• An open letter to my family and friends who voted for Donald Trump

    In an attempt to promote understanding and heal some divides that the recent election has caused, I write this letter. Several of you have written posts or sent messages asking me either to explain why I am so upset about the election results or to encourage me to calm down and hope for the best. I write this from my heart in a genuine attempt to reach out and talk constructively to the people I love who seemingly do not understand what I am feeling right now.

    For me, it’s not about being on the losing side of an election. And I suspect the same is true about the people who have been protesting across the USA for the past few days, but I will not presume to speak for anyone other than me. So, here it is as simply as I can articulate it: I am FEARFUL for the first time in my life as an American citizen.

    To be sure, people were sad, depressed, and upset when George W. Bush won (twice). And people were sad, depressed, and upset when Barrack Obama won (twice). But what I am experiencing is FEAR … fear for my safety and the safety of my family and friends, as well as fear for our rights. And that type of fear at the personal level is quite different than disagreeing with the policies of the party in power. This is not a Democrat/Republican thing. This is about basic human rights, dignity, and respect that ought to transcend party lines.

    Let me try to put this in context. As a teenager, I volunteered for Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign when I was too young to vote. Then I voted for George H. Bush. And I voted for George H. Bush’s re-election (meaning I voted against Bill Clinton’s first term). So it’s not that (contrary to some completely unfounded assumptions about me) that I am some ultra-left-wing liberal with sour grapes. Not so. In fact, I was a registered Republican for most of my life. Indeed, I was genuinely disappointed and upset when Bill Clinton beat George H. Bush. I worried at that time that Bill Clinton — the Democratic governor of a small southern state — would not keep the nation safe because, in my opinion, it didn’t work out so well for us when Jimmy Carter was president. But those were very different kinds of worry than the FEAR I am experiencing right now.

    I was similarly disappointed and upset when George W. Bush won reelection because I thought he was a terrible president — largely because I viewed him as reckless with our national security; after all, he fought a war against a country (Iraq) that did not attack us. Those mistakes ultimately cost us trillions of dollars, caused the deaths of thousands of American lives, and contributed to both increase hatred of the USA and the power vacuum in the Middle East that helped ISIS rise to power. Nonetheless, I did not fear Bush’s reelection in the way I now fear for our country. So, to be as clear as I can be, I am not merely disappointed or upset because Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump won. Although I have been a registered Democrat since the late 1990s, I am not a big fan of Hillary Clinton. I think she is well-qualified to serve our nation as its president, but I had concerns about her ethical decision-making (concerns that are minuscule compared to those I have about Trump). But I am now more scared than I have ever been in my life that Donald Trump is going to hurt me and others about whom I care deeply.

    As an aside, I could talk about my fears of the treatment of women; members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups; immigrants; and others. But I will limit my comments to my own personal fears, rather than the fears I presumably share with many others for their own personal plights, some of which are justifiably more intense than my own. That being said, here is my best attempt to try to explain why I have been in tears for two days. Yes, tears … as in crying. Let me put that in context for you. I did not cry when my father died last month. I did not cry when my grandfather passed away in 2002, even though he raised me and was the most important person in my life. Yet, I cried on Election Night. And I cried again the following day as I thought more about what it the results mean. Today, there were no tears … just anger. Why? Contrary to how some of my friends and family characterized what they erroneously perceived my feelings to be, I am not “upset” about the outcome of the election. I am SCARED. Indeed, I am more terrified by Trump and Pence than I was after the 9/11 attacks. Back then, I knew the U.S. military would do its damnedest to fight the threats against us. Who is going to fight against the domestic threats large segments of the population now face from its own government and bigots within its borders? I am so scared that I reached out in the last two days to some friends at Italian, British, and Australian universities to see if I might be able to find a job outside the country. Yes, that’s how scared I am … fearful enough that I am investigating whether I can leave the USA.

    Can you understand that being scared is not the same as being disappointed and upset? And it’s not some amorphous fear that plagues all of us from issues like accidents, natural disasters, the country’s economic trajectory, or even terrorism. After all, terrorists don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or anything else. We’re all Americans. That’s all that matters to them. I thought it mattered to us, too. But apparently us all being Americans — us all allegedly being created equal and all allegedly being entitled to the same rights, privileges, and protections under law — seemingly does not translate into you being willing to vote for politicians, as imperfect as they may be, who articulate visions of honoring my rights as if they were your own. And that hurts.

