I’ve been betrayed by my own family. Odds are, so have you.
They don’t want you to call it that — a betrayal — but it’s true.
Don’t dare ask them why, either: How could you have voted for a man who used racism, xenophobia, and sexism to get elected? Didn’t you realize that would affect me?
The most often repeated defense Donald Trump’s supporters have, at least the ones who claim they’re not bigots, is that they weren’t thinking about minorities when they cast their votes. Well, that much is obvious.
They sound like Cain, confronted by God about who he’d voted for, answering snidely, “Am I my brother's keeper?"
Maybe you’re like me, and you’re having a hard time believing that Grandma and Grandpa were blissfully unaware of Latinos saying Trump is racist or women warning he’s all the more sexist and dangerous in private or that LGBT people said he couldn’t be trusted. They heard all these complaints, then voted for Trump.
As far as you knew, these loved ones of yours weren’t prejudiced, at least not in such an extreme way. You’re perhaps trying to explain away those votes as signs of aging or the fault of their Fox News habit, and not evidence of a lack of compassion — and not merely for a stranger, but for you.
Here’s a scary fact. LGBT parents are being warned, right now, by legal experts in our community that we ought not rely on a two-parent birth certificate and must get an adoption order before Trump is inaugurated, that we must ensure our children’s Social Security records list both parents, and you better get a passport that lists two dads or two moms even if you have no place in particular to travel. Don’t panic, of course, but be prepared just in case.
You have to be ready when the likes of the National Organization for Marriage, which had been dying after the Supreme Court ruling, is drawing up plans for how it will collaborate with the Republican-led Congress and with Trump.
An innocuous but disturbing hashtag was trending on Twitter Thursday: #TransLawHelp. People are anxious that inauguration day is actually the deadline for legally changing names and gender markers. Good Samaritans are volunteering money to cover fees for people they don't know. Research shows that not being able to obtain these things contributes to high rates of suicide. And, by the way, the Trans Lifeline experienced a record number of calls after Trump was elected.
Reports are widespread of immigration lawyers getting phone calls too, from young people who signed up for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They’re worried their names are now on a list that Trump will use for deportation. Are they in danger of being kicked out of the country they’ve always known as home? The answer is yes, they are in danger. And not only because of policy changes.
I’ve had friends on social media say they’ve been shouted at or had threatening notes left under their door. Cathy Renna is a publicist friend of mine who came out of the grocery store to find the word “Fuck” scrawled over the rainbow Hillary Clinton sticker on her car.
There is a reemergence in the everyday aggression that LGBT people thought was on its way out. Depending who you ask, it’s bullying or the rise of a wave of hate crimes. Regardless, it makes you less certain that you’re safe.
None of that factored into the votes of relatives who say they merely wanted a “businessman” who will “Make America Great Again.” None of my life, or the lives of other minorities, was weighted enough in their calculus to give pause.
They were thinking only of themselves.
This is the problem with the Trump America. It’s as isolationist in its foreign policy as it is in interpersonal relationships. “America First” translates to “Me First.”
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul implored them to “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The rule of thumb was to “count others more significant than yourselves.”
I’m making Bible references because I come from an extended family of evangelical missionaries and pastors. And I know through the family grapevine and the wonders of Facebook that they voted for Trump.
Among my regrets now that the country is watching, mouth agape, as President-elect Trump visits the Oval Office, is that I didn’t force an awkward conversation with my extended family. They know me, and I’d like to believe that if the case against Trump was coming from the kid they remember from barbecues and holiday dinners, and if I said a vote for Trump would cause personal harm, then they’d stop for a moment and reconsider.
The worst effect of this election, even worse than the present sense of danger, is I’m left unsure whether the people who loved me ever had my back.