As I watched the poll results come in on November 8th, I felt fearful. I was scared for myself, for my friends, for my friends’ friends, for my neighbors, and for my fellow Americans who are the outsider in a homogenous community somewhere out there. The anti-LGBTQ massacre this summer in Orlando was still buzzing in my head. I kept thinking of a recent anti-muslim hate crime in New York City, where I live. A woman dressed in a hijab had been set on fire in the middle of 5th Avenue in the days surrounding September 11th. She wasn’t hurt, but the audacity of the act stung me. Over Labor Day weekend, a young woman was shot dead in my neighborhood because she refused a man’s advances. On Halloween, a young lesbian couple were assaulted, again in New York City, after revealing to a cat-caller the romantic nature of their relationship.
On November 4, 2008, I was in love with the future. I was eighteen, nearing the end of my first semester in college, and I had just voted in my first election for a man who embodied grace and optimism. The night that Barack Obama was elected, I gathered with hundreds of my peers in an auditorium on Reed College’s campus while the CNN projections played out. When it was announced that Obama would be our forty-fourth president, we all rose to our feet in unison and began to cheer and hug one another. It was the most profound sense of unity I have ever felt in my life.