    Since I come from Italian-American roots, I ask my family to think about it like this (others can try to reason by analogy): Imagine that John Smith won a presidential election after running on a platform to overturn the rights of Italian-Americans from getting married and receiving equal treatment under law. How would you feel about your marriage to your spouse? Or your parents’ marriage? Or the marriages of your siblings? Would you not worry about what would happen to you and your family … your ability to visit each other in the hospital (which was denied to LGBT couples in many states until just last year), your ability to inherit, your ability to make decisions for your spouse in other times of crisis? Those are the rights I and millions of other LGBT people face losing according to the campaign pledges of Donald Trump.

    But it doesn’t stop at Trump’s pledge to appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices that will overturn marriage equality (and the other 1,000+ rights that are attendant to marriage). Trump selected Mike Pence as his running mate. Pence is on record as supporting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Pence went so far as governor of Indiana to sign a bill in 2013 to jail same-sex couples in Indiana who applied for a marriage license! He opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes bill. He served on the board of the Indiana Family Institute — an affiliate of Focus on the Family, which has been at the forefront of attacks on LGBT rights in Indiana. He opposes the Employee Nondiscrimination Act, which is designed to prevent me from being fired from my job if my employer doesn’t like the fact that I am gay. So, you see, it’s not just my marriage (and those of my LGBT brothers and sisters). We could lose our jobs — our ability to support ourselves — because of the men whom a minority of our country elected to serve as president and vice-president. (Yes, a minority; the Trump/Pence ticket did not win the popular vote, only the Electoral College vote, which is the one that matters.)

    Perhaps scariest of all, Pence signed and defended a state law in Indiana that he and Trump have vowed to pass at the federal level: a law that would allow any bigot to deny me and Kyle services (read: medical care, housing, restaurant service, etc.) because a person disagrees with my so-called “lifestyle” on religious grounds. In other words, they have vowed to do everything possible to make sure it is legal to discriminate against me. So, you see, it’s not just about marriage equality. It could affect our ability to go out to dinner together on a weekend or a holiday. My husband Kyle and I could be refused service because the owner of the restaurant thinks we’re immoral. And these so-called “religious freedom” laws could affect my brother and sister-in-law if the owner of the restaurant claimed a religious exception to interracial marriage which, lest people forget, used to be criminalized. Such bans on interracial marriage were supported on the basis of religious beliefs (look it up!) prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision invalidating those racists laws. You think that’s just in the past? Well look at the activities of White supremacists in the past 72 hours who have been emboldened by Trump’s election. But I digress since I promised to limit my comments to what I am feeling without presuming to speak on behalf of others.

    Do you now see why I am NOT merely disappointed and upset about the election results, but rather am genuinely fearful that the next president and vice-president of the United States have vowed to relegate me, my husband, my friends, and potentially other members of my family to second-class citizen status, if not worse? And can you understand why I am hurt… genuinely pained… that I have family and friends who voted to support the candidates that are now causing me such fear? I am devastated that you apparently love and care about me so little that my plight and that of my brother, my husband, and so many of your fellow citizens did not matter enough to you to have taken a stand for us with your vote. And please stop telling me not to take it personally. It is very personal for me and for every person in this country at whom Trump and Pence have focused their hateful rhetoric.

    Finally, please don’t respond with your justifications for not wanting Hillary Clinton as president. I know she was a flawed candidate. I had concerns about her ability to run a scandal-free administration. After all, we can point to several examples of questionable decision-making that have caused some of us to have trust issues with Secretary Clinton. Yet, I knew she could do the job well while respecting the lives and dignity of all Americans. Hence, I voted for her in spite of her flaws. She never vowed to take actions to curtail the due process and equal protection rights of U.S. citizens. Donald Trump and Mike Pence did.

    Some of you have suggested to me that many of the Trump/Pence statements were just campaign rhetoric designed to appeal to bigots in the USA. I hope you’re right, but I doubt it. Their rhetoric matters. And the endorsement of hateful rhetorical through the voting process is shameful. Moreover, it has consequences for the spread of racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. That’s why I (and, I think, millions of others) feel justified in fearing that Trump and Pence might actually do what they said they would. And the people they have named to their transition team thus far strongly evidences that they intend to follow through on many of their anti-LGBT promises with all deliberate speed.

