Dear Mother: A Gay Son Responds To Family And Trump

I refuse to stand back and watch things revert to the old hierarchy I hope you’ll stand with me.
11/12/2016 11:07 am ET Updated Nov 12, 2016
Portland Trump Protest 11/10/16
Joshua Thomas
Portland Trump Protest 11/10/16

Let me begin by saying that I am wildly lucky. I have parents who truly want nothing more for me than contentment and love. My mother loves harder than just about anything else she does. I grew up in a home where my sister and I knew only support, a home in which we were given pretty much anything we wanted and definitely anything we needed. Wildly lucky. But as family goes, we don’t always see eye to eye. I am gay. So is my sister. We grew up conservative Christians in New Jersey, attending church every Sunday and most Wednesdays. This is the world I knew. This is the world in which my parents are still a part. So now at the age of twenty-eight, long past coming out and leaving that world far behind, I am looking ahead at a deeply dark reality: Donald Trump will be the leader of this country.

The other night, I attended one of the many non-violent protests occurring all over the nation in response to this reality. I live in Portland, Oregon, a city whose citizens, like much of the country, were not at all prepared for this outcome. We felt incredible unification that night, screaming out our anger, chanting back at the hate we refuse to accept. After I posted a picture of the protest via social media, I received a long-winded email from my mother. She expressed many concerns about the speech I used, things like “we’re going to fight” and “let’s begin the process of taking it down.” She couldn’t understand why I felt such anger, why I wasn’t responding out of love. She doesn’t believe that social issues will regress under the next administration, she thinks God places leaders in positions of power for a reason. I needed to explain my anger, and this is my response:

Dear Mother,

Thank you for voicing your thoughts. I am sorry if I offended you, or if my words made you afraid of something. Let me think how to communicate this properly. 

I am not just upset. I am broken, and devastated. I understand fully that you and dad are supremely unaffected by the outcome of this election. That is just a fact. Politics aside, you are a white, straight couple in a nation that provides every ounce of opportunity for people like yourselves (although as a woman, that is not the case and you should understand and feel deeply the negative effect a man like Trump can have on yourself and all women of this nation). My speech at this point is one of anger and sadness. And that’s okay, I am warranted that. I am even deserving of it. I have spent many hours, days even, over the course of the past 18 months hoping and fighting for this nation to elect the candidate we so badly needed to govern at a time of such unprecedented division. That did not happen. And in any other election cycle, sure, I would be upset at the loss — but this one is different. You know that. The man who will lead the most powerful country in the world for the next four years is a man who has said he can grab women by the pussy whenever he likes, who degraded and imitated a reporter with special needs, has lauded fascist dictators for their strength in leadership, and has knowingly received the endorsement of the KKK and numerous other white supremacist organizations in this country. 

We have a duty in this country to stand up and speak for those who don’t have a voice.

When I say I am going to fight, I mean it. But that doesn’t mean through violence. I am not a violent person, obviously. I do, however, believe that every major movement in this country has begun in the form of non-violent protest. As the great feminist leader Flo Kennedy once said, “Don’t agonize, organize.” We have a duty in this country to stand up and speak for those who don’t have a voice. I have known unbelievable privilege in my life. Yes, I have had to endure things that no one should have to endure as a result of my sexual orientation ― but I’m not a black man. I’m not a woman. I’m not Muslim. Or disabled. Or trans. Or an immigrant. Or any person of color. So as a white male who still has a leg up in this world, even though I’m gay, I need to be a voice for all the people in this country that Trump and his team of deplorables like to refer to as “other.” Let us not forget that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, which means more people in this country stand on the “other” side than on his. 

So we’re going to organize. And when I say we’re going to take it down, I mean the patriarchy. I believe without a doubt that patriarchy in this country is what lost the election for Hillary. If a white man had said and done every single thing that she said and did, he would have won. Sadly, this nation is still not ready for a woman to lead. Many men, especially powerful men, haven’t seen a woman in a position of leadership since childhood and they are unmanned and threatened by the prospect of one holding the highest office in the world. Most revelatory is the fact that more white women voted for Trump than Clinton, a statistic that shows even women are afraid to move away from the patriarchal system in which they’ve grown accustomed. Trump spoke loudly to this fear in so many, and it worked. 

I am so proud of Hillary for being a badass woman who has fought tirelessly for over 30 years to advance human rights around the globe. She deserves to be the President of this country. But since that is not the case, we’re going to take her work and her words and build the movement. I know you believe the country won’t revert to regressive social policy, but the fact of the matter is that new leadership is now in place that will try it’s damnedest to peel back every single ounce of social progress that millions have worked so hard to achieve. Hell, we now have a Vice President who has vehemently pushed to legalize gay “conversion therapy” in the past, voted against equal pay for women THREE times, and tried to pass a law that required women to view a fetal ultrasound hours prior to an abortion AND have a funeral for the fetus afterward. 

Again, I am sorry if anything I said offended you but we need real change in this country. I refuse to stand back and watch things revert to the old hierarchy after so much has been done to assure that that very thing doesn’t happen. I hope you’ll stand with me. Either way, I’m going to take with me the words of the inimitable Gloria Steinem who said this week: “Luckily, real change, like a tree, grows from the bottom up, not the top down. We will not mourn, we will organize. Maybe we are about to be free.”

I love you.

Joshua

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