Why We Build the Wall

I entered the 2016 election with much the same feeling as the 2012 election – there’s no way we would actually vote in Donald Trump of all people, right? A man I and likely most of my generation knew through reality TV, who we had previously collectively laughed at for his orange complexion and awful hair, who made George W. Bush look intelligent and grounded?

But I made sure to vote anyway – unlike Romney, Trump felt like a true threat. Even if the polls suggested he had little chance of winning, and again my vote in Illinois would mean nothing either way, politics no longer stood in the background. More than likely, I was galvanized by the 2014 election – my first job out of college was represented by a public union, and we were essentially public enemy #1 in Bruce Rauner’s Illinois. I couldn’t vote him out until 2018, but I had learned other races matter.

Trump winning is still this surreal moment – just like my high school, I somehow believed we as a country had moved past such blatant displays of hatred. But an entire swath of our country voted in a man who spoke to nothing but underlying fears of the other. How can so many people – the people who by all measures have the power in our country – be living lives guided by terror?

You invited me back to your office that next morning – you could recognize my despair, knowing that I was young, openly gay, and therefore more than likely sharing your political leaning. You told me we’d get through it. I was terrified – I was in the midst of planning my wedding, and had only just gained that right. How much could Trump and a Republican Congress take from us?

You spoke of how we survived Bush and survived Reagan – but did we? Did people like me truly ‘survive’ Reagan? White women like you, yes. But nearly an entire generation of gay men were wiped out by a virus that Reagan actively ignored.

Not only was I gay, but I was finally coming to terms with the fact that I probably didn’t identify as a man. I didn’t identify as a woman, either, so I wouldn’t really be affected by these bathroom debates, but where would the line stop? Most people don’t accept that non-binary people like me even exist – I had every right to believe Trump and his Congress would attempt to delegitimize us further, not just socially but through legislation.

People like me, we’re simply one of the many building blocks for the wall. Trump knows he can call upon us to strike up new fears – that his wall won’t be built until his followers are convinced they’re being attacked from every angle. These people are blinded to the actual sources of the instability in their lives, living as though they’re dying of a preventable disease and happy with articles that claim the blood they cough will go away once they spit enough out.

So, yes – you will survive. As much as you didn’t want it, Trump’s America is designed to harm people like you the least – and I can count myself lucky I’m still high enough on the pecking order that I probably will, too.

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