On January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump – the physical embodiment of every fucked-up instinct, insecurity, and preoccupation of the American psyche – will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America. There is widespread fear that his administration, stacked with reactionaries and far-right demagogues and backed by a unified Republican congress, will be able to reverse every federal gain made in the realm of LGBT rights in the last 8 years. There is no hope, in the immediate future, of the patchwork of employment or housing laws that protect LGBTQ people completing itself and covering the country. No chance of a federal ban on the torture of queer youth. What is more likely – not guaranteed, because we cannot know these things, only make judgments based on what has already happened and is likely to continue – is a state-by-state assault on nondiscrimination ordinances, insidious ‘bathroom bills’ that are monstrous invasions of privacy targeting trans people, and the introduction of laws that turn the notion of religious freedom into a weapon that is, unsurprisingly, usually aimed at LGBTQ people. It is not a pleasant reality to consider.
But on January 20th, as in all uncertain times of protest and social upheaval, there is opportunity. An opportunity to show the onlookers around the globe what can happen when the people who dare to dream of a better world come together. There will be moments, on January 20th, when it feels like anything is possible. When the overwhelming presence of the crowds and the chants and the signs and the slogans transport and transform us, elevate us to a plane where we see not just the people in the crowd but the forces that brought us together and the power that is so very nearly in our grasp.
LGBTQ people, by and large, do not raise one another. Our relationships are usually not like those of our parents. Our coming-of-age stories are often marked by fear, deceit, and trauma, as we realize that the bodies we were given cannot fit the mold we were raised in no matter how we might try. But we have role models and influences. People who help us on our way. Breadcrumb trails, left by strangers, to whom we feel affinity nonetheless as we discover that our ideas about ourselves were not unique or wrong or shameful. Norms change, and the way society understands gender and sexuality does as well. But so long as there are people in the world living in places where nonconformity to those norms is punishable – by restricting access to bathrooms, or housing, or employment, or healthcare; by bullying, or harassment, or ostracizing; by institutionalization, or torture, or extortion, or death – it will be the responsibility of liberated LGBTQ people to fight like hell against those injustices and pass that hope on to a stranger who needs to know there is a better world out there.
So on January 20th, in these times and places when all things are possible, it is our duty to be the most transcendently queer versions of ourselves. Not just for one another – though certainly because it is how we come to know each other. Not just because projecting our self-image and identity gives us strength, though it is an individually empowering thing to do. Not just so we can look fierce for the news, though that certainly helps spread our truth. We come as our truest selves because our identities are a rebuttal to the social structures we overcame. We do it for the people everywhere, young and old, who need inspiration and guidance on their own path of discovery. We do it for the skeptics: the ones who question if we need a space in the revolution, as well as the ones who question if we need a revolution at all. We do it because any promise of a just future is incomplete unless we overcome – and ultimately overturn – the social barriers that force us to present half-selves in certain company.
On January 20th, if you are able, put on your best wig and marching heels and clean your leathers and put glitter on every damn thing and wear the clothes that makes you feel the most like you, whatever that means, and meet your neighbors in the street, and share your dreams with one another. So long as we have hope, it isn’t too late to start making them come true.