We’re going to spend the next four years fighting for our lives and the lives of those around us. That fight only matters if our lives are worth living.
Dear queer friends and loved ones, and everyone working in solidarity with us:
It seems utterly foolish today to sit down and try to give you advice. If you live in the United States, as I do, you’re probably still reeling over our country’s election of an openly racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, ableist, stale bag of store-brand cheese puffs given human form. It’s honestly impossible to know what the long-term consequences of this election will be, since President-elect Trump has never held elected office and has no track record to extrapolate from. But if even a fraction of his campaign promises come to pass, the next four years are going to be very scary for women, people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, immigrants, Muslims, and just about every marginalized person in the country.
I’ve been struggling since the night of November 8 to formulate a plan, other than “run away screaming.” It’s, um, still a work in progress. I know I’m far from the only person to make a list like this—the Internet’s been full of them for weeks, maybe because coming up with tangible things to do is a marginally effective way to stave off fear and despair. My personal list focuses less on where you should volunteer and donate and the specific political battles to which you should devote your energy, since there are lots of more knowledgeable people making lists like that. Instead, I’m focusing on ways to keep yourself in the game, healthy, and maybe even happy throughout the struggles to come. Here are some things that might help…
First of all, feel your feelings. The results of this election are an enormous loss for anyone who values social justice, equality, women’s rights, religious freedom, and good hairstyles. You might need time to grieve. It’s OK if you can’t dust yourself off and jump right back into the fray. Let yourself process in ways that feel right to you—spend time alone or with loved ones, go to therapy, do your usual self-care and then some. This is going to be a long four years, and you don’t want to burn out. Be kind and loving with yourself. Cry as much as you need to. I promise, we’re not going to run out of shit to do before you get back in the thick of it.
Do small good things. Again, the struggles we’re likely to face during a Trump administration will not be swept away in one fell swoop (though I do recommend taking any opportunity to say “one fell swoop,” as it’s very satisfying). My goal right now is to do a small good thing every day. Today, I’ve canceled my Audible and Spotify Premium subscriptions and using that money to set up monthly donations to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, who are going to be fighting some of the most important battles of the next four years. Tomorrow, I’m going to breathe through my agonizing phobia of talking on the phone and call my representatives. The day after, I’m going to attend a protest. The day after that my small good thing might be buying a cup of coffee for a friend. Giving your spare time, money, and energy to causes you believe in and people you love not only does wonders for your own emotional health, it also adds up into an enormous force for good.
Connect with your community. Checking in with the people around you doesn’t just give you an outlet for much-needed compassion and processing; it can also help you figure out where your energy is most urgently needed. As a white, able-bodied, cis, middle-class queer woman, I am in comparatively little danger, so it’s my job to show up for LGBTQ people who are more vulnerable than I am. If you have certain kinds of privilege, don’t assume you know what more marginalized people need—ask them how you can make them safer. If you’re someone with systemic privilege, reach out to people like you and help them empathize with and stand up for marginalized communities. That means, if your mental health can take it, don’t unfriend your Trump-voting uncle—stay connected and keep gently but firmly challenging his point of view. Don’t let racist, Islamophobic, transphobic, etc. comments or jokes pass unremarked. Be a buzzkill at the dinner table in the name of making the world a better place.
Show up. Your physical presence means the world, and there’s no substitute for sharing space and air with people who understand your values and are fighting for the same things. If you can go to protests, SURJ actions, PTA meetings, town halls, do. Check out an event at your local LGBTQ community center or join a gay book club. If you aren’t able to leave the house regularly or at all, find your people online, or invite your friends over for a discussion group. Real change requires developing ongoing relationships with other people who are doing the work. Get involved.
Speaking of developing relationships, be there for our youth. I was a queer kid during the George W. Bush years, and even at the most liberal high school in my very liberal city, it sucked a non-negligible percentage of the time. Being a queer kid during a Donald Trump presidency is likely to be worse. If you can, volunteer to mentor LGBTQ kids in your area; if there’s no organization that offers you the opportunity to do that, at least reach out to the young people you know. Having adult LGBTQ role models for surviving and thriving despite the bullshit is so, so crucial for their well-being, especially in a hostile political climate.
Ask for help when you need it. It isn’t only necessary, it’s kind. In a time of crisis, which this clearly is, most people badly want to help—but the problem is so overwhelming, so expansive and many-faceted, that even trying to define where to start is completely terrifying. It’s really easy to shut down unless we can identify some small, clear action steps, something we can do today that will make something a little bit better. I am more grateful than I can express for the friend who messaged me this morning and said “I need you to tell me a joke and recommend some good new music.” A tiny, simple, eminently doable task, and after I told her why the jalapeno put a jacket on (because it was a little chili) and suggested she check out Slugger by Sad13, the prospect of calling my representatives and finishing this essay were the slightest bit less impossible. You are surrounded by people who are aching, and offering comfort is sometimes the best balm. If you know what you need, whether it’s a long talk over a cup of coffee or someone to come over and help you fold the laundry, ask for it. This is, counterintuitively, the most generous thing you can do.
Practice self-care. Activism matters, but so does your emotional and physical health. Do your best to eat well, sleep regularly, get outside from time to time, spend time with loved ones that isn’t politically focused, and so forth. Stay in therapy. Stay in recovery. Distance yourself from toxic people, including anyone who thinks it’s funny to bait you into arguments that are low-stakes for them but life or death for you. If you burn out, you serve no one. If you thrive and love and savor every joyful moment, you’re building the foundation from which you can enact real change. We’re going to spend the next four years fighting for our lives and the lives of those around us. That fight only matters if our lives are worth living.
To that end, love the people around you. Take breaks. Snuggle animals. Make art. Don’t think for a second that it’s frivolous to create something; we’re going to need art so badly to get us through the next four years. We’re going to need delicious food and wicked jokes and cozy hand-knit scarves and pictures of your toddlers and cats doing funny things. We’re going to need to take gorgeous selfies and have great sex. All of it matters so much.
Keep existing, keep striving, keep making goofy mistakes because you’re brave enough to put your hearts on the line, keep holding each other up when shit gets bad, keep shouting in the streets and teaching the people you love, keep holding yourselves and each other accountable, and we just might make it through this.
Until then, remember that there’s a queer chick at a laptop somewhere in this fucked-up world who loves you.
Lindsay King-Miller is a queer femme who does not have an indoor voice. Her writing has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, and numerous other publications. She lives in Denver with her partner, a really cute baby, and two very spoiled cats. She is the author of Ask A Queer Chick (Plume, 2016).