3 Actions to Take Following the Trump Election

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It’s been three weeks since the election, and it’s been hard for me to think much about writing. I’m still processing a lot of what happened, and I’ll be honest, it’s not always going great. I’m deeply saddened by it on levels that are still revealing themselves to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a place of understanding how this level of hatred, fear, and incompetence has risen to the level of president.

In the days immediately following the election, I felt deeply overwhelmed. My kids were (and still are) deeply upset and fearful about how a Trump presidency would affect them. I have a few LGBTQ kids in my family, and when anti-gay hate group leader Ken Blackwell was tagged to lead the domestic policy end of the transition team, their fears seemed to have some basis. We’ve watched white supremacist Steve Bannon elevated to the position of Chief Strategist. Just this morning we watched the President-Elect tweet that flag burners should be jailed or lose their citizenship. The “drunk uncle” has been given the most powerful position in the world and we don’t have the tools to deal with it because most of the time we just block him on Facebook and avoid family reunions when he’ll be around. We’re not equipped to have his YouTube channel as our primary means of governance.

There’s a lot of madness out there. And by “out there” I mean, “right here in our country.” Overwhelmed seems to be the word of the day for a lot of people, especially minority groups and those close to them.

When I start to feel like everything is just too much, my tendency is to just shut down. Time to bake cookies, binge watch Breaking Bad, and ignore everything that’s happening. After all, I’m just a mom in West Virginia. People aren’t listening to me. And there’s an element of truth to that. I’m not a powerful voice. I can’t change the outcome of the election. I can’t change the political appointments made. There is very little on a national level that I can affect in any way.

But that doesn’t mean that I can stop. It doesn’t mean that I have no power at all.

So here are a few things that I’m doing already or will be doing in the coming weeks and months and years.

  1. I’m knitting. I love knitting and crocheting, and I’ve decided to put that love to work and I’m selling some of my knit items with 50% of the proceeds of the sales going to LGBTQ+ charities. I’ve already been able to make a donation to GLSEN from sales and there are several other organizations that I hope to support financially. If you’re interested in ordering something, you can check out the Facebook page or Instagram feed. I’ll likely get an Etsy store up soon, but this is a start.
  2. I’m fasting. I’ve decided that on the 9th of each month, I’m going to fast and pray for one of the groups that Donald Trump vilified during his campaign. Money that I would spend on food will be donated to an organization that supports that group. On December 9, I will be fasting and praying for Syrian refugees and my donation will be going to Islamic Relief USA. I invite you to join me. You can check out the blog’s Facebook page each month to see what organization I’ll be supporting and I’ll be sure to include links so that you can donate along with me.
  3. I’m writing. Not so much on the blog (though I hope to remedy that), but I’m writing letters and emails to people who I see as making a positive impact in the way that we communicate. It’s important to let people know when they have done something damaging, but it’s probably more important to let them know when they’ve done something good. It’s not always easy to stand up for the oppressed, and people need to be encouraged when they do because it helps build courage to do it again and again. And then a few more times. Find politicians, writers, activists who are making a difference and offer them encouragement.

These things aren’t sexy. They don’t make for great Instagram pics or even really blog posts. There’s nothing terribly big and bold about these actions.

But these are primarily positive acts. Fear, hatred, anger – these things can motivate for a while, but they become wearing. They grind away at our humanity and leave us feeling lethargic and beaten down. They only add to the darkness. But when we fill ourselves with light, there’s no need to battle darkness. It simply can’t occupy the same space.

Find ways to bring light. This world and your own little corner of the world need it.

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Caring for Yourself as You Parent After a Trump Election

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On Tuesday night, as the results began to point toward a Trump presidency, my son messaged me and asked if he could come up and hug our dog. He arrived around 1am as his sisters sat in the living room, refreshing the electoral map as more states turned dark red. We all sat on the couches, wondering how this could be happening.

On Wednesday, I allowed my girls to skip school. We had already discussed a potential day off if Hillary Clinton had won, but following the results, there was no question that they needed to stay home. It wasn’t until the late afternoon when I noted that it had been an hour since anyone had been crying.

