This past weekend a trans woman in the state where I live awoke at three in the morning to see her truck engulfed in flames and with “TRUMP” spray-painted on it in red. Last night, I drank gin and watched the one and the same TRUMP become the president-elect of the United States. I will never experience the level of fear and hate that she has, but I do feel the heat of others’ hate, and I do feel fear.
I’m thinking today about Kelly Oxford’s tweet asking women to share with her their first experiences of sexual assault, and the subsequent massive reply, in the wake of Donald Trump’s own comments just last month. I’m not thinking about my own first experience with sexual assault (“Stroke it!” commanded a masturbating man as I fled down the street near my college apartment) or extended history with sexual harassment (my undergraduate advisor, police officers I worked with in my first job out of college, director of a library I once worked for), but about what my daughter’s own future with it will look like. The new fundamental anxiety in my life? Raising a daughter in Trump’s America, where the president-elect can condone with his own actions and words my worst memories and greatest fears.
Let’s face it: he has won and has made a way for those who once walked in shadow to bask in the light. To say asinine and damaging things with their mouths and their Twitter accounts and their t-shirts. This, for the next four years, and until we figure out how to cut off the gangrenous limb, bandage the stump, and start moving forward again, is Trump’s America.
She is so young, this girl child of mine. But so were so many women when they were first victimized. How can we not live forever in victimhood when society wants to turn women into fuckable objects d’arte, when our speech is limited by fear or self-censored for self-preservation? When those who would victimize us would also seek to disenfranchise us, if able?
I’ve had conversations with friends who are also mothers of daughters, theirs older than my own, and they struggle with this as well. What Trump has brought to the fore is not new, but it is normalized now in a new way. The next leader of the free world defending comments he made that amount to admitting sexual assault? I originally thought that this would disturb everyone. Of course, I felt that way about his blatant racism and xenophobia too.
One friend’s daughter thought Trump was laughably funny and watched him on YouTube like a comedian until she learned more than one friend was worried they’d be deported because they aren’t white. They’re in elementary school. One friend has renewed fears of her daughter’s friends’ fathers and the things they might say and do. This is a smallish town we live in, with more than a few smallish minds just looking for an excuse to perpetuate their smallness. Trump has become a new excuse.
I am trying to continue fighting for my daughter, pushing forward this third (or fourth?) wave, trying to force a crest into newness, a new order without these old fears. I’m tired of this. I don’t want to teach her fear. I want her to be braver than I am, more confident, happier. I want her to be kind, but not nice. I want her to be able to accomplish her goals, whatever they may be. I want her to fight for others less privileged than herself, in whatever way she can. She cannot do all of this if she is raised in the fear-filled land of Trump’s America, where he and men like him feel entitled to grab pussies (and far worse), threaten the 19th amendment, and tell women that we’re just too sensitive regarding the issue of “consent.”
I have time. Right now, she is still eating crayons, colorful waxen specks on her lips as the evidence. But there’s not much time. The forward march of progress, never done, has stalled, the drumbeat slowed. How do I keep moving and raise in her up in the way she should go?