Bill Clinton is President of the United States, but because I’m in grade 9, I don’t really pay attention to things like that. At this point, it’s my full-time job to unwittingly uphold gay stereotypes. I’m waifish, effeminate, and angsty.
We’ve just had lunch, and my books are in hand as I travel to Madame Chapman’s French class. That’s when I see them.
They travel in a pack.
They play on the high school’s hockey team, and they’re all lined up against the lockers as they harass passers-by. I’m face-to-face with the hurricane’s eye-wall. I make the decision to not turn back. I stay the course, and keep walking toward my class. I put my head down and will myself into the human equivalent of beige wallpaper.
It doesn’t work.
One of them grabs me by my uniform shirt. The usual moniker—fucking faggot—is thrown in my face. I’m pushed to another one, who says the same thing and throws me into the lockers. I hit my head and fall to the floor.
I’m humiliated. I’m in physical pain, too; but my priority is to get out of there as quickly as possible.
I gather my things and go to French class. I check myself: no broken bones, no blood. I count it as a relative win. I don’t have a concussion!
In retrospect, that day was like many other days from that time of my life.
In retrospect, physical assaults were something to which I’d grown accustomed.
I had grown accustomed to violence.
And now it’s 2016. And in the wake of a Presidential election, I see systemic and deeply personal acts of violence being inflicted on my friends and chosen family.
This isn’t a story about how It Gets Better; because it doesn’t.
This is about the gnawing feeling in my stomach because two friends—both queer women of colour—experienced targeted acts of violence on the eve of Trump’s election. And I know that this isn’t a surprising or new phenomenon.
In the wake of hateful, vitriolic, and incendiary political rhetoric, I have further confirmation that my ally-ship with these women is rooted in experiences of violence. The difference is that my violence was mostly perpetuated in the past, while theirs is immediate, acute, and unrelenting.
My chosen family are hurting, and it’s not getting better. Just like it didn’t for the thousands of gay men who died of AIDS while the Reagan administration laughed. Or for the ever-increasing number of people of colour dying at the hands of state-sponsored violence.
I remember, from my perch on the floor beside the lockers in 1997, seeing a surprising look of trepidation from one of my aggressors.
His name is Jordan.
I wish that instead of looking on with trepidation that day, Jordan wasn’t complicit in my violence. I imagine a world where I could have relied on Jordan’s inner sense of compassion and humanity to help buoy me. To protect me. To intervene. But he didn’t help me.
Today, it’s on Jordan, you, and me to intervene. It’s on us to think about how our ballots, our beliefs, and our actions are complicit in violence. It’s on us to educate ourselves on how we can make a difference without causing more harm, and to actually get out there and do it.