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Just a queer Californian social worker trying to improve folks lives in whatever way I can!

Pinch yourself. Gently, you’re probably hurting enough already. No, I'm afraid this still isn't just a dream. But it doesn't have to all be a nightmare.

At the time of this writing, it’s been two weeks since I watched uncomprehendingly as the polls ticked in Donald Trump’s favor, and thirteen days since I woke up crying the next morning, clutching my partner’s hand and praying that I was still sleeping.

The thing about reality is that it's often pretty unpalatable, and it's been that way for a while. But this political move feels a lot like stepping off the edge of a cliff. It feels messed up to a degree that’s hard to come back from, at least for the next four years. It feels like all the strides forward we've taken for the marginalized groups in our society have been for nothing. It feels like plummeting through the air, where just seconds just before I'd been enjoying a beautiful vista.

Whoops, I slipped on some of Trump's tanning oil
Whoops, I slipped on some of Trump's tanning oil

So. How do we cope with that?

Well, I don't know about you, but I personally have been on a constant circuit of fear, denial, dissociation, and willful ignorance, which has been getting me through the daily grind. The thing is, that only works for so long, and I've been unwilling to get to a place of acceptance of what this all means just yet.

But I've recently bumped into the realization that there's a few different ways to define acceptance. I think when people hear "acceptance" in terms of our new president elect, they think fear-based rationalization. “Maybe it won’t be so bad. People are making it sound worse than it is. Let’s give him a shot.” Sound familiar?

The scary thing is that this kind of acceptance of Trump’s reign also equates to a blanket acceptance of the racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, and all the other -isms his platform has been drawing pretty little ribbons around for the past year. Not to mention acceptance of his terrifying, gorgon-like appointees, including Mike Pence, who believes people who love like me should be electrocuted until they get back on the good ol' ship S.S. Heterosexuality.

(Not likely, Mike, this queer ship has really sailed.)

Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade [Credit: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images]
Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade [Credit: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images]

But accepting this new reality doesn't also have to mean you're signing onto this gut-wrenching sensation of free fall for the next four years. Needless to say, this is a scary time, and it’s okay to be scared.

But here's the thing: we can be scared, and we can resist, and we can thrive, all at the same time. In order to keep going, we can even accept this change and face it head on, without minimizing how very messed up it all is.

Acceptance doesn't mean giving up, and that's something I've learned from what some would mistakenly consider an unlikely place.

I'm a fledgling social worker, a semester away from my master's degree, and my favorite population to work with is #LGBT youth. I remember well how you're not taken seriously as a teen, especially a queer teen, and ever since I aged out of teen-hood I've turned right around and started working to raise up the voices of youth. I've been a counselor at a local queer camp for teens the past few years, made the focus of my social work research better suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth, worked as a respite counselor for foster youth, and been an adult advisor at my (very liberal) church's high school camps.

2016 Queer Camp attendees [Credit: Diversity Center of Santa Cruz]
2016 Queer Camp attendees [Credit: Diversity Center of Santa Cruz]

What I've found in the process of engaging in this incredibly fulfilling work is that we're in a time of wondrous, enormous change, and the teens of today know it. I'm barely a "real" “adult” myself, but still, the youth I work with are so mind-blowingly knowledgeable about systems of oppression, privilege, and politics that they're light years ahead of where I was willing to be in high school, and I was raised surrounded by social justice.

This winter at my church camp, for the first time ever, we're going to have a gender neutral cabin for campers who don't feel comfortable choosing between male and female binary cabins. This is due to popular demand from the campers who are challenging the ways they've learned about gender, who are equal parts scared and excited to assert their own identities as different, but incredibly valid. Likewise, their peers who may be other members of the LGBTQ community or may not be have been nothing but wholeheartedly supportive of this change. I've watched them take their friends and acquaintances new pronouns, new names, or new partners in stride, ready and willing to listen, lift up, and do anything they can to help.

That's a tiny yet monumental example of the ways in which this upcoming generation are listening and watching with wide-open senses to the things that are unfolding in the world. They see the blinding flaws in the system, and they're not willing to rationalize or accept them, but instead, they're more than ready to soar into the chasm of revolution.

Santa Cruz Pride 2015 [Credit: Diversity Center of Santa Cruz]
Santa Cruz Pride 2015 [Credit: Diversity Center of Santa Cruz]

Consider the following:

Thirty years ago, AIDS was a death sentence.

Twenty years ago, coming out as publicly queer was often career suicide.

Even ten years ago, transgender was a dirty word.

Now, my colleagues at my internship are asked to go far beyond "tolerance" in accommodating our LGBTQ students, but to actively create safe spaces, to include their pronouns in their email signatures in order to reduce gender assumptions, to always be respectful of our students changing identities and needs. Now, people like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Ellen DeGeneres are being given huge amounts of positive media attention. Now, visible queer celebrities, role models, and activists are a part of pop culture instead of a "shameful" revolution.

We’ve had so much groundwork laid for us by past generations, and we’ve gotten so far in the fight against bigotry and inequality politics. Obviously, we still have so much more to do, and this new administration will throw a lot of obstacles in our path. The fight is far from over. But if there's anything I've learned from listening to the laughter of my queer campers, from hearing the incredibly powerful discussions that take place between queer teens about their rights, from their willingness to act and speak out and educate others, it's that more than ever, those obstacles won’t be faced alone. Electing a demagorgon and his tribe into office cannot take away the interminable hope that we’ve grown, together, as a multi-faceted and valuable community.

We are in a time of enlightenment, in which many people – both within the LGBTQ community and without - have had their blinders forcibly ripped away by the outcome of this election. Oppression and hate were still well and alive in America, even under President Obama. But now, injustice is in the center spot.

So, how do we cope with this new reality? By reminding each other that this isn’t a dream, and that we aren’t alone in facing it. By reminding each other that we are valid, and whole, and we’re not fucking going anywhere. By remembering that in this time of hatred, loving each other is our own revolution.

The truth is: now that we’ve come so far, we aren’t going to let those in power force us to give up ground, and we have more folks on our side than ever before.

We won't just ask for safe spaces. We will make spaces safe for us.

We won’t just wait for our voices to be heard. We will scream in unison until we can’t be ignored.

We will cry and we will hold each other up and we will thrive and we will get hurt and we will take care of each other. We will sew our own parachutes using the words and actions of the generations before us, and we will turn our free-fall into a glorious awakening.

Yash and Robyn at NYC Pride. [Credit: Yashia Garcia]
Yash and Robyn at NYC Pride. [Credit: Yashia Garcia]

This article was created as part of the Creators.co fanzine, We Will Make It Better: Stories Of Hope For The Future Of LGBT