America, Do You Still See Me?
On Tuesday night, I attended an election-night party filled with hope as a woman who was, I thought, about to witness history. As a mother, I kissed my children goodbye and promised to tell them the exciting results as soon as they woke up in the morning. But when the results rolled in in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and made clear that America had elected Donald Trump as the President-elect of the United States of America, I watched what played out before me as a woman with Tourette Syndrome, who didn’t yet believe that voters could ignore the danger of a man who has made it his mission to humiliate and incite violence against people who do not identify as he does or fit within his parameters of what “normal” should look and feel and sound like. And in the hours since, I've had to grapple with a growing spread of fears. As a mother, a woman who has been sexually assaulted and harassed, as a woman with a disability, how do I move forward?
We celebrated, with wine and cheers, the early victory of a friend’s election as the first African-American LGBTQ representative to the Colorado legislature. Then, as the presidential election results rolled in, a stunned room grew silent. I left in tears. I have spent a lifetime hiding my Tourette Syndrome out of fear of humiliation, and fighting against a society — no, a world — that diminishes my accomplishments, my dreams, and my body all because I am a woman, all because I am a mother, all because I am a person with a disability. So, now what? Where do I go from here?
A full two days since America ruled on the side of candidate who’s made xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, and insulting comments throughout his campaign, I face a difficult question, which feels all the more impossible every time I think of it: How do I move forward knowing that there are people in my world — friends, neighbors, colleagues — who supported our president-elect? Who knowingly put a man like this into office?
I see the way he has openly mocked and otherized people who do not look, sound, or speak like him, and I am reminded of how much my disability puts me at risk in Donald Trump’s America.
Even more difficult for me to deal with is how many of them are, in the wake of Trump’s win, staying silent. While I respect the right of people to keep their political opinions quiet, this election was about more than public policy or politics. It’s about hateful leadership and deep discord among the electorate as a body of humans, not just a body of voters. I am not as offended by Donald Trump's campaign — he has shown time and time again who he is — as I am by the friends who voted for him and have not reached out with an explanation, or, at the very least, with compassion towards those of us who have been targeted. Friends who have stayed silent while enabling a bully and a bigot.
I recognize my own privilege as a white, cisgender, heterosexual middle-class citizen. I cannot speak to the hurt and shame others may feel, but I am a woman, one who has, as many others have, experienced both sexual harassment and sexual assault. Every day that goes by where I think of Donald Trump’s version of “locker-room banter,” I feel less and less real. I feel less capable of explaining to my sons that women and men are equal, and that they need to understand and respect this. I see people ignore the women who came forward about Trump’s alleged sexual assaults, and I understand why I’m one of the many women who didn’t report my own. I see the way he has openly mocked and otherized people who do not look, sound, or speak like him, and I am reminded of how much my Tourette Syndrome puts me at risk in Donald Trump’s America.
I live with a disability which, on many days, bears a striking outward similarity to the reporter Donald Trump openly ridiculed. Unlike that reporter, I have the luxury to hide when needed. After three decades of trying to hide my grimaces and flaps and flutters, I’ve finally found the voice to tell those around me who I am. Yet, as I watched on election night, with every vote cast towards Trump, I was acutely reminded that I have a disability that looks so ridiculous, and so abnormal, that people don’t care if I am mocked. How do I explain this to my children, one of whom may already have tics of his own?
What I need to know from the people in my life who voted for Donald Trump is: Why? How will you fight for women over the next four years? Did that video of Trump overtly mocking someone with a disability make you hug your children a little tighter? Did you think of it on election night, the way I did, the way I do every time our president-elect opens his mouth? Did his win make you scared? How will you teach your children not to be cruel to those of us who are different, who are other, who are so devastatingly aware of our otherness after Wednesday night?
I’ll never truly understand a vote for Donald Trump, even as I acknowledge the disenfranchisement that drove many people to vote for him. But more so, I don’t understand the silence. I don’t understand why those who I want to believe are not racist, not sexist, not ableist are not trying to make amends. Why they are not publicly denouncing the hatred cast by our president-elect, and making a promise that they will not stand for more.
I need to know you still see me.
Perhaps I am waiting in vain, but what I need to know from the people in my life who voted for Donald Trump is: Why? How will you fight for women over the next four years? Did that video of Trump overtly mocking someone with a disability make you hug your children a little tighter? Did you think of it on election night, the way I did, the way I do every time our president-elect opens his mouth? Did his win make you scared? How will you teach your children not to be cruel to those of us who are different, who are other, who are so devastatingly aware of our otherness after Wednesday night? I need to know you do not, will not, stand beside a leader who disparages and incites violence against people who are different from him.
I need to know you understand you have the luxury to ignore bigotry and hatred, and I need to know you will no longer sit by and let that be your excuse. I need to know you will find ways, small or large, to make room. I need to know you understand you chose a candidate who ran on fear and hatred and xenophobia and misogyny.
Most of all, I need to know that no matter who you voted for, no matter what party you voted with, that you still will put these things first: humanity, dignity, equality, inclusion, acceptance; hope. I need to know you still see me. That I am not invisible.