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Advocating Fearlessly for Queer and Trans Rights In the Face of Trump Administration

AIDS Activist Demonstration in 1988
AIDS Activists demonstrate in Midtown for more research dollars, blaming President Reagan for lack of funding. New York City, March 24, 1988. |  Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

The following commentary is one in a series from KCET and Link TV writers and contributors reflecting on how the incoming president will shape, change, and redefine the future of California.

I am of the mindset that people can love queers and trans people in the same way they love their children, their parents, friends, nice colleagues, brilliant artists, the smart charming people they encounter reaching for the same grapefruit at the supermarket — many of those people in any of those categories could easily be queer and trans. But people can be disappointing, as we all lose a little bit of our humanity and ability to be decent to one another when we face the risk of losing our hard-won livelihoods, nut by nut — health insurance, job stability, economic growth potential. We have to find scapegoats to offset the trepidation.

The days following the 2016 presidential election were probably some of the loneliest I have ever experienced. I was never more thankful for the chosen family that held me and kept me strong. Being away from home, in a self-identified red state flirting with the possibly of going blue, it seemed like our country was heading into a direction we were all in agreement with. But something happened that election night that put a seemingly permanent chill down my back and in every queer and trans person I was watching the state-by-state election results with. 

It was the first time in a long time that I thought twice about what the next day was going to be like. How would walking out of the house and into a seemingly unpredictable world be different now? I thought twice about using the bathroom at school, at Trader Joe’s, or at Target. My mundane practice had been impacted by fears of persecution.

Before the election, I walked with swagger and emanated that confidence. I would know exactly what to do when being confronted with any specter of gender policing. But now that Donald Trump had become the president-elect and is being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America, too many of us are walking around in a haze of fear and anxiety. 

Having learned the lessons from the Reagan presidency where nary a word was uttered let alone policy implemented to educate the public on and help those infected by HIV and AIDS — when thousands of men and women perished in the 20th century’s most startling pandemic — that I anticipate so many queer and trans people will be at risk under a Trump administration. It’s because of this precedent that I keep imagining so many of us reaching 60 and instead of planning retirement parties we’ll be visiting each other in debtors’ prisons or hosting suicide parties because we won’t be able to care for ourselves or each other just as we had said we would during Obama’s presidency.

What does it mean to be governed by a man who could easily authorize the revocation of rights and encourage retrograde attitudes about queer and trans people?

It means needing to steel ourselves for the years ahead. It means not just finding and being with people that love and accept us unconditionally — those that support our decisions for gender affirming surgeries, hormone therapies, pronoun usage, and just as important, cultural productions. It means being those people and expecting them and us to advocate for our rights, as we do for our immigrant brethren that run the risk of deportation, our sisters that rely on reproductive health care via Planned Parenthood, and our Standing Rock comrades protecting their waterways.

It means creating art, culture, and literature that reflects the desire for a just society until rights and privileges are afforded to us to be able to pee in peace in the bathroom that corresponds to our gender identity, and we can live full, thriving lives.

it speaks to the white-knuckling

panic to maintain a separate sphere. 
an economic phenomena, homilies of urban return ping pong pioneer
     no one is supposed to know we’re dying in here; tiny unfathomable deaths    
a joy predominates behind 
     staunch stalwart doors          what makes a fancy apartment? Books? I got those. 
     Sullying          the preservation of lone leisures          gasps at the invocation of impoverished 
childhoods, underscored by cum-stained garments over that of the collective; curbing itself 
from being          too seen and felt,          pick up your shit, move your car
     a septic underground
I’d rather live among pallets, needles, prophylactic dick leak over the plastic
     satisfied life online; smiles and new clothes
          so as not to give away its tepid riddles. Working class 
and poor hordes tribes clans and kin live in public. Not the nouveau autodidacting better in clandestine
     quarters, my pennies on how it has always been that way          This audibility of indentured resentment non-profit hawkish 
as white hoods wink us into war again
from the neighbors above below side by side antagonized          keeping quibble within earshot
     and market rate outta this apartheid clutching of          pearls and privacy     
and self-actualizing, no echoes for you, a narcissist collector of sensual hints, 
     virtuous suggestions
          then status, another fragility to endure, 
and we here where we wear each other’s clothes, 
     fuck fuck and then flicker 
          in jeopardy.

PLEASE NOTE: The information, statements and opinions expressed here are solely those of the respective authors and do not reflect the views of KCETLink. KCETLink makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy or reliability with respect thereto for any purpose.

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