I swear I felt like I got sucker punched in the gut after I saw Trump win the election, a pain I’m still feeling now months out. I’m sure all Hillary supporters can relate. It’s like when you’re on an anniversary date and expect to hear the words “I love you so much” but instead hear “I want to break up.” Oooooh, I can still feel the pain!
Well, believe it or not, this essay is actually going to be an uplifting one—really. A few days after the shock of Trump being elected President, I decided to go AWOL on my wife, kids, family, friends and suburbia by shutting off my cellphone—yes, it is possible. I went into my garage and made up a “Love Trumps Hate” sign with a Hillary sticker in the corner and headed off to Trump Tower in the city to protest. I called my wife at work soon after, but she already knew where I was, and although she was worried about me going alone, said she understood that I had to do what I had to do.
When I finally arrived in NYC, the crowd of thousands from the weekend before had completely vanished on that following Monday post-election. I asked where all the protesters were and the rushing people passing by just shrugged their shoulders and said they didn’t know. I thought, Oh no—please don’t tell me people gave up the fight so easily, no it cannot be! This was just too unjust an election—and candidate!
The front entrance of Trump Towers was sectioned off and guarded by four of the biggest policemen I ever saw in riot gear and even bigger machine guns, along with several regular policemen. Somehow, I wasn’t scared. I guess passion is the ultimate natural defender of fear. I believe we all have the fight in us, but we have to believe in our hearts that every tiny effort we do is worthwhile and will make a huge difference.
I was looking around for just one other fellow protester. A few would trickle in and out with a “He’s Not My President” signs, but soon left. I decided I would stay all day to safeguard our civil liberties and rights directly in front of Trump Plaza—without guns, but a taped-up cardboard sign, huge hooped peace sign earrings and a rainbow wristband. I did feel a few stares from snooty uptown people looking at me standing alone with my sign like I was the crazy hat lady protester, but again, I didn’t care—I was on a mission, and nobody could stop me. One lady yelled at me to “get a job!” I live comfortably and have many jobs, but I felt that standing out there was indeed one of my most important ones. It was for us and our children’s future.
I stood in protest alone for over eight hours, with several 6’3″ policemen in riot gear with their huge rifles standing but a foot away from me. I almost got arrested four times, but I told them they couldn’t take me. They let me go, knowing it might only incite a riot. Most New Yorkers were great; I was like the Hillary supporters shrink all day, as well as the ardent fighter against the big and tough Trumpsters who all seemed to cower to my five-foot frame when I took them to task.
Ironically, my biggest arguments on the corners were with an African American man and Hispanic woman who were ardent Trump supporters. I was there to help protect their rights, rights I don’t feel the Trump administration supports neither partly or wholly and was getting heat for it. Human nature is strange indeed, but I did always say “denial is the devil’s sharpest sword.”
Yes, I was the peaceful protester, and I was so proud to be standing up for what I believed in and against all forms of hate speech and bigotry. If I had only one word to describe how I felt I would have to say liberated. Although I was extremely disappointed and angered with the outcome of the election, I turned my angry into energy. I had to put it somewhere! I was just so pumped up for standing up for what I believed in.
I didn’t care if Trump supports yelled at me “Go home you’re wasting your time!” I ignored them and felt that my time couldn’t have been any better spent—and I believed that with all my heart. I stood strong and pretty much outshined all the mean, self-described Trumpsters with all my quick-witted comebacks that they couldn’t retort on the busy New York street corner where we were drawing a crowd, eager onlookers to a bloody cockfight. This was especially true when I got into it with five yuppie college guys with the “I support Trump” signs. I told them that Trump could’ve easily paid for all their college tuitions combined from the millions he saved on taxes and they shut up pretty quickly. Yes, even with their mom yelling at me by their side. I was being called every nasty name in the book, and I smiled and said, “I love you, too.” I was standing there for all Americans’ civil rights. I pitied those who were tricked by master illusionist Trump himself. That’s the real act he should have at his Vegas Casino.
My sympathy for Trump voters is rather shallow since they clearly chose to overlook his several bigoted, racists, xenophobic, misogynistic comments and actions, only looking out for their own personal interests. Nevermind Trump mocking a disabled reporter. (Oh, how I loved Meryl Streep’s amazing speech at the Golden Globe Awards. Go, Meryl!) I believe when you don’t look out for others, you don’t get very far—even in the economy. You treat people well, the economy improves.
