In May I graduated from a Women’s College with a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies. My biggest complaint of the college was that it was “narrow mindedly liberal”, my biggest fear was that I was living in a Smith Bubble, that I would graduate and enter a world so different than the one I sought refuge in for three years. But after graduation I moved to Brooklyn, began working at a liberal women’s magazine, and the mainstream media let me know I had nothing to worry about: Hillary would come out on top.
Having gone to a Women’s College, like Hillary, I felt somehow connected to her cause on a deeper level. Her election would prove the importance of women’s college, would give a giant “F*** you” to those who have questioned my decision to enroll in a women’s college, a decision I made after a year at Bucknell fueled my fear of men, limited my opportunities of entering a queer relationship, and painfully reminded my of the reality of assault in women’s lives. Her win would be a giant “F*** you” to the gaggle of men who yelled, “I’d grab your pussy”, at me on my walk home from work, in the week after the video of Trump spewing something similar leaked.
On November 9th I fell asleep in the early hours of the morning after Florida went right, and woke up at 3am to the sound of my phone ringing beneath my pillow. My best friend from high school, a Colombian woman working on Capitol Hill. “Sleeping” I said groggily. No words on the other side of the line, just sobs. Then, I knew. She had not won. “How could this happen?” we repeated to each other over and over until she fell back asleep. I hung up the phone an hour later and checked my texts. 12 reminders from the friends I made on my college rugby team, from the gay pals I had met at my first college, and from my parents, that I was loved.
I had not expected this. I had expected to wake to hear Pennsylvania had pulled through, the votes in Florida had been recalculated, and Michigan had come to its senses. I had been dreaming about the days, weeks, years after her victory for two years. I’d find a way to go to the Inauguration, a day that would mark the major shift in American history for all minorities.
I had the whole morning of her win planned. I would wake up smiling, ask siri who was President, screenshot the answer for my Instagram, pull on my “Make American Gay Again” T-shirt (#capitalism) over my work blazer in honor of #pantsuitnation, call my mom on the way to the subway to celebrate this historic day, smile knowingly at the other women on the subway to work, greet my co-workers with excited hyperbole, and watch Hillary’s acceptance speech on NBC during my lunch break.
How could it go any other way? Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Jay Z publically endorsed her! Huffington Post relegated Trump’s speeches to the entertainment section! My Facebook newsfeed was ecstatic with possibility, and my twitter newsfeed was outraged that Trump was even the Republican nominee. Obviously, my social media friends and followers represented a diverse community, I mean I went to Bucknell University (in rural Pennsylvania!)… (okay, I may have de-friended every straight white guy I saw on my timeline over the last three years… but that’s because I’m #progressive).
The evening after Hillary’s election, I’d go see Deane Smith, a lesbian comedian, perform in Greenwich, and then grab a drink at Stonewall and go home with some raging liberal die hard with the wittiest HRC T-shirt. Once Hilary was elected I would get gay-married once a year, make out with hot babes on the subway, cops would stop plagiarizing Black Lives Matter, gun control laws would be… controlled, and we’d prove to Donald Trump that we, Americans, will not stand for an xenophobic, racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, ableist Oompa Loompas who spews hate and makes derogatory comments about women (yes, even the ones in his family).
But the election did not bring rainbows, comfort, or love to the front of American lives. It brought heartbreak.
Heartbreak. It’s the only thing I can compare this feeling to. But the things with getting your heart broken is that you wake up full of pain and sadness, struggling not to cry in English class (you know what I mean), while the rest of the world goes on.
I was at Smith when I was first heartbroken. I sent explanatory emails to my professors, “I’m in the midst of my first grown up heart break. I hope you will understand if I do not contribute in class as much as usual in the coming weeks”. But we are in a national heartbreak. A professor’s understanding can not fix nor remedy this level of national devastation and fear.
The thing with heartbreak is that the dull ache lingers, but sometimes running, or reading, or a conversation with a friend distracts you from the reality. But then it hits you like a load of bricks, your chest constricts, and your eyes fill with tears again. That’s what Trumps election feels like. Lingering to the back of my mind only to be brought to the forefront when I remember: Hillary did not win. Brought to the the forefront with every announcement of Trump’s cabinet choice.
It’s a privilege to be heartbroken by the government for the first time at 22. Lena Dunham reminds those of us who are experiencing our “first government induced heartbreak”, that there are “so many people — those in the prison system, those with undocumented American relatives, those who are trans, who are queer, who are people of color, who are Muslim, who are trying to prosecute their abusers — have felt the crushing failure of the system over and over again. This is just another dark week. This isn’t surreal like a death or a bad diagnosis. This is their life.”
Shame on me for letting myself get trapped in a bubble that let me believe that she would by a landslide.
Shame on me for my stupid hope. Shame on me for my ignorance, which led me to believing that there was truly zero chance that he would win. Shame on me for my naïveté. Shame on me for letting myself move swiftly from the bubble of Smith College to the bubble of the New York Media Brands, and the bubble of Brooklyn. Shame on me for not taking the precursors of this more seriously.
In the morning after the election, the woman I’m sleeping with tells me “we better have as much sex as possible before the right gets taken away from us in January.” But she’s dead serious. And I have never felt more afraid for my existence. A friend of mine grabs my hand as we walk out of the Union Square Barnes and Noble, and I drop it, and explain away her hurt, “I don’t feel safe doing that anymore.”
Those of us who are still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop out and tell America that we have been Punked, those of us who have been gagged by the election of Trump, those of us who have become radicalized by his election, or at least aware of the radical possibilities of our very existence, have handled the results with a grace that the election results do not deserve, and with the humanity, strength, and resilience that only a survivor can.
In this new reality where Trump and Pence take office and threaten the unemployment rates, medical coverage, and rights that Obama and Biden have worked for, my existence has become radicalized in a way I never could have expected… because this wasn’t supposed to happen. This was supposed to be her position. Hillary was meant to take on the title: President Hillary Clinton.