I have two transgender children, a son and a daughter. They have significant fears about the impact that a Trump presidency might have on their lives. What will happen to their ability to use the bathroom? What will happen to their ability to obtain hormones and surgeries? What will happen to their ability to marry?

My other daughter is wondering if her body is really her own. Do boys and men now have the right to put their hands on her after the president-elect said that he did that to women, and those boasts were brushed off as “locker room talk”? And if she is assaulted, will her stories be believed or would she be seen  as another woman in the crowd who must be trying to ruin a man’s life?

These are just my kids and these are just some of their fears. Some are more irrational and I can address those, but some are legitimate concerns and those are harder to address. We have talked about how living an authentic life always carries with it some risk, but that the risk is worth it to be who we are. We are trying to embrace the idea that the joy of being our honest selves must outweigh our fears. Right now, that is harder to see.

There are other parents who are caring for their adopted children with black or brown skin. Parents who are immigrants. Parents who are gay. Parents who are Muslim. Parents who are atheists. Parents who have children with disabilities. Each of them are scanning the Internet, searching for ways to assuage the anxiety that the election results have stirred in the people they love the most.

But if you’re like me, you may have been ignoring some of your own fears and anxieties as you tend to those of your children. You’ve read about how to care for your kids following a Trump election, but may be finding it difficult to care for yourself while you do that.

As a reminder to all of us, the best way we can help our children with their emotional struggles is through dealing with our own mental health. Here are just a couple of ideas for caring for yourself as you care for your hurting child.

  1. It’s okay for them to see you cry. I haven’t watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speech because I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of ugly tears that may raise some anxiety for my kids. But we have all cried together. I have told them that I’m sadder than I thought I would be that there won’t be a female president sworn in on January 20th. We have cried as we have held one another, and it’s good for them to know that I join them in their grief and it’s good for me to let them see my humanity.
  2. It’s okay to take a break from being a parent. My kids are a bit older, so my ability to find alone time is a bit easier. But regardless of how old your kids are, find time to process your grief without them. Talk to a therapist. Go to the gym. Spend time in prayer or silent reflection. Scream into a pillow. Yes, we probably need to shield our children from some of our more base reactions to the results, but we still need to access them in some way.
  3. It’s okay to unfriend some people on social media. We will never agree with everyone. We will absolutely come in contact with people who voted differently than we did. And when we are parenting children who could very well be affected directly by some of the policies the president-elect has said that he will enforce, those votes can feel like a personal attack. In our social media circles, we interact with people of all kinds. People who we friended to help tend our gardens back in the FarmVille days. People we knew in high school but weren’t super close to. Family members. Close friends. I believe there is beauty in having diverse friendships, but I also know that I only have a certain amount of emotional bandwidth available, and it does not extend to everyone whose friend request I clicked “accept” on. There are relationships that will need to be repaired, but if I feel bombarded by negativity from “friends” where there is no relationship, it makes it harder to focus on the friendships that matter. Evaluate the strength of the relationship and if it needs to go, let it go.
  4. It’s okay to have negative feelings that don’t have to do with your kids. Most of my  frustrations with the election of the next president are related to how his presidency will impact my children. But there are feelings of anger and fear and sadness that are unrelated to those. I’m just a regular old white lady, so I can feel like my feelings are unimportant compared to those of someone with less privilege, but they are still valid. I need to acknowledge them and work through them so that I can see the pain and fear of my children more clearly.
  5. It’s okay to ask others for help. Rely on your communities for encouragement. I’m a member of several groups for parents of LGBTQ+ kids and we have been leaning heavily on one another the past few days. Find friends who can commiserate with you. Friends who will listen to your complaints without trying to fix you. Grief is handled best in community, so find a community where you can share your grief honestly.

As we parent as minorities or as parents of minority children or both, we must remember that we are more than just parents. Take time to care for yourself. Our children need it.

 

Photo by hotblack

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 Dear Christians, it matters how you feel. That’s what the Bible says.

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Matt Walsh published a piece about Jen Hatmaker’s interview  with RNS where, among other things, she stated that she affirms marriage equality. It was a turn around for her previously held position that marriage was to be strictly between men and women. She has already experienced a fair bit of pushback as a result, including the end of sales of her books at all Lifeway Christian bookstores.