I was happy when a handful more protesters joined me later in the evening. I didn’t know them, yet I did. We all stood proudly together like we knew each other forever, waving our handmade signs overhead. We hugged a lot in support; we desperately needed it. We were from all walks of life—all countries, races, gay and straight. We were brothers and sisters coming together for humanity.
We were interviewed by The New York Times and other outlets, all speaking our piece. I’m certain we’re all famous somewhere in Japan for sure since they did a lengthy interview with us. We were like the peaceful diplomats saying “No, Americans really aren’t like Trump—we love all people and don’t really act and speak this way. Really!” Knowing our words may indeed go viral in some foreign land, we were already covering up for Trump’s terrible representation of our country and he hadn’t even taken office yet.
Trump said his vulgar talk and actions were just regular guy, “locker room” stuff. I know no other decent guys that speak or act that way, only jerks—and certainly not our President. There is just no excuse for all the vile things he has been spewing about our fellow Americans from all groups. It’s downright disgusting, nevermind un-presidential. It was no surprise the alt-right white supremacists praise him.
But enough about Trump—because I did say this would be a positive essay. So here’s the good stuff: After arriving home exhausted and worried that we protestors gave up the fight, my wife and twins gave me the biggest, proudest hug—and a huge sigh of relief that I returned safely. Boy, did I need that! My legs were sore, and I was hungry and thirsty. I’d been running on pure passion—best fuel in the world!
And then I went to relax at my computer and saw something amazing on my Facebook page. It was a post for A Woman’s March in Washington DC from a woman in Hawaii named Teresa Shook. Oh, I was so happy and felt very hopeful. And then each day I saw more and more messages about the same march going on in New York City from a woman named Bob Bland, the co-chair of the event. Then it seemed like overnight there were others popping up in L.A., Chicago and so forth until it grew to the most massive march in history, happening all over the world. Michael Moore then got on board with his list of hard-hitting celebs and icons. (Thank you, Michael Moore!) Yes, my hope started to spark like a dynamite fuse.
I had planned on going that day, but unfortunately, my twins were battling the flu. We all watched the march whole-heartedly, and I cried tears of joy seeing all our icons like Angela Davis, John Lewis, Gloria Steinem and transgender activists Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, along with countless other celebrities like Cher, Madonna, Alec Baldwin (doing his awesome Trump impression), Mark Ruffulo, Robert DeNiro, Barbara Streisand, America Ferrera, Ellen Page, Janelle Monae, Natalie Merchant, Alicia Keys, etc. etc. etc.. This list just goes on and on, and I can never name them all in this piece, but just thank them deeply for their support and giving the most incredibly moving and inspiring speeches and performances.
I was just so proud and thankful for all the millions of amazing people from all around the world in the tiniest of towns from Anchorage Alaska to London and Paris and beyond. It was such an incredibly powerful, yet such a peaceful world event. Not one single arrest was made in the U.S., and now the Woman’s March—January 21, 2017—will go down in history as an event far bigger than the presidential inauguration the day before. Sorry, Trump. (Not really.) Now that’s starting 2017 off with a bang instead of a sullen silence.
Truly, after seeing that my faith and hope for our wonderful country was immediately restored and bigger and brighter than ever before. It’s on.
I was so incredibly thrilled to see that my first thought was wrong—that we never gave up the fight and we never will; that we will continue to stand up for all the reasons this country is one of the best on the planet. We are so incredibly fortunate to practice our civil rights to say and do what we want and not be shot or imprisoned for it. Far, far too many millions have died for it—and we shouldn’t let that fact, along with all of America’s fundamental values and dignities we fought so hard for, be tossed away so quickly and callously. No way.
As an LGBTQ activist and writer for several years, I was no stranger to these discriminating cast of characters Trump has surrounded himself with. Yes, Ben Carson, Pence, Perry etc. who all think being gay is some sort of a hoax, sin or condition that needs be “cured.” Luckily for us, the majority of Americas felt that they were the ones who needed to be cured—cured of ignorance. They were all very unsuccessful in going against us, and equal marriage passed as well as other rights. And, yes, I even remember Mr. Exxon/Mobil himself, Rex Tillerson, who I used to fax—yes, fax—my numerous letters to him in his high office somewhere about the Boy Scouts discriminating anti-gay policy when he was on their committee a few years back. I can best describe myself as a mosquito at their ankles as were the Scouts for Equality run by Zach Wahls, the eloquent man who was raised by lesbian parents and made that famously compelling speech to the DNC in 2012, viewed online by millions. Well, Tillerson and the majority of the board eventually voted to let the gays into the Boy Scouts—however, it was in direct response after the marriage vote was passed nationwide. Just recently, the same happened for transgender-identified Scouts. It’s not all bad news.