    Frankly, I don’t deserve to live in fear. Yet that’s what your vote has done to me. And it’s going to take me some time to get over that…if I can. I will try, because I love you. But I feel that you owe me an apology. And beyond that, I feel you need to take concrete actions to try to make things right. You need to be vocal and ardent advocates who let the new administration and members of Congress know that you expect them to treat all citizens fairly, equally, and with dignity. That will help heal the divide more than platitudes and hope that President-Elect Trump does the right thing.

    • Beautifully written. Trump appealed to the fear of the white privileged and for the same reason the Patriot Act passed so did the election of Trump. It deeply disturbs me that we have become a fear based country. I truly am scared right along with you. Great writing from your very soul.

      • Carolyn Wyler

      • November 12, 2016 at 9:36 am
      • Reply

      Thank you for writing such perfectly expressed column. As a woman, I can empathize about your fears and total depression from the results of this election. (I too cried when I heard the results). Although I will not likely be discriminated against what restaurant I wish to eat at, getting married or losing my job (I am a white, heterosexual and retired female), I do feel I am living back 40-50 years ago when my religion and family taught me that the white man was more important than a woman and it was my God given responsibility have kids and follow what my husband told me to do. I feel we have taken steps to living in a country where it is ok to stone a woman to death because she was “grabbed by the pussy” and raped. I too am scare, terrified. I hurt for you for all of us who have chosen to take paths that have made our lives better, happier and are our true selves, but don’t conform to the white religious right. I am so sorry that my country has done this to you. I am so sorry there are people out there so bigoted that they only see how you have chosen to marry another man (something they perceive is wrong), and not able to see the kind, loving person that you are. (I have never heard an unkind word spoken against you and so much appreciate how you helped a person I love when he was at one of the lowest points in his life). Thank you. Those of us that care about equality for all will keep fighting.

      • Joyce Cochrane

      • November 13, 2016 at 5:46 am
      • Reply

      Some of us from an older generation are feeling that fear again. I was hopeful that younger LGBTQ folks could live without that experience. Apparently history does repeat itself. For that, my fear is accompanied by anger as well as sadness and disappointment. It is also accompanied by the hope that we will see a swing away from hate and back to love. None of us deserve to live in fear. Thank you, Hank, for sharing yourself and putting into words what many are feeling.

    • Very well stated. You put into words what has been in my heart. Thank you

      • Michael & Ed

      • November 13, 2016 at 10:38 am
      • Reply

      Thank you so much…my husband and I just had the same conversation with our family. We too are very fearful.

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      • November 13, 2016 at 7:32 pm
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      Thank you for your honesty and explanation. I, too, was fearful that if the vote went the other direction, the things that I hold most dear would come under discrimination and freedoms that I enjoy stripped as well. Some of her rhetoric was suggesting that religions would need to change. Religions are deeply held convictions regarding beliefs of why we exist and what is most important to spend our time doing. I actually believe that everyone has religion in their life. Some derive it from a holy book, some from their check book, some from their kids. All this to say, that just like you, I was fearful that gov’t would strip me of who I’m called to be, or at least try to put me in the closet on it.
      I also could not vote for Trump because of his hateful rhetoric, when my God commands that I love neighbor as myself.
      My only other point would be, just as you have so eloquently given us the opportunity to stand in your shoes, I think it is important to also take some time to stand in the shoes of the millions of blue collar workers who, for generations, didn’t need to go to college, because they could make a happy life for themselves working at the factory in their town. Raising a happy family was on the horizon until all the factories shut down or moved operations overseas. There are numerous depressed towns with vacant old factories all around me. These folks don’t want hand outs. They want a hand up. They want jobs back in their towns. Farmers all across the middle of the country can’t make a profit because Monsanto’s seeds allow competition farmers to sell an unhealthy product at a much lower price to the grocery stores and feed lots. Most everyone across this nation is struggling financially, but it is the blue collar workers that have had the most trouble recovering.
      So, yes, you are correct in saying that they don’t care about you. But mostly it is because they are too focused on caring for their struggling families. Some are truly fearful of terrorism, as well, and it is very sad/maddening to see how that has manifested itself this week. But I’m confident that the majority of Trump voters just want to see working class America be able to provide for themselves.
      I will pray that A) you are free to love and care for your family in the same way I do for mine and B) that our country begins to heal from our many fears and divisions. But it is going to take a lot of work on all side. A lot of looking at life from the perspective of others, saying “ok, you’re scared too.”

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