats and my ferret, kick off my shoes, and lounge around until my partner comes home. Maybe I go on facebook or twitter. Inevitably, I will always come across someone on the internet posting something homo/transphobic. Often I try to fight them. Sometimes I don’t have the energy.
In my history of fighting these people, the majority of whom I have never met, I have been called a colorful menagerie of terms. Sick, depraved, pedophillic, disgusting, etc.
My partner comes home. They greet me with a kiss. “Thats gay.” I tease them.
I know that they have faced just as many frustrations as me today, but neither of us think much of it.
It was an average day.
Hopefully, and all we can do is hope, tomorrow will be better than average.