I’ve seen quite a few setbacks in my day, but I never let it beset me. I would never back down and let them win. And I‘ve also seen plenty of rewards because of that. I just kept on fighting, like many of the other wonderful LGBTQ activists and groups, and we all were so lucky to see the fruits of our labors realized with all the many successes the LGBTQ community has won during the very progressive Obama administration. (Thank you, Obama administration!)
Just ask those strong gay rights activists and pioneers like Vito Russo, and Larry Kramer from ACT UP fought diligently for AIDS patients and research did back in the ’80s. After the long, tough battle for AIDS support, the government eventually got it, and people are living full, happy and productive lives today because of it. We’re closer than ever to a cure.
Let’s not forget the transgender activists like Sylvia Rivera and others patrons who refused to be arrested by the “moral squad” of police officers sent to arrest gays, which led to the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969; ultimately paving the way to the gay revolution and LGBTQ civil rights.
And we must give enormous props to Hillary Clinton, who showed us all the epitome of poise and class against the onslaught of verbal abuse, hacking, FBI mess-ups, Russian meddling and fake news that most definitely cost her the election. But above all, Hillary continues to show her faith, strength and perseverance—and love for her country—and we all must learn to do the same.
We still need to fight. We may always need to fight and defend our freedoms, and fight we will. Like Michelle Obama said so eloquently, “When they go low, we go high.” And like the other great civil rights leaders like John Lewis and Rev. Al Sharpton, who believe we must continue to fight by non-violent, peaceful protests. We must also write letters to our leaders, newspapers and on social media, even anonymously. We must seek the many ways to support our progressive congressmen and woman simply by volunteering or calling their offices to find out how to get involved. You can always volunteer at your local LGBTQ center or any charities you support. And we must vote—not just for future presidents, but our progressive congressman as well.
We’ve also got some great Democrats in Congress like Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand who on our side. They’re ardent Human rights and LGBTQ supporters among several others that are chomping at the bit to hold the Republicans accountable for all their many promises by keeping the Republicans feet to the fire—and keeping all their discriminating attempts dead in the water. And let’s not forget the firestorm of powerhouses like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who stand fiercely in our corner.
Now it’s time to see how you can get involved, contribute, volunteer and support those who you like and respect in Congress, and who will truly be our human rights soldiers. No time to complain—put it into action. The world desperately needs you.
Just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk who gallantly fought for civil and gay rights, and even back to the 19th century suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Mary Cady Stanton who stood together for women’s rights, all of whom unfortunately passed away before they got to see the fruits of their labors realized. They knew their goals would happen eventually and they never, for one second, gave up. It took some time and patience, but it’s perseverance that proves most successful. This is precisely why they—and now we—must continue to passionately fight together and never quit our pursuit for equal rights for all. We have to stand against all forms of hate and discrimination for our fellow brothers and sisters—man or woman, gay or straight, from all countries, races and religions. You must always believe, like I do, in the omnipotent power of one, being yourself to make a difference in this world—and also the power of togetherness to multiply it.
This setback is merely a blip we must fight to get over and we surely will. Trump lost the popular vote by almost three million, insulted about 80% of the population, including white men who didn’t like him. It’s much like the fall of the Roman Empire that was filled with greedy hedonists, this self-gratifying Trump Empire will fall—and fall fast if they don’t do what’s right and ethical. Their shenanigans won’t get very far, since they are now held to real legislature and the highest standards in very demanding ethical committee hearings. No, it won’t be anywhere as easy as it was in the campaign for Trump or his friends this year—nevermind the fact that whatever doesn’t start well most certainly doesn’t end well.
As with karma, it will just be a matter of time for all those who have deceived so many to fall victim to their own mired fate. Or, if they are indeed good, then success will prevail. Do I want to see Trump succeed? Quite frankly, I don’t trust him and find him to be deceitful and a bonafide narcissist—among several other things. He proved incapable and deceitful and simply is not doing what’s right for all people. That is the direct opposite of being an American.
