(Published in Between The Lines Newspaper November 7, 2018)
One of the lasting lessons I learned from Detroit’s legendary activist Jeff Montgomery was no matter what the outcome was of an election, we must prepare for the morning after. As I write this before knowing the results, I know that things could go either for or against us, but we have to be prepared. When he said this advice, Montgomery was talking about the 2004 Michigan vote that made it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. So much was at stake.
The 2018 midterm elections are much the same. So much is at stake, not just for the LGBTQIA community, but for immigrants, education, fair wages, survivors of sexual assault, reproductive rights, voting rights and so much more.
And, no matter what the outcome of the midterm election, we still have a lot of work to do. There are no quick fixes. There’s no morning-after pill to fix all that’s wrong in our communities, our state, our country and in our world.
And as much as I want to believe that rainbow and blue waves can turn the tide on the bright orange tsunami that’s hell-bent on destroying all we hold dear, the reality is things didn’t just get bad since 45 took office; they just got real. Really real.
Racism, homophobia, and transphobia have only been emboldened under 45 but were nothing new for communities of color or members of the LGBTQIA community. We knew we weren’t entering a post-racial period in America with the election of Barack Obama. There was still Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and others.
Black Lives Matter but everyday reports of shootings and social and economic disparities said they didn’t. At the same time, rhetoric against other communities of color and immigrants was ratcheted up in daily tweets
And even with the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” marriage equality and markedly increased support for LGBTQIA rights across the country and in the White House, the gay community knew there would still be haters.
Despite Trump’s promise to defend LGBTQ rights, his health agency has blocked efforts to combat discrimination. Political appointees have halted or rolled back regulations intended to protect LGBTQ workers and patients, removed LGBTQ-friendly language from documents and reassigned the senior adviser dedicated to LGBTQ health.
In 2017, at least 29 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. due to fatal violence were reported. Right now, 2018 is on track to be even worse for deadly assaults against transgender Americans.
We’ve endured the travel bans, revelations of sexual misconduct and assault that gave life to the #MeToo movement and were reminded again during the Kavanaugh confirmations.
We were appalled by the shootings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and inspired by the protests led by the Parkland students.
All of this brought us to the 2018 midterms. Many again had a fire lit in their belly – a burning for justice, equality, freedom, and hope. We’ve marched, rallied, registered voters and rallied some more.
Our mailboxes – electronic and real-world, have been jammed with flyers, pamphlets, and fundraising letters. And we’ve responded showing up and shelling out record numbers to turn the tide with our rainbow and blue waves.
But now what? We still have a lot of work to do.
Unfortunately, when asked why they didn’t vote, there are those who will tell you their vote doesn’t count, that their one vote won’t make a difference. Some have never voted, and others have stopped voting and still use these same excuses.
Democracy is not a sport. There are no slam dunks, Hail Mary passes or home runs. It also is not a spectator sport where we can sit on the sidelines, cheer, hope and pray that our team will win.
Democracy is a living, participative work in progress that takes all of our efforts not only at the polls but every day.
There will be wounds to heal and fences to mend, but let’s commit to doing the work.
Let’s get beyond partisan politics and fight for a system that puts people first. Let’s re-commit to the promise of America that has historically brought immigrants to this country, celebrate their contributions and not let our borders be ruled by fear and hate-mongering.
Let’s provide our children with a safe space to learn, where they’ll learn to think critically, feel safe and recognize they can differ with someone without vilifying them. But most importantly, let them know that they should be respected and free to be their authentic selves, especially if they are LGBTQIA.
Let’s not forget the environment, income inequality, jobs with fair wages, health care and so much more just in this country. But we’re also part of the global community. There’s only one earth and our actions/inactions have global implications.
There’s no morning-after pill to fix all that’s wrong in our communities, our state, our country and in our world, but maybe now that we’ve seen just how ugly things can get, we’re ready to get it done!