My grandmother recently informed me that she voted for Mitt Romney. I was on the treadmill at the time and literally almost fell off. My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1963, shortly after the Cuban Revolution. I like to joke and say that the elders in my family suffer from “Castro PTSD” and therefore sometimes feel safer voting Republican regardless of whether they are really benefiting or not. For example, my grandmother, who relies on Social Security and does not drive, is dependent on her two daughters (one who is extremely liberal, my mother) to get around. She simply does not realize or more likely does not want to acknowledge that the same Republicans who want to cut the debt are spending millions of taxpayer dollars to ensure that I do not have the right to marry and the many rights that provides. Furthermore, I repeatedly attempt to explain to her how ridiculous they sound when claiming to believe in “states’ rights” and yet support the Defense of Marriage Act.
Let me be clear, the intent of this piece is not to provide a negative portrayal of my grandma. She has lived the American Dream and proudly saw both her daughters graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where I now study political science. Instead, my hope is that this piece will draw attention and focus on why it is so important for the LGBT community to have this conversation with close relatives such as my grandmother. LGBT people need to speak out and explain to their family why this presidential election is so impactful on their community.
Here is my response to my grandmother’s proclamation that she voted for Romney:
Abuelita, let me preface by saying you might find the urge to label this a sensational reaction, but it is not. It is my reality.
She replied not to worry, her vote did not matter in California.
I proceeded to give her some perspective on what a vote for Romney represents and means for my mother and me.
Voting for Romney means you support his mission to make me a second-class citizen, plain and simple.
Voting for Romney means you do not care if a gay couple have spent their whole lives together and are married. According to Romney, receiving spousal benefits is a privilege and not a right.
Voting for Romney means that it is my mother’s fault she has a pre-existing condition called leukemia — you know, it is just like heart disease and the person should have just taken better care of himself or herself. You criticized Vice President Biden for referring to Obamacare as a “big fucking deal.” Well, guess what? For my mother, it is a big fucking deal.
Voting for Romney means that if one of the many daughters, such as my sister, in our family gets raped and is forced to make the difficult decision to have an abortion, she cannot. In the words of many Republicans, God intended it and she should have just used her magical vagina powers to shut down conception.
You say you just do not like President Obama. Fine. Keep in mind, though, that Democrats lived through eight years of Bush, so Republicans can live through eight years of Obama. Since when did supporting Obama ever translate into loving Romney? Romney will never have a “binder full of gays” as he does women despite your assurance that Romney will not take away my rights and that the economy is what is at stake if President Obama is reelected. Honestly, let us examine American history. If the economy is indeed more important than civil rights, why do you think we abolished slavery?
I do not hate you, I am just deeply disappointed. I thought I had and could always count on your support. I thought our love was stronger than your fear of Obama. Sadly, I was mistaken. I can only hope that if Romney is elected and does make our lives harder, you will finally realize the consequences of your vote and its effect on my rights as a gay American.
Her response: “I am sorry.”
This experience attests to how pertinent it is to remind family members that this election will determine your reality. She is aware that I directed the first Harvey Milk Day event at my high school in 2010, pressured the school district into supporting the FAIR Education Act, and spoke out against LGBT bullying while student body president. Please do not make the same mistake my grandmother did, resulting in a hurt loved one.
Instead, vote for equality.