Today is Election Day in the United States. It’s a stressful time, and many people just want it to hurry up and be over. I’m seeing lots of posts on my Facebook feed by people who are tired of both sides slinging mud at each other.
I do understand that feeling, believe me. I will also be glad for the election to be over. But I also have very strong feelings on a lot of issues, and I think it’s important to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe in. That’s supposed to be the point of voting and the point of free speech.
What I want people to remember, this election day, is that many of us do not have the luxury of turning politics “off”. As a queer, transgender person with disabilities, politics for me are not merely a matter of getting things the way I would like them to be. They are a matter of life and death. Let me be very clear: I’m not voting based on things like the right to get married. Marriage equality is nice, but there are much more fundamental rights at stake. I’m voting based on things like the right to receive health care, the right to be employed, the right to access food when I am not employed, and the right to walk down the street without being murdered. These are matters of life and death for me and many other people.
I am a sensitive person too, and I don’t enjoy fighting. I wish I could put away the politics and just relax now and then. I wish I could just be friends with whoever I enjoy being around, and not worry about their political views. I don’t enjoy constantly being the person to point out when people have done something hurtful. It is exhausting, it’s not fun, and it doesn’t exactly get me invited to a lot of parties.
But fighting is what I must do in order to survive. The world fights against me from many angles, and if I am to get through life with any shred of self-respect and dignity, I must fight back with all the strength I have. In the areas of life in which I am oppressed, I cannot afford to be silent.
And in the areas of life where I am not oppressed, it is also not okay for me to be silent. As a white, able-bodied, male-presenting person, who is living in a state with marriage equality and universal healthcare, and is able to afford safe housing, I have many privileges. Having privileges means that whether I like it or not, I profit from the oppression of others. And the only way to begin to resolve that inequality is for me to recognize those privileges and work to help raise the voices of those who do not have them. Here, too, I am obligated to fight.
I will not play nice with bigots, bullies, abusers, or people who defend them. I will not play nice with people who want me dead. I will not play nice with people who care more about protecting their privileges than protecting my right to exist.
I tried being a lover. I tried speaking softly without carrying a big stick. Ultimately, the result was that I was either abused or became complicit in the abuse of others. I’d like to be gentle, but I can’t. The cost is too great.
This is why I fight.