By Andrew Mayzak
To the Trump supporters and apathetic voters who have told me to calm down:
By all means, please straightsplain to me why you think my tenuous civil rights are not at risk under a Trump presidency.
Go for it. ’ll wait.
And when you’re done, I want you to imagine, just for a moment, what it’s like to be me:
Imagine knowing, from the earliest moments of your childhood, that you are different from other kids. Imagine the panic when you hit puberty and realize you don’t find women attractive. What do you do?
You pray. Daily. For six years. You’re a Christian child and you know that God is there to help and can fix anything through his love. So every night, you pray. And when things don’t change, you start believing you have done something wrong for God to ignore you.
Imagine the awkwardness of being a teenager compounded with the panic, self-hatred, and despair of being gay in a religion that wants you to be straight.
Can you imagine it?
Imagine what it’s like getting called “faggot” in the halls at school, getting pranked by kids who think “smear the queer” is fun.
Imagine coming out to your parents, the first and longest relationships you’ve ever had in your life, and being told you’ll die of AIDS and will go to hell.
Can you imagine it yet? No?
Imagine getting to the point where you stop praying to be straight and settle for asking God to eliminate your sexual desires. If you can’t be straight, you reason, you can be asexual. Back and forth you go in your 20s, dating and screwing around, and then months of self-imposed celibacy, punctuated by nights spent crying yourself to sleep because you know it’s not working.
Imagine faking depression so your doctor will put you on Zoloft. Why? Because you know it has sexual side effects and will likely crush your libido. But instead, it turns you into a zombie, affects your work, and you flush the pills down the toilet one night, enraged that you feel pulled apart inside.
Are you still with me? Are you getting a sense of my desperation? Do you understand why LGBT people have a higher suicide rate than cisgender heterosexuals?
And then there is the lethargic response to the AIDS epidemic, DOMA, the numerous state bans on marriage equality, the states that offered absolutely no protection from getting fired or evicted for being LGBT, the states that still allow parents to force their children into conversion therapy, hate crimes that go unanswered, the bathroom bills, the religious freedom protection laws… it’s an overwhelming message from your own government: you’re not wanted here.
So you don’t like yourself, God is unresponsive, your peers make fun of you, your parents aren’t supportive, and your government – the one entity that is supposed to objectively guarantee your safety and protection – doesn’t care about you the same way it does straight people.
It’s enough to drive a person insane. Or to drugs. Or to suicide.
And then, after your government *finally* takes a few meaningful strides to treat you the same way it treats everyone else, your country elects a president and vice president who have made the repeal of your civil rights one of the moral imperatives of their administration.
So tell me: if you spent the first 30 years of your life grappling with this baggage, finally got a taste of equality, and then had it threatened again… tell me how you would react.
Tell me you would not be upset.
Tell me you would think “everything will be fine.”
Tell me you would be optimistic.
Tell me you would accept others making decisions about who you should love, what bathrooms you can use, or whether you have any recourse from discrimination.
This is what it means to be LGBT in this country. The liberals giveth, the conservatives taketh away, and enough cisgendered heterosexual voters are too preoccupied with kids, TV, and mortgages to care about anyone less fortunate than them.
“The gays are whining again… honey, did you fix the TiVo?”
Now take that same feeling of abject terror and imagine being black, Hispanic, Muslim, female, or disabled – because each of these groups has their own unique experience, starting from childhood, which colors their worldview and sends daily chills down their spine in a country which does not view them as human.
And through it all, running like a knife under the fabric of a society which has treated us as an afterthought, is a subculture of Alt-Right terrorists who, emboldened by Donald Trump, paint swastikas on buildings, threaten to round up us “fags,” tear hijabs off Muslim women, teach their kids that Mexicans will get deported, and greet police shootings of unarmed black men with smug indifference.
This is why there are protests in the streets.
This is why #notmypresident is trending.
This is why every marginalized minority is scared.
So don’t tell me “it will be OK” or “not to panic” or “I’m sorry for your experience, but my own needs are important, too” because, with all due respect, you literally do not know what you are talking about.
While you have the luxury of shaking your head at this election and going right back to eating your dinner, millions of Americans now have to plan their survival for the next four years.
And that is deplorable.