For dinner on Tuesday, Brian and I headed to a local Chinese restaurant to pick up our order. I didn’t really want to cook as we watched election returns come in. Generally, we will eat at the restaurant, in the same booth, with the same waitress. But it was packed that evening, so we were glad that we ordered instead. In the restaurant, each table had a couple at it – at least – with a few families sitting together.
There was an elderly couple that sat across from each other whispering as they talked and who had asked the waitress for more napkins. They were incredibly thankful for the extra napkins and continued their conversation. When the waitress headed over, she placed the food in front of them and the wife said to her husband, “Well, doesn’t that smell good?” in the same tone and voice that my mother will say when my father’s food arrives. Then the food was placed in front of her and she slightly raised her hands and gave each finger a small shimmy before saying, “This looks great.” At the table behind them sat a couple on the same side of the booth. They were facing us as we sat on the two chairs available for pick-up order delays.
I would make comments to Brian about how cute both of these couples were. I came up with short little stories about their romances. And when we left the restaurant, I said to Brian, “I wish we could sit on the same side of the booth.”
We didn’t really say anything else until we got back into the car and talked about how much the dog was going to enjoy the big bag that the food came in. But I thought about how all of the people in the restaurant were staring at us as we sat next to each other, whispering back and forth. Neither Brian or I are very demonstrative in our emotions towards each other. Part of it is based on our personalities, but another is based on our fears. But I always know when people are staring.
Tuesday night, I began shaking. It took me a long time to accept who I was and in the voting, I saw a response to the meanness that this election brought forward. I understand the politics behind it and the economic fears. I know that many of President-Elect Trump’s supporters are not racists or bigots. But many are. And many of the things he has said or that his running mate have said scare me. I am scared for my friends who are minorities of many stripes.
I am scared about how his language will be normalized. Several years ago, people would have been completely dismayed by the use of the word pussy and now, we have a President who says it without qualms. Remember when we were all horrified by a boob in a Super Bowl game? Now we have a President-Elect who appeared in soft core pornography. I have had the term “fag” thrown at me since 6th grade when I didn’t even know what that meant. That isn’t political correctness to have people stop using that word – it’s polite society.
I hope for the best but I reflect on what happened to Brian and I when we began booking our road trip to Florida. North Carolina had just passed HB2 where Brian and I could be denied service based on our relationship. We got a hotel room in South Carolina to stay out of North Carolina but we got a room with two beds in it – just in case anyone would say anything. Now, I live in a state where the Governor has talked about bringing a similar law onto the books. I fear entering a restaurant and being told to get out. I fear being told I can not be hired because of who I love. I fear not being able to marry him on our timetable and not the schedule that we may need to follow due to political appointments.
All I ask is that you understand my fears and concerns for my own safety and future. It’s not financial. It is physical. I would be upset if a different Republican won. I would be sad if Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio had won because I disagree with them. But I would not have been shaking Tuesday night. This is different. This is scary.
Remember the last time you held your husband’s or wife’s hand while you walked together. Remember the last time you went to a restaurant and shared a dessert. Remember the last time you kissed when you were among other people. Remember walking into a hotel room you purchased without fearing you needed two beds. All of those things most likely felt really good. I don’t know that feeling. And I fear for what happens to me if I tried to enjoy the same tender moments that you do. I want to be those couples in the Chinese restaurant without having to fear that someone will shout at us, snark at us, or worse. This election did not make me feel like I can ever be.
The only hope I have is that in the last two days, I have received more phone calls and text messages from people wishing Brian and I well. I cherish those more than anything I can ever say. You give me hope that when Brian and I are an elderly couple, I’ll still be grinning at him and telling him that his sesame chicken smells great. And I hope that all of my Republican friends make sure that their party doesn’t take that away from me. Because it is on you now.