Walsh’s post boiled down to the main theme that when we’re talking about issues of faith, our feelings don’t matter, we just have to follow what the Bible SAYS. And it SAYS (according to Walsh) that gay sex is bad.

First thing, it’s not super clear that the Bible ever addresses loving same sex relationships. I know the verses that Walsh laid out in his post. And I’ve read lots of pieces from both those who oppose gay and lesbian relationships and those who support them, and there’s just not a consensus.

Personally, I think the context of the passages points to the ritual sex acts with prostitutes. It just seems odd to list things like idol worship and greed and slander and then, in the middle of that, sneak in a bit about two guys who love each other doing it. If a passage just talked about idol worship and then uses a word that COULD translate to sex as a form of idol worship, doesn’t that make sense contextually? It does to me.

So the whole idea that the Bible is Very Clear about gay sex is maybe not really the case. Walsh puts it out as a disagreement between “a lady on HGTV” and the Apostle Paul, but there are a number of scholars who would say that the HGTV lady and the Apostle Paul were on the same page, to the degree that they don’t speak the same language or exist in the same culture or have any of the same framework.

I have been with gay and lesbian couples and I cannot see something that causes harm. Walsh says that opposing same sex relationships “seems quite sensible and utterly consistent with the innate moral intuition that all human beings possess.” I find it to be the opposite. And yet gay people do no hold this “innate moral intuition.” I do not hold this “innate moral intuition.” Jen Hatmaker apparently does not hold this “innate moral intuition.” In fact, many people, probably numbering into the billions do not hold this “innate moral intuition.” Which makes me wonder just how innate it really is.

But beyond that I want to address the issue of feelings. Because that seems to be the real sticking point of Walsh’s piece.

When we start talking about feelings and obedience, I don’t see how we can avoid talking about slavery.

The Scripture never condemns slavery. It condemns poor treatment of slaves. It condemns kidnapping someone to use as a slave. But it never says that slavery is wrong or sinful or morally bad.

Yet most of us feel that owning another human is wrong. Not because the Bible tells us that it’s wrong, just based on our feelings. I think those feelings are good and right. I think they are based on the overall context of the Scripture and how we are best to love one another, but they aren’t based on a particular passage. Our feelings toward slavery have changed, and as such, our practices regarding the morality of slavery have changed.

I believe very much that we humans are created in the image of God. Throughout the Scripture, I see an emotional God. A God who shows compassion. A God who weeps when a friend dies. A God who spares a woman who deserves death. A God who feeds the hungry. A God who eats with the outcast and marginalized. Over and over through the stories in the Bible, we see a God who acts in a way that doesn’t always jive with the rules, but is simply an emotional response to the objects of affection – namely us, the creation.

This emotional, feeling God is in whose image we are created. How do we then draw the conclusion that we are to exist without feeling? How can we believe that we are simply here as mindless automatons, programmed to ignore our feelings and the feelings of those who we love? Jesus told us that his sheep will hear and recognize his voice, and the voice of God that I see throughout the entirety of the Scripture is one that is filled with feeling. That is the voice I choose to listen to.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. The words of this simple song are some of the first and truest things we learn about the Gospel message. We are loved, the Bible tells us that we are loved.

Matt is right – feelings aren’t always true. But when our feelings point us toward becoming more loving, more compassionate, more graceful, then we can trust that we are hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd, the One who is telling us the Good News that all of us are loved by the One who has created and called us by name.

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Don’t Call Me Nasty

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During last Wednesday’s debate, Donald Trump muttered into his mic, “Such a nasty woman,” about Hillary Clinton.

The phrase was immediately claimed by feminists all over the Internet. You can buy t-shirts, you can post to hashtags, you can update your profile picture all declaring yourself as a nasty woman. It has become a bit of a way for women to speak with pride about their accomplishments. A way for women to own the things that may lead them to being labeled as nasty by a misogynistic and sexist society. And if you’re Janet Jackson, a little extra revenue bump.

I can understand the appeal. When you’re called bitch or cunt or nasty, it certainly feels better to appropriate that language into something that gives you power, rather than taking your power away. It’s better to take pride in language meant to cut and wound. Admitting that those words hurt is a sign of weakness, and any hint of fragility undermines your ability to have an impact on the world around you.

