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What Gave Birth to Trump


This trans woman in a red state understands the anger of Trump supporters and says it's anything but black and white.

When I got into writing these think pieces and opinion articles, it was because I enjoyed having my voice heard. There's nothing like being given an international stage from which to reach any and all.

There's a caveat, though; when they call you a racist, a liar, self-loathing trans woman, a shitlord, and anything else they can think of, you're not really supposed to respond. You become an avatar of everything wrong in the world or the media to them. If you try to defend yourself or counter their argument, you're thin-skinned and you shouldn't have your platform and you should quit. Perhaps they're right; if you can't handle the criticisms that come with being a public figure in any form, you shouldn't be one. I guess that would be true if that criticism was just about your quality of work and abilities, but it's not so much that criticism that gets you. It's the abuse. The accusations. The assumptions about one part of your life that they get to see that defines everything else about who you are. Sometimes they're right. If they catch you on tape using a racial slur as an insult, it's probably a good call that you're a bigoted person. Sometimes it's just a projection because it's easier to see people that way to make a complex and ugly world easier to understand, and you've become the stand-in for things they don't want to or can't come to terms with.

That doesn't just happen to famous people or semi-famous ones or occasionally noticed freelance writers; it happens to whole groups of total nobodies. It's happened to the LGBT community, to black people, cops, doctors, lawyers, politicians, school teachers, garbage men, fast-food workers. Everyone at one time or another has been reduced to a two-dimensional stereotype or avatar for whatever reason. Everyone has become someone else's bogeyman or caricature to make sense of things, all the while being one themselves. I don't know when or where I discovered this; I guess it's something that I've learned over time, having done it to others and being the victim of it myself.

Part of this comes from living in the South my whole life and being both a conservative in my closeted youth and a progressive as I've gotten older. Oh, I'm sure some of you who've read my articles might question my progressive bona fides because they don't quite mesh with yours, but that's kind of what I'm talking about. I admit I might have a bit of the blind spot about the South and about the parts of the country that aren't sitting on the coasts with their big, liberal cities. Yeah, that's a dig at you guys. You do deserve it, though. I see so many articles about racism, homophobia, sexism, and classism coming out of these cities that are so very deep blue and all the pearl-clutching that comes with them as if you're just suddenly discovering that these things are happening right where you live. Of course they are happening where you live. Where do you think you are, one of those red states where you expect these things to happen? I know you can't see how much it happens because most of you live in a nice little bubble surrounded by your liberal friends and think those bigots and evil people are just some aberration. No, they live all around you, you just choose not to see them.

Instead, you see these terrible people in the places you want and how you want, whether they're completely evil or just simply problematic. That's what those red states are for. For you to shake your head at and sigh about. To see the red states as full of idiots, bigots, the uneducated, and unrefined. Once long ago, when I was still living as a man, I was in the Army. I was at a training school with soldiers from all over the country, and of course folks knew I was from Mississippi. This was during my raver phase of life (to show you how old I am). You know, the big JNCO pants, colorful plastic jewelry, and a love of house music. One day I got into a fight with a guy from someplace where it snows heavily in the winter about something or another and he got right into my face and yelled, "You fucking redneck!" I laughed at him and turned to walk away. He pushed me from behind and I stumbled over my jeans with the 69-inch leg openings and laughed even more. Why? Because we all know how much rednecks love absurdly large jeans and the Chemical Brothers. Still, despite my looking like every other candy-kid you could find at some San Francisco warehouse party in the late '90s, I was a redneck to him because of where I lived. Fine, I did still enjoy some Garth Brooks and Dwight Yoakam music.

This kind of mockery and hatred of being from the South made me blind to the problems that did and still do exist there, and I became unreasonably prideful of where I lived to the point that, God help me, I got a Confederate flag tattooed on me (I've long since gotten it covered up with a different one).

I guess that's why when I see all these articles coming out of these writers for all these blogs and websites talking about how all these red state Donald Trump fans are Klan hood-wearing bigots, ready to throw every Mexican out of the country and make Muslims wear little yellow crescents on their shirts, I just shake my head and laugh. It's especially amusing when I see people like gay billionaire Peter Thiel saying they support Trump. All those photos of Latinos holding signs that say "Mexicans for Trump" give me a slight grin. Not because I support Trump. Oh, holy hell, no. I think Trump is a semi-illiterate sexual predator who would sell out everything about America and destroy the economy as long as Putin kept funding his tacky-ass hotels. What amuses me is that these people screw up every single narrative about Trump supporters that these wise talking heads produce -- that Trump is tapping into the rage of racist bigots and homophobes to create a fascist America.

Without a doubt, there is a strong and very vocal collection of frightening bigots out there who feel empowered by Trump, and they're certainly bad people who deserve no sympathy or place in our society. But they're not the only Trump supporters.

You remember all those Bernie Sanders supporters? The ones who felt that Wall Street is destroying America and the middle class? That politicians were just paying lip service to people and that they didn't care as long as they stayed quiet while the lobbyist money kept coming in? They're just like so many of these Trump supporters, angry at a system that screwed them over and left them forgotten. It's just that they see Trump as their hero and not Bernie. I know some of you are howling mad right now. How dare I compare those good erstwhile Bernie Sanders supporters with those vile Trump scum? Easy. Bernie Sanders had a lot of great ideas, but he really was so very tone-deaf on a lot of issues facing minorities and people of color. He kept saying that economics would save black communities and it wasn't until Black Lives Matter activists got in his face that he changed his tune. Trump is too vile and pig-headed to get that, so no one bothered. All Trump supporters got were accusations of being racist and abusing their privilege.

Winning hearts and minds with abuse is a great tactic, isn't it?

