On the afternoon of Tuesday, November 8, I picked up my son from school and we went to the grocery store. In addition to some things I were asked to pick up, I also bought four bottles of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider in anticipation of celebrating an historic win for the first female president. On our way back to our minivan, I was asked by a woman sitting in her car if I had voted. I responded that I had not yet but that I would before the polls closed. My children (being the not shy social butterflies that they are) immediately for into a conversation with the woman. She was enamored with them (she’s not the first), and she said that they were the reason why she votes. Her comments were inspiring, honest, and authentic. As a society and as parents, we want to leave the world a better place for our children than we received it.
I wore my white dress to the polls in solidarity. While I vote in every election (not just presidential ones), this one was significant for me. This was the first time as a legally recognized woman that I was voting for president–and I was voting for a woman. Historic.
As I returned home and began to watch the election results stream in over the next few hours, my mood changed from nervous excitement to nervous tension to defeat to fear for the future. What was I going to tell my children in the morning? How was I going to explain that a bully—a man full of of hate, racism, and sexism (among other things)—was selected to be our next president. And what was going to happen to my family and to myself?
Because my family is on the poorer side, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)—and specifically, the expansion of Medicare—allowed us to insure ourselves and our children at zero cost to us. This translated to a $500+/month savings and allowed our children to begin seeing a dentist and myself to start my transition. Medi-Cal is an essential tool in allowing me to access a therapist, hormones, and seek surgeries. I cannot even imagine where I would be without the PPACA. But now, in the wake of a shocking election result, I am now faced with a president-elect who seeks to “repeal and replace” my health care.
To my children’s credit, they handled the results fairly well. I still don’t know what to truly expect on January 20. However, I already feel fear for how they may have to defend me in the future. The rhetoric of this election and its result have allowed fringe groups and radical opinions to be de facto accepted in some areas of our country. When I transitioned, I gave up straight white male privilege to be a lesbian transgender woman. By doing so, I have put myself in a position of minority and vulnerability. Such a move comes with a large asterisk: I do live in California and in the San Francisco Bay Area, which means I live in a bit of a protected bubble when it comes to transphobia and misogyny, but it still exists. When I first started presenting as a woman at my son’s elementary school, he had to deal with questions from other kids about who I was and how I presented. The 6-year-old was put in an awkward position, and I am proud to say we guided him through that difficult stage. Now, it seems to a non-issue among the kids. But with a fundamental shift in the politics of the nation and the “hidden Trump vote,” it is hard to say how much transphobia will read its head and how that will directly affect me and my children.
I have felt a small shift at work. I have been full-time 10 months, and I was extremely nervous the first day I came to work as my authentic self. While there was overwhelming support, there were guests (and their children) who would occasionally misgender me—sometimes intentionally. The incidents were few and far between, and there really have been no incidents to my knowledge in the last 6 months. However just after the election, I have begun to encounter more people misgendering me. There was one particular weekend where I had three incidents, and since I am already highly dysphoric these days regarding my voice and face, they challenged me not to fall into a depressive state. Luckily, I have team members who defend me when I am not around. That helps.
Since the marriage equality decision came down from the Supreme Court, there has been a cultural shift to focus on transgender rights. This mainly is a function of the fact the “T” is the redheaded stepchild of the LGBT acronym. Why? LGB are sexual orientations; T is an identity. Even the Human Right Coalition (HRC) took heat for placing transgender rights on the back burner in order to push through marriage equality. With trans people fighting for gender equality and the simple right to pee in peace in public accommodations, we now face a divided Supreme Court, a maniac in the White House, and Republican Congress. There is great fear that transgender community wil not only see progress stalled but even rolled back. The additional potential loss of the PPACA adds the additional fear that not only will the trans community not be granted equal protection but may also lose health care protections. The trans community is being urged to update passports ahead of the transition of power, as rules may change making it more difficult to change name and gender on the most essential of identification documents. I have a friend who moved up some of her transition consult dates because of the uncertainty ahead.
For me, I am in the awkward position of beginning the surgery consults and planning ahead for facial feminization surgery (FFS) and gender reassignment surgery (GRS). These types of procedures have long wait lists and complicated red tape. Any changes to health care could seriously impact my plans and heighten my dysphoria. In short, my quality of life is directly affected by what happens in the next few months. Living in uncertainty is scary. I am grateful that I live in California. I am grateful that I have support. But even though I have all of these things going for me, I am still fearful that any of it can be taken away from me at anytime. When I think of trans people in less protected areas than I, I am saddened. In North Carolina, HB2 prevents trans people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with. In “red” states, what there? I can’t imagine living outside this state, let alone traveling. What happens if I go to Walt Disney World, New York City, Washington DC? What happens if I go to the Midwest? I should not have to worry about traveling the country. People should not have to live in fear.
Unlike some others, I do not challenge the results of the election. I do not favor “faithless electors” or even necessarily those that cast a protest vote (although, those votes may have made a difference). I am saddened that nearly 50% of those eligible to vote did not exercise that option. Turnout was actually lower than the in the previous presidential election. Americans have shown their ambivalence, and now we must live with the results. With the new political landscape, I fear for a significant shift to the right, and that is not a shift that benefits me or my community. Giving up my straight white male privilege means this shift will directly affect me and my family. My wife is fearful for my safety. We both worry about what negativity will be shared on the playground. For now, we cannot assume what will happen; we can only move forward and hope for the best. I only speak from the trans-perspective. Other groups are fearful, too. Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, women, refugees: They all have reason to keep an eye on Washington and what happens next.
I try to remain optimistic. I try to remain hopeful. But for the first time following an election, I am fearful. As the woman in the grocery store parking lot, my job as a mother is to protect my children from the hate and rhetoric. My job as trans person is to advocate for my community. My job for myself is to continue to reach for the dream of being and living as my authentic self. I am doing the best I can in a changing political climate. I resolve to continue being the best person I can be—full of love, dreams, and hope.