LIVING YOUR TRUTH: Keep your post-election safety pins – we need action now against bigotry
The past few days have been extremely difficult for me. My feelings come in waves, and they revolve between anger, depression, fear, and despair. I literally quaked in fear on Tuesday evening as I sobbed and had to have a friend drive me home. I did not sleep for at least 24 hours and, when I did, I awoke in abject horror at the realization of what had happened.
Only days before, I was in North Carolina along with dozens of other transgender volunteers and activists, including Daye Lily Pope, former Transgender Rights Organizer at Equality Pennsylvania, Mara Kiesling of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and many, many more. I even got to speak with Sarah McBride!
All of us had gathered and worked to ensure that Governor Pat McCrory did not win another term and that House Bill 2 – the most odious and direct assault on the transgender community, the so-called “bathroom bill” – would be stricken from the books. We were also working on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign, hoping to elect our first female president. After nearly five days of meeting people, talking, phone banking, and canvassing, many of us returned home so that we could vote on Tuesday. Spirits were so high, and we felt so sure that we had done all we could and that we would win.
In the end, we had succeeded in what we had set out to. We got more Clinton supporters to the polls; she won the popular vote. We ousted McCrory and the man who penned HB2. On a personal level, I noted that Wilkes-Barre had voted for Clinton, as did Lackawanna County, two areas I heavily canvassed in the months and weeks past. But we just didn’t win.
Republicans took the House, the Senate, and Donald Trump is now our president-elect. God help us all…
We know the things Trump has said he wants to do. Was this all just rhetoric to stir up his base? Was he lying through his teeth, or will he simply backpedal and say something different tomorrow? It’s impossible to know from a man who has lied and cheated his entire career. But we know Mike Pence’s track record as well, and it’s scary – conversion therapy, eliminating Planned Parenthood, saying no to raising the minimum wage, eradicating the Affordable Care Act, etc., etc. And then there’s that ridiculous wall…
I’m not sure how much I can say, politically, on behalf of this blog, as we’ve tried to remain impartial. However, I find that I cannot separate my activism from my duty as a journalist. After all, one of the many reasons I wanted to become a journalist was to use the power of the press to keep elected officials in check, as I did on personal blogs during the George W. Bush administration. It was our job then to heavily criticize politicians when they step out of bounds and violate human rights. We also stand up to those who have shown their true stripes, as we did with Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen A. Cummings.
For the most part, those tactics worked. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a new breed of politician, one who is immune to criticism (despite the temper tantrums they may throw on Twitter whenever insulted) and who do not concern themselves with the way history will remember them.
This is a new world where bullies win. They have no morals and no shame. In fact, they thrive on it. They are empowered and bolstered by it. And I’m not talking about Trump; I’m talking about the people who are pushing his ideas and agendas.
To simply turn a blind eye to symbols of hatred when they are proudly displayed is to be complicit in allowing hatred to thrive. It is simply unacceptable, and people are getting involved. We are organizing, we are planning, and we need white, cisgender, heterosexual allies to stand up and be counted among those of us in the trenches.
I’ve seen initiatives to wear a safety pin in a show of solidarity, the same symbol used by opponents of Brexit after it was voted for. Well, how about instead of wearing a safety pin to show that you are an ally, why don’t you wear a big sign that says so? Why don’t you stand up and protest and march with us? Why don’t you use your position and privilege to call out your neighbors, friends, and family members who can’t tolerate us?
We need you to be involved now more than ever.
It’s far too late for me to hide, and I will not stop being who I am, and that puts my life at great danger. My feelings and beliefs are not so easily hidden or expressed as a safety pin, as they revolve around who I am, what I am, who I love, and what I love, and those things are plain as day to bigots and racists, as I wrote months ago.
We are angry, we are frightened, and we are upset. Instead of telling us to sit down, shut up, and grow up, why don’t you speak out against oppression and hatred when you see it? It’s easy to find. Even casual bigotry and discrimination is obvious – every time someone turns away in revulsion at two men kissing, every time someone stares at a trans woman who doesn’t “pass,” every time someone calls me “sir” or “he,” why don’t you correct them? It is not on me to continually be an educator and advocate as one of the oppressed when the problem is the attitude of those who stand idly by and do nothing.
We see it. Believe me, we see it all the time, and we see your inaction, as well. When a woman claims she’s been raped, and you demand evidence or want to hear both sides. When you get defensive around people who don’t speak your language or look like you. When a man openly weeps or expresses his feelings and you get uncomfortable because you think he should “man up” and “grow a pair.” We see your casual intolerance, sexism, racism, and transphobia. And that’s the problem, because others see it, too. Your behavior sets the tone of others around you. Stop bullying when you see it, stamp out intolerance where it stands, and destroy the root of the problem before it can become a weed.
I have tried, in my professional life, to become a leader through my activism and advocacy. As an organizer, I’ve been able to bring people together from all walks of life. This is why I have found it difficult to speak out in anger. But now, my worst nightmare has come true. Evil has consumed so much of this nation, allowed to win because good people stood by and did nothing.
What we require, and what you can do to be a good ally, is to be braver, bolder, and louder than the bigots and racists around you, now more than ever. And if there be any solace to ease my aching heart, it’s to know that 59,796,396 people, at least 206,504 more than voted for Trump, turned out to vote for Hillary Clinton. They voted against a man who ran on a campaign of hatred, bullying, and misogyny. Just imagine what the world would be like if they each took a stand and did more than simply fasten a safety pin to their clothing… We need it, now more than ever.
Jason Alan McLain