There was a time when I embraced the bitch moniker. I was opinionated. I was loud. I wasn’t quiet about my accomplishments. All the markers of a bitch. All the signs of a nasty woman. Might as well beat people to the punch if that’s what they were going to call me anyway.

The truth is, I’m not a bitch. Being loud and opinionated and proud aren’t automatically negative traits simply because I’m a woman. Calling myself a bitch just to beat someone to the punch didn’t elevate me, it just brought me down to the level that made it okay for others to think that it’s okay to call a woman a bitch because she’s not as feminine as she’s “supposed to be.” It might have kept women who aren’t naturally boisterous from speaking their mind lest they too be called nasty. It was a mask that made me think that maybe there was something just a little bit wrong with me for being my authentic self.

I don’t say that about myself any more. I don’t call myself and bitch, and I won’t say that I’m a nasty woman.

A woman isn’t nasty if she dreams of being president.

A woman isn’t a bitch if she leaves an abusive relationship.

A woman isn’t a cunt if she gets angry about misogyny.

A woman isn’t a prude because she isn’t interested in being hit on in public.

A woman isn’t a slut because she wore a bikini at the beach.

A woman isn’t a tease because she went on a date and didn’t have sex after.

A woman isn’t a whore if she did have sex after that date and doesn’t want a second date.

I don’t want to use Donald Trump’s pejorative as a way to describe myself or the women in my life. I’ll use words like courageous, bold, strong, powerful, honest, free. You may think those things make us nasty, but you’d be wrong.

And I’ll use all of my loud, opinionated, proud words to tell you.

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A Prayer for National Coming Out Day

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Dear Lord,

For all who are coming out for the first time, sharing another part of themselves with their friends and loved ones, let them know your strength.

For all who have been out for any amount of time and are living as their authentic selves, let them know your joy.

For all who are not ready to face the backlash of being honest about their sexuality, let them know your protection.

For all who are putting their privilege aside to stand by an LGBTQ child, let them know your peace.

For all who will use this day to demean and belittle your gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and questioning children, let them know your forgiveness.

For all of us who journey through this life, let us know your love, and let us extend that love to everyone we meet.

Amen.

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Yes, it IS political

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So Donald Trump has had yet another instance of, “Good God, did he really say that?”

In case you somehow missed it, there was recently a tape released from 11 years ago of the Republican nominee speaking on a hot mic about a woman (she is not named in the recording). Among other things, he said that he just kissed, he didn’t wait, and if you’re attracted to a woman, you should just “grab them by the pussy.”

I have seen a number of people speak out against this latest obscenity, for which I am grateful. Some Republicans have pulled their support for him, citing this as the tipping point. Both Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus have called out his comments, though neither have pulled their endorsements.

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, a lot of those calling out his remarks are prefacing their comments with, “This isn’t political.” I understand why they want to do this. Stepping into a political firestorm like we’ve seen this election is frightening. We’ve seen actual violence between people who disagree, so suggesting that you’re picking sides is scary. And most of us don’t want to fight with our friends, so we soft pedal our views a little bit, casting them in the best light we can.

But here’s the thing. Donald Trump is running for president of the United States of America. He is seeking the highest office in this country. He wants to be the face of our country to the rest of the world and for the people living here.

Two years ago, speaking out against his words and actions toward the disabled and women and immigrants and people of color and the LGBTQ community wouldn’t have been political. Then you could just shake your head at his deplorable deeds and remind people that we should be better than this just as people. We could mourn the rise and success of someone who thinks so little of so many, but you’d be right. It wouldn’t be political.

But there’s no way to separate that out now. If someone is a politician, their actions and the acceptance or condemnation of those actions are political.

To say it’s not political is to say that politics aren’t influenced by behavior. But we know better.

A person who believes that it’s okay to sexually assault women will not work to enact laws that protect women from sexual assault or that punish those who perpetrate assaults.

A person who believes that it is acceptable to mock the disabled will not work to protect the rights of the disabled in the workplace.

A person who chooses a running mate who enacted one of the first laws allowing people to discriminate against LGBTQ people will not work to ensure that strides made in the community will be maintained.

