Many queers (especially in the south) are debating whether or not they want to go home for the holidays this year. For some, this was never an option. Being out meant being put out, permanently. But some of us have straddled the line since coming out, breaking bread with families who would rather just ignore the big gay elephant in the room. With the outcome of the recent election, some of us are rethinking the idea of showing up to dinner with our tails tucked between our legs. Our childhood homes maybe don’t feel as safe as they once used to.
I share this open letter not in an attempt to shame my family, but in hopes that it might heal others who are going through the same thing. As artists and socially conscious queers, we have an obligation to speak up and fight injustice where we can. Sometimes that starts at home.
A week has passed since reality TV star and megalomaniac, Donald Trump, was announced the winner of the 2016 presidential election. I was ignorant to think that this could never happen. My own privilege has blinded me. The wound is still fresh and none of the dust has settled. Every morning, the looming sense of dread washes back over me as I come to grips with the fact that you, my family, voted to elect this man.
Our family has always been a loving one. You put me in Christian school for the first half of my life. A place where I made lifelong friendships and shaped the way I interact with the world. We went to church almost every Sunday. I was taught that bullying is wrong, racism is wrong, sexual assault is wrong. Loving others with the grace of Jesus Christ was the most important thing.
It’s also important to recognize the fact that we grew up in a place of privilege, sheltered by our white, middle-class upbringing. While my closest friends were being kicked out of their homes, physically abused by their fathers, and developing serious addictions as coping mechanisms against the backlash of their identities, I remained safe under the blanket of our broken household. I was provided for and almost completely left alone to make my own decisions.
How then is it that my good, Christian family decided to vote for an inexperienced candidate who is known for his greed, arrogance, and overwhelming ignorance about the way most Americans live? Donald Trump represents everything that a good Christian should not be and he makes no excuse for his behavior. This man admitted to sexual assault. This man makes fun of disabled people, calls women dogs and fat pigs, calls Hispanic people criminals and rapists. His running mate, Mike Pence, would rather use federal funding on gay conversion therapy (essentially electrocuting queer children into submission) over HIV and AIDs research.
I have loved and stood by you for 27 years, through the good times and all of the bad. All of you. When you called me faggot and queer bait and bruised my shoulders, when you missed major milestones in my life because you just weren’t there yet, when you insinuated that my work was pornographic and that parents would not feel safe having me photograph their children, when you said I should just go join ISIS (an organization that executes queer people), when you told me you would never support my “lifestyle” and suggested I should try and live a celibate life. All of these things have made me stronger, but will never be excused or forgotten.
Love is many things, but it is not conditional. If you love me but still wish I was not gay, you haven’t been listening. I do not expect you to agree with all of my choices, because god knows I don’t agree with all of yours. But you need to know this: I was born queer and it is not a negotiable part of my identity. I do not need you to fight my battles, but you cannot have ANY part of me if you are supporting a system that seeks to terminate my way of life.
You may never be the kind of family that will march with me in the streets, but I will continue to check you when you put your own personal economy over the safety of others.
I would go to war for you, and I will go to war for my trans friends, my POC friends, my Muslim friends, my friends with disabilities, and the women in my life that are fighting for their own autonomy. Remember, these are real, breathing Americans who pay taxes, raise children, and deserve compassion. If homophobia, racism, and misogyny aren’t deal breakers for you, then what about the respect of your loved ones? Our basic human rights were on the ballot last Tuesday and you chose the side of the oppressor.