I remember as child being dragged to church by my father when I was with him for visitation (my parents divorced when I was one). Every Sunday began with Sunday School where simplified versions of bible stories were taught. I remember none of them now. While the teacher waited for all the students to arrive, us early birds would play. Some would color, others played tag, but I always spent the whole time twirling. I wore the same dress every Sunday, my favorite dress. It was a deep seafoam green with white lace around the neck, a fitted bodice, and a skirt that flared out and came down to my knees. I would stand in an open space, arms stretched out with my eyes on the skirt, watching it billow as I spun. I wouldn’t stop spinning unless I got too dizzy and stumbled. I remember feeling distinctly feminine in this dress, like I was exactly who I was supposed to be. It was a powerful feeling. I was in complete control of who I was and who I could be.
As I got older, I began to feel the sense of power I experienced with my youthful femininity vanish. I quickly learned that being girly was inherently weak and only with masculinity came true, lasting, and impressive strength. So, I would play football like the boys, bike like them, talk like them, but yet I was never one of them. I knew I played my part perfectly; I was naturally athletic and boyish looking when I was young, so I should have been able to fool them, yet I never could. I figured out that the problem wasn’t that I didn’t play the role well enough, but rather those who knew gave me away in how they treated me. At dinner, my father, brother, and step-brothers would all get their food first while the girls ate last. When my father played video games with my brother, I was not allowed to join them because girls didn’t play video games, girls stayed in their rooms and painted or played with dolls. I would watch out of my bedroom window as they threw a ball outside because girls didn’t play ball, girls stayed in their rooms and were quiet. I began to see that being a girl meant being limited and powerless.
On my fifteenth birthday, my father told me that if I didn’t want to keep visiting him I didn’t have to, so I immediately stopped. I usually tried to avoid him when he came to pick up my brother, who still enjoyed visiting him; so when I saw him again, it was months later. On this day he arrived early and I wasn’t ready. He walked into my mother’s house and looked surprised to see me standing there, as if he had forgotten I existed and only upon seeing me remembered. He began attempting some lukewarm conversation, the substance of which I hardly remember. I assume it was something to do with how school was going and what my future plans were, because he told me “you’ll be very successful.” Wow, a compliment that isn’t backhanded, I thought, surprised to hear these words from this man. “Because you are very pretty.” Oh, of course. My success is wholly dependent on my appearance because that’s all women are useful for, right?
For years throughout high school and college, I fought with my subconscious and the sly lessons of my youth that told me what girls should and shouldn’t be. I knew theoretically I was equal to men, but my whole life had taught me differently. My trained subconscious told me to hide my intelligence, minimize myself, not be too opinionated. It guided my choices for years without me realizing. It told me that I could either be feminine or powerful (to the small capacity I thought I could be), but never both. Clawing my way through the depths of my subconscious, I worked to reconcile my femininity with my strength. Gradually, my intensity came to work in conjunction with my femininity, not despite it. I am no longer afraid nor ashamed to be a woman, despite the tumultuous environment of my youth. I no longer minimize myself, limit my mental growth, nor stifle my opinions.
It shouldn’t be such a fight for a woman, person of color, LGBT person, Muslim, or anyone to be respected as a human being. Discrimination based on that which we were born with opens us up to all types of discrimination. If we hate based on one unchangeable metric, we might as well hate based on them all. Therefore, we should judge others based on none. A person should not be judged because they were born Latinx, a woman, or gay. A person should be judged on their actions. It is for this reason I judge Donald Trump.
I watched last night as the votes were tallied. My heart felt like it was ripped from my chest as I watched my home state, North Carolina, turn red in support of Trump. I wept as the final announcement came that a man who discriminates, and promotes discrimination, based on uncontrollable features is the new leader of the United States of America. I bawled my eyes out knowing that the fear my LGBT friends felt just beginning to subside came rushing back and will worsen over the next four years. I sobbed knowing that women’s healthcare rights will be reduced under the guise of protection. I mourned knowing that young women growing up under a Trump presidency will feel the exclusion I felt in my youth and will have to fight as I fought, just to be seen as equal. I cried as I realized immigration will decrease, because who wants to wait for years to move to a country that will only ostracize them? Watching the stock market fall and the value of the dollar plummet only made the night that much worse. I wept for the impending pain this country will feel because what we feel now is nothing compared to the damage that will be done by a Trump presidency with Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
I may be but one person, but I have fought all my life to get where I am and I sure as hell still have fight left in me. As long as I can read, hear, or write I will be fighting against the policies of this monstrous presidency and all this sad excuse of a man stands for. Donald Trump will ruin America. I plan on making it great again.