A person who calls all Mexicans rapists and demands the halt of immigrants who practice a particular religion will not work to ensure that our country helps those who want a better life.

A person who says that the only way to lower crime is to enact racist, unconstitutional policies like stop and frisk will not work to bring justice to black and brown communities that are crying for safety.

His words and behavior give us a pretty clear picture of his potential governance. So calling out his words and behavior is a political move. Talking about the behavior of a candidate is talking about their politics.

More importantly, however, is that you recognize that your actions are political as well. If you say that this kind of behavior can’t stand and then vote for this candidate anyway, you are absolutely saying that this kind of behavior CAN stand. You are saying that xenophobia and racism and sexism and misogyny are bad, but they aren’t that bad.

If we’re talking about politicians, our words are political. Let’s just be honest about what our politics stand for when it counts.

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Ideals, Humanity, and Grace for Hillary Clinton and Me

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It’s been a week since the first presidential debate, and one of the issues raised therein was just how feminist are either of the candidates.

Hillary Clinton recently released an ad highlighting some of the most egregious statements about women made by Donald Trump. In the debate, she brought up the specific case of Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe contestant who gained weight after winning the title, bringing scorn and shame from Mr. Trump. Following the debate, Mr. Trump has defended his statements about Ms. Machado, and during the debate itself, he defended crass, derogatory comments he has made about Rosie O’Donnell, saying that she deserved them.

The question being raised was whether or not someone who spoke about (and still speaks about) half of the electorate thusly is someone who is qualified to represent Americans in the highest office of the land.

Of course, as soon as you call one candidate’s views on women into question, it becomes fair game for them to turn the tables.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani attacked Secretary Clinton and her treatment of Monica Lewinsky following the revelation of then President Bill Clinton’s affair. In a private email to a friend, she called Ms. Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon.” She has not ever walked back that statement, though in 2014, she did say that she “wished her well.”

Does this mean that Hillary isn’t a feminist?

I don’t think so.

A few years ago, a friend invited me to be on the board of a non-profit she was starting to help the women in our state achieve greater freedom. I loved the mission that she laid out, but felt like maybe I wasn’t a good choice. After all, I had an affair with a married man, so I had inflicted pain on a woman. That wasn’t the behavior of a feminist.

And yet, I am a feminist. My beliefs about the importance of equality for women have not changed. My desire to see women in positions of influence and power has not diminished. I long to see women receive equal pay for equal work, and recognition for the work that they do. I want to see women able to speak without apology. I am a feminist, and I am happy to offer whatever support I can to feminist causes.

Certainly my affair was not feminist behavior. It wasn’t Christian behavior. It wasn’t loving behavior. It wasn’t even entirely sane behavior.

It was, however, human behavior.

High stress situations do not always reveal our best selves. When we feel abandoned, when we feel alone, when we feel sad, we may say or do things that betray our ideals.

Hillary Clinton has spent her life fighting for the rights of women everywhere. Over and over she has shown herself to be a champion for women and for feminism. Her nomination as the Democratic representative is a huge milestone for women everywhere.

Her anger and subsequent name-calling of a woman who caused her pain is not a shining moment of feminism. Certainly tearing down another woman is something we want to avoid as women seeking equality for other women. But in the middle of a public scandal, it is an understandable offense.

I don’t say this to excuse bad choices that any of us make when we’re in pain, but to remind us, to remind myself, that one negative decision does not erase all of our ideals. Instead, they are a reminder that we are human.

More than that, when we stray from our ideals, they allow us to reassess those beliefs. We have an opportunity to ask ourselves if we still hold to the things we believed, or if those ideologies have changed. We are offered a chance to affirm those beliefs, or if necessary, evolve.

Giuliani may be right that Clinton was wrong to attack Lewinsky during the exposure of her husband’s affair. However, she has shown herself in her actions both before that time and since, to be an advocate for women’s rights. She may not have lived up to her ideals at all times, but that does not strip her feminism.

Aspiring to live up to our ideals is a worthwhile pursuit, even when we are hurting. But allowing ourselves a measure of humanity in our pain is necessary.

Giving grace, to others and ourselves, is a worthwhile ideal as well.

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