The long and short of it: I didn’t want to feel more alone.
For much of my life I had desires about who I wanted to touch and see naked that nothing in the culture around me supported or made me feel good about. I was gay, in other words, and while I didn’t grow up around homophobes I grew up adjacent to enough homophobes to know that what I desired made me worrisomely different from people. It kept me out of what I saw as the community. One of the more courageous things I’ve done was decide to leave that community and find another where I could feel happy being who I am.
I’m in a place where I might need to find another new community, but I’m afraid of leaving behind the one I’ve spent my life among.
You might argue with me how political orientations aren’t the same as sexual, that the latter are fixed by biology more than the former, but I can point you to studies that argue the opposite. Regardless of which of us is right, this is how 2015/2016 has felt for me: like being in the closet again. When I’ve told people that I was voting for a third-party candidate?maybe Jill Stein, probably Gloria La Riva?I’ve been met with bemused condescension at best and verbal shaming and belittling at worst.
2016’s biggest lesson: people on the left are just as intolerant as people on the right. There are shitty, hate-filled people voting alongside me this year.
People have called what I’ve wanted to do “protest voting” or “throwing my vote away.” That has felt at times like hearing I’m “going through a phase” or that “maybe I’m just not good at bedding women.” I’ve found very few people willing to listen to where I am and how I’ve come to my decision, that when I look at the Socialist Party’s platform I agree with every single point, and when I imagine working to make such a future possible I’m filled with hope and happiness.
But when I was finishing my ballot?five pages long, front and back, full of local and state-wide referenda I researched one-by-one?I had one more decision to make. I had to choose someone for president, and after days of putting the decision off I chose the person everyone else I know in my life is choosing. I chose, this time, to stay in the community.
Or maybe “stay” isn’t the right verb. I didn’t leave my community when I came out, I just clarified my position within that community. That’s why I’m glad, I think, to have voted for Clinton: I can do the political work I see making me happy and fulfilled within the very community (i.e. the Democratic Party) I see as problematic.
Also, I’m happy to be part of the public that put the first woman in the White House. This morning, in church, I found myself thinking about 2024. (I know, yikes.) In 2024, the 18-year-olds who will be voting for the first time will only know a U.S. that’s been led by a man of color and a woman. White men running the country will seem quaint, maybe old fashioned. I don’t think white men are per se a problem, but I’m keeping those 18-year-olds, the world they might help bring about, in mind on election day.
We’ll keep doing things as a country that give me shame. We’ll keep killing civilians in drone attacks. We’ll keep protecting corporate profits at the cost of public health and financial security. We’ll keep ignoring environmental destruction and putting guns in the hands of anyone who wants them. I know that if I want things to be different I have to work outside the election booth to get it done. I hope some of you in my life will join me.