Going home to the "Divided" States of America


A personal testament to the effects caused by Trump's validation of prejudice

All summer, I answered the “Who are you voting for?” question with the same sarcastic answer: “Well, as a Queer South Asian Woman, I don’t have much of a choice.” When Trump officially won the presidential election this November, it was one of the most devastating moments of my life.

Going home to Tennessee this Christmas was one of the scariest trips home - I didn’t know what to expect when all my expectations of hope for the next four years had been shattered. But the trip was surprisingly smooth. The drive was long and boring, and while we did get randomly selected for extra screening at customs (a regular occurrence for my family), overall, things seemed relatively stable.

But, while fast food workers and hotel staff were generally still nice to us, the problems in the states lie below the obvious surface - they’re in the little things.

It’s in a family friend telling you that, “You and your social justice friends might finally learn not to whine about everything." It’s in a classmate that you admired and respected telling you that he is “glad Hillary will finally shut her mouth.” It’s in people at your favourite restaurant muttering about “those queers” and side-eying you across the room all night. It’s your waitress in that same restaurant leaving in the middle of her shift because she would rather lose her job than serve you and your friends, simply because you’re visibly gay.

Nobody told me to go back to India while I was home. Nobody told me that my sexuality was a sin, or to get back into the kitchen - this isn’t the end of the world. My quality of life is not compromised, and no one is sending me away for conversion therapy (yet). But maybe that’s not the problem. The problem is that, after years of overcoming the stereotypical intolerance of the Bible Belt and learning to be confident in all the things that make me who I am, I feel scared.

One of my closest friends, who came out as non-binary when they were 15, told me that for the first time in their life, they wanted to go back in the closet. People I love and care for have told me that their hatred of Hillary mattered more to them than my identity and my safety.

Trump’s election has not directly enabled intolerance - it’s shown this ‘silent majority’ that they are not alone in their hate, and that if they stare and mutter and blame my bold otherness on Political Correctness and Liberal Propaganda, they will find other people who agree with them. It has reminded people like me that there are people that hate us, simply because of who we are, and has reminded us that we are not equal. Not yet.

I’ve learned a lot about coping this winter. I’ve learned to forgive the people I love who voted for Trump. I’ve learned that they did not do this out of hatred for me, but out of a desire for change. The people who voted for this man are my teachers and my classmates and my family - I can’t hate them all. They have not put me in a position of fear, but they have been implicit in uncovering the multitudes of people who have put me in that position.

And yet even with the Inauguration behind us, people are still planning, or trying to. Right now there is a lot of blame being passed back and forth - from Green Party members and Libertarians who blame the Big Parties, from the Big Parties who blame them. From people who still insist “Bernie would have won” at people who supported Hillary from the start and from Hillary Supporters who blame them.

In a time where we should be uniting to fight a common enemy, it seems that the political climate of the states is even more divided. The same problems that got Trump the nomination and the election continue as we try to find a solution to this problem that is an Idiot in the Oval Office.

The problem is not in any party or ideology - it’s in a lack of compromise and a lack of desire to understand contrasting views.

The United States has not ended yet, and I doubt it will end in the next four years, but it’s going to be a very awkward and fearful four years for myself and the people in my life who finally felt a little bit safe being different. But beyond my comfort and my desire to feel safe in public, the people in the states are divided, now more than ever, and that is the real source of my fear.