Trump supporters say “Give him a chance”—how can I when he ran such a malicious, underhanded campaign, nevermind his questionable business practices and lack of ethics. I’m scared to death of him having the nuclear codes at his impulsive, insecure fingertips.
I may not have faith in Trump, but have plenty of faith in my fellow human rights supporters that we shall prevail once again and continue to progress—with both parties.
Most Americans are moving closer to the middle each day—especially in their feelings about LGBTQ rights—and they will continue to do so. This is America, and it always comes back to its fundamental values. We will continue to be the standard bearer for human rights and opportunities for all. That’s what always made America great—not Trump or any other leader.
On both sides, we must stop the name-calling and keep the communication open to help us fix the real issues and what’s truly best for our country, or else we will remain divided—and our great democracy will implode upon itself. We need each other—Republicans too. We have to weed out the bad ones. We all live and work with a few of those Republicans we love even if we disagree. It’s OK to have disagreements—that’s how we learn and grow as people and as a country. Knowledge is the opposite of ignorance.
We are all ultimately on the same team—America. The same country that literally bonded together without political parties after 9-11. How quickly we forget. Any group or person that tries to pull us away from that togetherness and pits us against one another, is not to be trusted.
We cannot deny that as much as Hillary won the popular vote, several non-deplorables still voted for Trump—and it would be in all of our best interests to know exactly why they chose Trump, other than simply disliking Hillary, and overlooked all his many flaws. We may strongly disagree with Trump supporters, but we should still try to listen to them, and their issues—and also have them listen to us and ours. People do evolve, I’ve seen it plenty of times—even Obama himself was on the “fence” with equal marriage in the beginning of his presidency and evolved into acceptance (with a little help and influence from his pal Joe Biden). It’s important to acknowledge that with Trump in reign or not, the Republicans are here to stay and we must re-learn how to best communicate with each other.
I am a strong believer that the vast majority of Americans, on both sides, really want the same things in life anyway: safety for our families and country, world peace, good health care and economy, and equal rights, clean air and water. We only disagree on how to get them, or who we trust to help us get them. Both sides must find a middle ground—but we all must draw the line on inequality, bigotry, discrimination based on religion, disrespectful rhetoric and false propaganda no matter what. That is the antithesis of American.
Americans on all sides should be a more united team to hold all our leaders on both sides accountable. If we don’t talk and listen to each other from opposing sides, we will only believe what is fed to us from self-righteous leaders and media, and not get the full picture to us help dispel false propaganda. Name-calling is a deal breaker and quickly halts any conversation; and in my advocating experiences, it proves very counter-productive.
Keep protesting peacefully and communicating with “the other side” with an open ear and respectful words; two wrongs never make a right. It’s time to channel all the hurt, frustrations and disappointment you feel from this election into being more proactive politically, but even more so personally. Don’t let this temporary setback consume you. Dispel the hate you may feel that eats away at your heart or they win. Continue to live your life with love and peace in your hearts—that action has immediate and just rewards. Love your partner, family, pets, work, and nature—the simple things in life—that we are all so very fortunate to have. This is what keeps you strong and able to fight.
After you’ve done your political homework and marched in your marches, be sure to balance it off with getting out there to enjoy your life—sing, dance, laugh and play and love as much as you can—and maybe take some new friends along—perhaps even a new Republican friend. (You may have more in common than you think.)
Be generous, loving, kind, compassionate and non-judgement of others—and be so very happy that you are that way. That, my friends, is how you will always win. The one thing they can never, ever take away from us is our pride. We wear it well, and we will continue to wear it well into our future generations, forever. History may repeat itself for the moment, but it never goes backward. The incredible Woman’s March showed us that there is hope for our future.
So put your passion to the pavement. Write, tweet, call or contact your local town hall or congressman and representatives on both sides especially. Keep in mind, if you keep preaching to the choir, no one on the outside will ever hear you and change will be stagnant. It is imperative also to contact the GOP/Republicans with your respectful complaints (or they will dismiss you) and all your fears and concerns to break through the barriers of discontent and animosity—where nothing gets done or resolved. Public pressure is the best pressure, and it should be seen worldwide.
C.J. Mann is the author of My Journey to Love: A Lesbian Romance Novel. Follow her on Twitter: @cjmann13