“He can’t do anything… you just have to wait and see what happens” she said. This was just moments after I was called a “fucking idiot” by my mother more times than I can count for being scared of a Trump presidency. This was over Christmas, as all the nightmares started coming true and I’m still left wondering at least once a day why. Why he’s still there. Why people are still supporting him. Why… everything. I just don’t understand what happened to America that an obnoxious orange TV personality was elected. I know the answer is complicated. There’s an answer I won’t begin to dissect. There are enough journalists turned authors taking on that challenge right now.
My challenge, on the other hand, still resonates at the explanation point. The moment when someone tries to explain away his bad behavior and the moment when I have to walk away. It’s hard to explain to old, straight, Trump supporters what it feels like to just not know. To have no idea that your worst nightmare could be just one tweet away. To not know that my family is going to have their rights. To not know that progress won’t stop. To not know our President will make choices that protect our people rather than his business interests. To not know he won’t appoint people who will turn back the progress the LGBTQ community has made. They’ll never get what it feels like to see your rights dangling in front of your face only to be swept away weeks later.
The Panic Room: You’re Trans? You’re Fired.
Imagine this. You’re laying in a bunk thousands of miles away in a desert staring at the ceiling and you hear a headline on the news. You open Facebook to confirm and you can’t miss it. It’s trending; the President tweeted. You’re fired. You don’t belong. You don’t matter. You’re a burden, a disruption. Despite the unbearable heat, you feel the embarrassment and shame fill your cheeks and you blush. What now? You’re in a war zone. There’s no “buying a ticket to leave” unless you also want to visit Ft Leavenworth. There’s no taking a walk without the stares and the panic. There’s no getting away without getting killed.
Even outside of war zones, that’s the panic that thousands of trans soldiers and their families woke up with today. What’s happening? What’s going to happen next? Who can I turn to? All of the normal thoughts any of us would have if we found out we were fired with one additional, especially painful part. The part where you realize that you’re fired because you’re different. You’re not a soldier like everyone else, even if you have followed orders and sacrificed every day. You don’t belong. You don’t matter. You’re a burden, a disruption.
This is the part where Trump supporters try to stop me to give me a reality check. I know the reality – that Trump doesn’t have the authority to make this sweeping change and fire every transgender person. But the message here is so much bigger than the reality. The President just set a standard of discrimination against trans people. That it’s OK for you not to hire a trans person or assume that they can do a job well. That a soldier who struggles with their gender orientation couldn’t possibly perform to the same level as someone who doesn’t.
As a manager, as a leader – you have to realize that trans and gay people are feeling scared right now. It’s probably assumed in your organization that you won’t fire people for being gay but now is the time to stand up and share that truth. That you believe in treating people equally. That you value everyone’s contributions no matter their gender or who they love. That you value people for what they bring in the world, not for how they live it. Yeah, it’s probably pretty uncomfortable to say that when you’re thinking “I know they know” but the panic is real. Stand up.