What Changed on Tuesday was my Body

“We have to work harder,” I exhaled, clinging to my friend as I prepared to leave her apartment Tuesday night, the electoral count at 209-238. “Our friends are going to need us.”

“I know,” she said, “I know.”

I have a theological rationalization, a coping strategy, whatever you call it, and at most moments during daylight with friends I can insist we’ll get through four years of Trump with our uteruses in tact. That many people felt this way in 2008, and political reconciliation, and rational optimism. But it’s dishonest to say that’s what occupied my mind. I spent the day home sick (a metaphor of almost Ezekiel proportions), responding and sending a stream of texts to friends in different cities, as if checking their safety after an earthquake or flood. As I moved and tried to move on through Wednesday, I quietly made a list: not policy changes, although there were those, too. The changes my own body would make to compensate for what I know now about the country I live in. The most personal changes.

  • More Uber. This was my first thought. How much more am I going to spend on Uber? In the last four years of singleness and navigating Chicago, I’ve become reckless about walking alone at night, taking the long way with few streetlights. After years without assault or (for the most part) harassment–but Trump, saying what he’s said about women, has as well as returned my body to public property. How will I ever trust my petite, 28-year-old body to get safely from here to there in the dark? If this was a referendum on our public tolerance of misogyny (and it was, it had to be, misogyny is now the price we pay for our own safety, an argument so circular I can’t even write it down clearly), I can’t expect to walk alone undisturbed anymore.
  • More street harassment. Rhetoric is still rhetoric. It lands on its target. I am a target, sometimes, walking through my suburban town, of cars that slow down and yell out their windows. Who tell me something about my body that suggests it is theirs. This election validated objectifying women. I  brace for more inappropriate comments about my body, in a dreary, unavoidable kind of way.
  • Tighter budgets. Our new government thinks wealth disparity is the natural outcome of capitalism. I know something, now, about the wage stagnation of the next four years. About strained federal taxes that will increase local tax burdens. In spite of the four states that raised the minimum wage. Save more, risk less. I don’t know how else to approach the next four years.
  • Hands deeper in the dirt. I heard the head of the EPA will be a climate denialist. So much for the EPA banning neo-nics that have harmed the bee population. So much for protecting the pollinators. For trusting the market to bring us more simple, unprocessed food. I’ll keep on with my garden, more insistent, my own little plot of abundance and relatively few carcinogens.
  • Guard my symbols. I’ve had pink hair for seven months. It’s been a friend-maker, strangers–and often people of color–stopping me on the street for compliments. It’s an anecdotal, but notable, shift. People who feel vulnerable can trust someone with pink hair. People who feel alienated interpret it as a sign of voluntary alienation. I planned to dye it natural next week. But we need all the solidarity we can get.
  • More solidarity. Between my friend and I, on Tuesday night, what went unspoken was that our friend group is mostly black; mostly queer; mostly women; mostly targets of Trump’s speech. The world is less looking out for them now. My white friend and I held each other and thought about where our bodies will need to be in order to keep our friends alive. In a very real, very deep way, how much more together we will need to be to keep each other alive.

The list goes on. Relatively few Clinton supporters were crushed because they loved Clinton. They were crushed because they love their own bodies. And our bodies have been picked out of Trump’s teeth for months. In three presidential votes, I’ve never felt an election speak so directly to my body and negation of my habits.

In a few ways, we’ve already proven Trump supporters are better than their worst ideologies. There was mostly peace on Election Day. My polling place, in spite of my fearfulness walking in, was buoyant with hope and democracy. The elderly man volunteering at the desk complimented my pink hair and gently remarked on my name (which I share with the losing presidential candidate). It felt like any other election. Even more, I felt safe in my neighborhood, a suburban county with its share of ideological splits.

Likely, Trump supporters will downplay the rhetoric, call much of the violence a joke. I’ve been a woman for too many years to think a threat is ever a joke. In the post-election coverage, they said what drew people to Trump was the conviction that this country needs a change. I don’t disagree; some things need to change. But what changed on Tuesday was my body, my autonomy, my own self.

If Trump supporters think my sorrow is overblown, it is their responsibility to prove it. Prove that you believe my body is still mine, and my queer friends and friends of color still have their own bodies.

Political reconciliation, a theme I’m grateful to see has been part of the post-election discussion, is a two-way street. It’s not just the losers losing graciously, but the winners winning graciously. I have been through a Lemonade of a day imagining the future and so I can only say to this country what Beyonce says in that tender place between healing and healed:
Give you some time to prove that I can trust you.

Healing is an option, yes. It’s the thing I want. But there has been an awful lot of talk from the losers and the media about peaceful transitions, about the open mind we owe to Trump, and no sign, still, that Trump believes he owes anything to us.

I owe myself a long mourning.


4 thoughts on “What Changed on Tuesday was my Body

  1. Thoughtful, powerful, chilling.

    I physically resemble a part of the electorate that put you and those who resemble you in the spot you are now in. For me, that is annoying but largely inconsequential except that I won’t be trusted by all those who feel less safe, post-election.

    Looking ahead, another aspect that is distressing to me — beyond those that you listed — is that the Trump supporters in Canada will be emboldened and will be playing Chester to the USA’s Spike. That would be déplorable, indeed. Only if the Trump years implode in economic failure, or if the US finds cause to disavow President-elect Trump and his crew due to immorality and its fall-out — what you fear — will Canada avoid a similar, copycat fate.

    With your permission, I’d like to re-blog your post.

    Hold fast,
    Mitchell Toews


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