Chase Strangio, a lawyer who fights anti-trans legislation, on the crucial work we must do to protect people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and women.
Photo by Leah James
In the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, I began to accept the reality that Donald Trump would be the next President of the United States and that the GOP would control both chambers of Congress.
By this time, I had been watching election coverage on four different screens for eight hours; when the map started to turn in Trump's favor, I could barely move. I hoped that if I watched long enough, the image on the screen would change or the world would change or something would suddenly, fundamentally shift in order to prevent our new reality. But I also knew this wouldn't happen. Not only because the numbers were clear, but also because the racism and white supremacy that fueled this election cycle are central to our national character. We are a nation founded on the genocide of Native Americans, with a legal system created to maintain chattel slavery. This is our truth and no amount of sitting on my couch was going to change that.
When I could not take the election coverage any longer, at three in the morning, I walked into my four-year-old's room and sat at the edge of her bed as she slept. I watched her breathe and embraced a temporary serenity. There was no President Trump yet in her world. I knew when morning came my partner and I would have to tell her that the man she was so scared of—the man who would send brown people away, the man who didn't like Black people, the man who was a bully, the man who represented all that our family fought against—would be in charge. I knew that a piece of my heart would be walking around in a world that was distinctly scarier and I could do nothing to change that except keep fighting to make it better.
I didn't sleep the rest of the night. I thought of what it would mean for me as a trans person, for my trans clients, for my Muslim family members, for the Black and brown people already living under constant terror, for immigrants, for queer people. How would we navigate more hostile courts and Congress? How would we organize in the face of potentially more systematic repression? I wrote a love letter to my trans community and began to strategize about the fights we have before us.
At dawn my child woke up and we told her about the election. "Does this mean we can't use the bathroom anymore?" was her first question after we told her that Donald Trump had won. Our kids feel and recognize our pain. They worry about the safety of their trans parents, their immigrant parents, their brown and Black parents. They worry about their own safety.
Our kids feel and recognize our pain. They worry about the safety of their trans parents, their immigrant parents, their brown and Black parents.
To my kid, I am just dad. The fact that I am trans doesn't change anything. I hold her when she is sick. I drop her off at school. I get frustrated with her when she doesn't listen, and I love her more than I have ever loved anything. I never want the world's fear of me and my body to shame her.
"Why would people vote for Trump?" she asked.
I couldn't take it, and started sobbing.
When I pulled it together, we assured her, "We will keep fighting to make the world better; we will keep fighting to get people out of cages, to help people stay here if they want to stay here, to stop police from hurting Black and brown people, to ensure that people who are trans don't face violence and discrimination for being who they are."
After I dropped her at school and headed to work I started to hear news of multiple young trans people who had died by suicide following the election. For some people who were already in crisis, desperation quickly set in as they looked at their constrained life chances and imagined that the few opportunities for health care, legal protection, love, and community were closing.
But we are going to fight relentlessly to keep those opportunities open and to bring as much love and support to communities under attack as possible. Energized, I—and so many others—are mobilizing to build tools, resources, redistributive mechanisms, and information sharing opportunities to unite our communities and help keep people safe and alive.
Trans women and femmes of color have long organized and survived in the face of unrelenting state-sponsored and state-sanctioned violence and repression. Our community leaders have shown us the blueprint.
On her Facebook page, Black trans elder Miss Major Griffin-Gracy wrote, "We've all been knocked down. Just don't stay down. Get back up and fight. And if you can't get up, then tag someone to jump in and fight in your place. Never give up. Never say quit. Never say die!"
I am ready to tag in and fight. For my beloved child. For my beloved trans siblings, elders, children. For my beloved fighters. I am honored to be guided toward our shared vision of justice. We mourn, we share, we fight, we love.