Oh, Anonymous. This is a question that has been chewing at my insides for the past few weeks: will my relationship with my extended family who supported the ideals of this man ever be the same again?
I am not sure if I am writing you advice too early in my own processing, or if this is actually the best time to tell you how I feel… but right now I do not believe that I will ever feel the same about those close to me who helped usher in this incredibly dangerous administration. It doesn’t mean I do not love them, but it does mean that I cannot go back to how things were before. While that saddens me deeply, I think that it is also vital to approaching the work we have ahead of us. We cannot put the comfort and ease of dismissing these realities ahead of standing up for what is right, and what is necessary. We cannot dismiss what has happened. And, in my opinion we should not, and can not, put this election behind us. It is very much ahead of us, and it must stay in our line of sight, as painful as that can often be.
You sound like you usually approach things similarly to how I always have: by ensuring that my family knows I love and respect them despite our differences. By keeping the peace. By hoping on hope that my extension of these comforts would slowly help better position them to fight for my equality and the equality of others. And, while there is beauty to patience, love, and respecting difference, the differences that we are discussing directly impact the equality, safety, and lives of millions of human beings. I do not believe that we can or should extend them these comforts any longer.
This holiday season, I urge you to first take all of that compassion that you have in your beautiful bones, and direct it inward. Take care of you. Just like they say in airplane safety messages, you must put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Here is a list of self-care tips that I put together in the wake of the election. Use them today, tomorrow, and all through the holidays. Center yourself. Breathe.
If taking care of yourself is step one, then extending our collective attention, compassion, outreach, and action toward LGBTQ communities, brown, black, and Muslim communities, Jewish communities, disabled and immigrant communities is step two. What this means is that, if conversations come up between you and your family members about this election, you can either choose not to engage (because you are saving those efforts to work directly for and with those communities!), or you can answer in ways that will lift these communities up. For example, if they say something like, “Well, I love you and care about you and I think marriage equality will be safe,” a short response might be: “I didn’t only vote for myself or for marriage equality. While there are direct threats to the LGTBQ community in this administration, I do not only center those concerns. I want all people to be treated equally in this country, and for all people to be safe and respected. That has not been our reality for a very long time, and my focus is and always will be on fighting for an administration and a country that will center those concerns.”
If your family responds to these sentiments by asking open, honest questions – if they seem as though they genuinely want to understand more about what you are saying – then acknowledge that and tell them that you would be happy to send them more reading materials, and more of your thoughts, after the holidays. I say this because I know the weight I feel in my center right now, and despite being quite a fighter, I know that I need to get through the immediacy of the holiday season, and to continue that engagement with my family on my own terms, and at my own pace. My order of business is: first, keeping myself standing, second, using that energy to lift up lgbtq and other marginalized communities, and third, using what is left to engage with those close to me who do not understand the consequences of their actions.
If, dearest Anonymous, they are “champions of what is right” as they say they are (and as, I know, you wish for them to be), then they will challenge themselves to do better, starting right now. There is an incredible essay called “If You Voted For Him” by John Pavlovitz that I urge you to share with your family at some point in your collective journey together. It outlines exactly how anyone who champions equality should be acting right now, regardless of who they voted for on November 8th.
It is okay to feel the way you are feeling right now; it is imperative. Take hope from those of us around you are facing the very same mountain this holiday season, and let us lean on each other as much as possible. Watch this livestream that I did last week, which addresses this question and many others specific to post-election holidays. We have to take things one step at a time, dear Anonymous. You can love them through this, that I do believe, and they can love you back… but things are different. It is hard, but important, to allow that new reality to exist, and to respond accordingly.
All my love to you.