It’s easy to dismiss the fears of the oppressed as baseless if you have never experienced fear yourself.
I’m not talking about concerns that you might not make the mortgage payment this month or even worries over health, family, and other very serious things. It’s the fear that your normal, the way you live not harming anyone else, might become less tolerated, or even illegal. It’s the fear that just being you will somehow make it okay for others to denounce you, hurt you, or even kill you.
Whether it’s through intent or a byproduct of the way he went after voted in the election President-Elect Donald Trump has the LGBTQ community, transgender folks, Latinos, African Americans, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, women, and many others worried that they will not only become second-class citizens, but that their basic rights won’t be respected or protected. Those are hard concerns to dismiss when you consider Trump’s own rhetoric or look at the record his running mate Mike Pence has when it comes to gay people (he believes they can be “cured” by something called “conversion therapy”) and women.
These aren’t “give him a chance” fears or “let’s see how it goes” worries. They are take to the streets, raise your voice, stand up for everyone reasons to be scared. It’s not about inciting violence, rejecting the results of a democratic election, or looking to topple the nation. It’s opressed, scared people saying “y0u are not going to hurt us,” while their friends and allies stand with them saying “we’ve got your back.”
It’s not about winning or losing
Had Hillary Clinton won the biggest fears white Christian men would have had to deal with would be higher taxes, a more equal playing field to compete on, and perhaps a few more people saying “happy holidays rather than “Merry Christmas.” Clinton supporters were not going to ban Christian immigrants, take away a man’s right to make his own medical decisions, or create a climate where violence is accepted in the name of safety. Certainly political correctness is sometimes taken to silly extremes, but no straight white Christian male has even been physically hurt by having to use gender-neutral terms, creating more-inclusive bathroom policies, or paying women the same as men.
It’s easy for Trump supporters to pass off the concerns of the LGBTQ community, transgender folks, Latinos, African Americans, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, and women because they simply don’t face the same dangers. Very few straight guys have ever been beaten up for the date he brought to a dance and it’s pretty rare that those same white fellows have never feared the police when not in the middle of committing a crime.
It’s about the narrative
While there are thousand of examples of the far right, a group Trump has courted and coddled, supporting policies of exclusion, hatred, and lack of understanding (to use kind words), the most blatant may be the issue of transgender people using the bathroom of the gender they identify with. The right wing narrative on this issue makes it seem like letting people use the bathroom of the gender they identify as allows predators access to opposite sex bathrooms. The anti-gay movement uses illustrations of men dressed as women who look like Dee Snider in full Twisted Sister regalia ready to attack children to illustrate this point, which has no basis in actual research (facts are the enemy of fear mongering).
That’s a false narrative, a scary story designed to push an anti-gay, anti-transgender agenda, according to Laura Palumbo communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). The longtime expert on sexual violence prevention, spoke to Media Matters the idea that laws keeping transgender people in the bathroom of their birth somehow protects children
The notion that there is “any connection between identity, orientation, and perpetration of sexual violence” is not only “very misinformed,” but it actually “makes it more difficult to prevent sexual violence,” Palumbo said. When people operate under these false assumptions, “they may not know what red flags to look for” to prevent sexual assault.
In reality, “most people who experience sexual violence are harmed by someone that they know and trust,” explained Palumbo. In fact, while there are countless studies which show no link between sexual orientation or being transgender and pedophilia (the biggest concern cited by the people pushing these anti-gay bathroom laws), there is an enormous amount of research showing that about half of transgender people face sexual violence at some time in their lifetime.
“In the facts of sexual violence and the facts of rape and sexual assault, one of the most vulnerable populations there are is the transgender population,” she told Media Matters. “There are unfortunately very, very high levels of sexual violence victimization among transgender individuals.”
Reality has to matter
In the above case, people who want to feel justified in their discrimination have created this image of glam sexual predators (be they transgender people or men dressing up as women solely to access a bathroom) using new laws to give them access to children in bathrooms. Aside from the fact that it’s silly to think that someone looking to commit sexual assault would somehow be kept in check by rules as to what bathrooms they should use — rules many of us have broken in a bar or a sports arena when the line it too long and nature calls — it does not reflect reality.
The transgender person seeking to access the bathroom of the gender he or she identifies with simply wants to use the bathroom without attracting attention. In most cases it’s a teenager looking to not be beaten up or a person just trying to be what they are — something that has never hurt anyone else.
Myths and stories — “undocumented immigrants are taking our jobs” is another one used to discriminate against whole groups of people — can be used as reasons to make hate okay. The same can be said in cases where a small group of villains seemingly make it okay to discriminate any member of their growth.
We learn in math class pretty early on that just because all Olympic marathon champions are tall, does not mean all tall people are marathon champions. The same logic applies when you switch in the words Muslim and terrorist.
Painting with a broad brush makes people feel better and it makes them feel safer until someone in their group does something bad. Most serial killers are white men, but that does not mean most white men are serial killers.
Show, don’t tell
It’s easy for the majority to dismiss the worries of the minority. It’s much harder to say “I hear what you’re saying” and “I’ll be part of making sure your worst fears don’t come true.”
People are scared because real life has shown them they have reason to be. Trump may not stand for the bullies, the racists, and the anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-immigrant crowd, but he has done nothing to show that he will stand against them.
Whether you support the president elect or find him deplorable, you have a greater responsibility to your fellow man. Speak up against hate and don’t allow the persecution of all the groups which have been targeted by what’s hopefully a small part of the right-leaning part of our nation.
We can disagree on economic policy, immigration rules, and exactly how we get things done. We can’t argue about whether people have the right to marry the person of their choice, or whether they deserve the same rights no matter the color of their skin or their gender.
Disagree on policy, but stand up for humanity. Love your neighbor and protect his or her rights even when they are rights you would never use.
Every American has the right to happiness and safety. The law should only intervene when my right to those things interferes with your ability to do the same. It’s hard to see how sexual identity, sexual preference, religion, gender, or skin color somehow make anyone else less free.