TW: brief mentions of sexual assault/rape
“So,” she said with a heavy sigh, “do we want to talk about it?”
It was the day after the election, and my normally lively class was silent. As a political science minor, this election was fascinating to me on an academic level. Nobody saw this coming – not even Trump supporters. What went wrong with the polling? Why was the Trump campaign’s rhetoric so effective? Why couldn’t this guy seem to lose?
“Let’s talk about it,” I said eagerly, hoping to discuss these topics. I was the only one who answered.
“Alright,” replied my professor, a stern and intelligent woman. “If anyone needs a safe space, you can come to me. Also, our counseling center is there for you, and any of the professors in this department are there for you.”
Okay I thought, so we got Donald Trump. Definitely not ideal, but why is everyone acting like it’s the end of the world? Yes, he’s obnoxious and awful, but we’ve had conservative presidents before. Do we really need “safe spaces?” That seems a bit dramatic…
“As a woman who identifies as queer… I know I don’t feel safe,” she went on. “I’m afraid for my friends – my community.” She put her head in her hands and wept.
The class sat in silence, the small sobs of my normally straight-faced, matter-of-fact professor filling the room.
My face burned with shame. I was coming face-to-face with my own privilege.
While Donald Trump has used generally sexist language against women, talking about “grabbing them by the pussy,” and reducing overweight women to “pigs,” I didn’t feel particularly threatened. Sexism has always and will always exist, and this was our president now. There was nothing I could do about it, so might as well accept it.
But sitting there in silence as my queer-identifying professor broke down in tears, I felt her fear. As a middle-class, white, straight, cisgender female, it’s easy for me to sit back and passively observe this election unfold because it doesn’t affect me. I am not worried about my rights being taken away.
But she has a genuine right to be afraid. Trump has normalized a culture in which people now feel justified in bullying, disrespecting and abusing members of the LGBTQIA+ community. As if things weren’t hard enough for this community in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting, we’ve now elected a president who has openly spoken about stripping these citizens of their basic human rights to marry. After gay marriage was nationally legalized in 2015, for America to now elect a man who consistently talks about LGBTQIA+ people like second-class citizens, is a huge step backward.
I have also never been seriously sexually assaulted. For women who have been, seeing a man who was caught on camera bragging about sexually assaulting women actually get elected could not only be cripplingly disappointing, but terrifying – triggering. The fear of sexual assault is already so prevalent in today’s rape culture. I can’t imagine having experienced such abuse first-hand, and then watching in sheer horror as America elects the face of rape culture itself.
While this election has left me disgruntled, my heart goes out to those whose intersectional identity has made them a true target in this election – trans people, people of color, Muslim people, queer people, any members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of Latino/Hispanic heritage, women of all shapes, colors, sexual/gender identities.
To those, like myself, whose intersections work in your favor, I encourage you to recognize your privilege and be understanding of those who are genuinely victims of the hatred that Trump has consistently perpetuated, even if you haven’t directly experienced it yourself. This rhetoric of “Trump won – get over it,” is simply blind privilege.
To those of you who voted for Trump, please understand how your vote has affected other communities and minorities around you. You allowed, encouraged, supported the fear they now feel. Recognize that, admit your mistake and join us in standing against this man and everything he represents. If we’re going to heal this toxic climate, we need to do it together.
Feature image source: Flickr Creative Commons