Living in these poor red states all my life, spending my time around these blue-collar, rural folk has taught me that they aren't evil. Not all of them. They see people like David Duke, neo-Nazis, and the Klan as vile people. There's no love for the types of people who think all Mexicans are rapists or all Muslims are terrorists. They're just mad. Not crazy mad, but pissed off. They've been sold a bill of goods that they could have a nice home, have a job for life, get a good education, retire in comfort, and go to bed each night not terrified they'll be killed by some terrorist's bomb or mass shooter if they just worked hard and believed in the system. They're just like so many of you out there. They're afraid of the same things; they're mad about the same things. It's just that they've been beaten up on so much already, they don't trust liberals and Democrats, and they loathe the attitude that comes from those blue state elitists who have long called where they live "flyover country" and made them the butt of so much judgment and mockery.

You may not see it, but I do. Being someone who has lived a life of male privilege and left it to transition, a person who hid in the closet and came out later, someone who grew up relatively affluent but now lives paycheck to paycheck, I've seen both sides of a lot of things. Being a person who has seen both sides, I guess I have more empathy for these folks. When you see stand-up comedians pretending to be a racist to set up a joke, when they put on a "hillbilly hick" accent, it gets to you. When Larry the Cable Guy is the butt of jokes for being simplistic hack comedy, but the "cranky jaded New York City resident" shtick earns someone a sitcom and rave reviews in the Times, you start to notice. When the politicians who say that they want to lead all of America never visit your state except during primary season because they've written you off for the other side, you notice it and don't bother to think you matter anymore. When your schools are failing, there aren't any jobs, and no one is investing in those schools and jobs and you're told it's your fault that you're so backwards and behind, you notice. When your beliefs in God or a higher power are blamed for everything that's wrong, you tend to remember.

And it builds. It keeps building and building, and that resentment, that cynicism, starts to metastasize. It turns into hate and hostility. I've seen it before. I've seen it when students protesting in the '60s for peace became so angry at the system they started blowing up buildings as the Weather Underground and other organizations. I've seen it when some supporters of the civil rights movement lost the optimism of Martin Luther King, Jr., and turned to the cynicism of the violent terrorist groups of the '70s (not the Black Panthers, more like the Black Liberation Army). There's the anarchist labor terrorists of the early 20th-century, who blew up bombs on Wall Street and at the Los Angeles Times and shot President William McKinley as well as the Puerto Rican nationalists who tried to kill President Harry Truman. Or most recently, the shooting of four Dallas police officers this summer by a black militant. Oh, you thought I was going to list the Klan and anti-abortion clinic bombers? No, you see, it's not just angry white men capable of violence. No, that's easy to see and point to and you can try to justify these Leftist groups actions as part of a long history of repression and bigotry and how it's just a reaction to it. But then, you're making excuses for bad people doing bad things. You're rationalizing your support of a position in the face of moral conflict that says that hurting others is wrong. That's the same thing so many of these Trump supporters do too. It's something everyone does.

Not all of these Trump supporters are skinheads and ignorant thugs.They're LGBT people, blacks, Latinos, women, rich and poor. They're just people who are angry and tired of being told their voices don't matter. Yes, many if not most are angry white men, but when you try to blame every ill in the world on someone just because of who they are when they're mostly powerless, it gets to them. A lot, if not most, of these people never wanted to shut down a Planned Parenthood, keep minorities poor and out of their schools; they really didn't care one way or the other about LGBT people. However, most of them have been screwed by the same system that has screwed people of color, women, and gay people. However, because of who they are, they've been told it's their fault these groups have suffered.

Now people like Trump have come swooping in to tell them it's not their fault that the system is broken; it sounds so good. It's these "Wall Street Fat Cats," these people on the coasts and in the state capitals that have screwed them, and that it's political correctness that has kept them silent. It's a twist of their emotions and it's very appealing. So, this hostility and anger gets twisted into rationalizing prejudices and bigotries. Sometimes, a germ of it was already there, sometimes it gets planted. Prejudice and bigotry isn't a genetic trait and it's not built into these people's culture in the way some on the Left think it is, but it gets fed.

When I see these polls that show how many people think Hillary Clinton is literally evil and how people on the Left howl in laughter and mockery at how irrational they are, about how radicalized they've become, I just look at the other side. I also see those on the Left who think that Trump is an American Hitler and think that every evil in the world can be summed up in the words "Christian capitalist cis-het white men."

I see how liberals in blue states see everyone in red states as ignorant bigot hillbillies and how people in red states see those in the blue as godless socialist heathen. I keep seeing liberals gasping in horror when something terrible and bigoted happens in their part of the country, but sneer when it happens in a part they think it's supposed to. I can't help but think we're not as evolved and enlightened as we think we are. We're just as frightened and hateful of the different and strange as some medieval peasant. We're just as angry at those who don't think like us as some guillotine-dropping Jacobin. And we still blame some ethereal other for our problems, like a German in the 1920s.

This problem isn't a peculiarity of the red states, of white people, cisgender or heterosexual, or male. The people on the left do it too. I just see it since I've viewed it from both sides. The obliviousness of privilege seen as deliberate malice, the disdain of the other because of difference, the resentment of privilege and position. Judging others based on a quick assessment of their skin color, clothes, weight, gender, money, faith, or whatever is easy. It's also easy to beat on them for it too. We just ignore that those judgments and pressures can come back to haunt us in terrible ways. We just get blind to it because we're assured of who we are and what we believe is right and everything about the other is every terrible thing we imagine it to be. It's easy to justify these things in our mind when we keep these prejudices and stereotypes because they feel right and reinforce who we are and what we believe. It's not just our opponents who do this either.

AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.

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