Finding Gratitude in the Age of Trump
Wednesday began like so many have these past seven months, since inauguration day. I woke up late and dragging because I’d been battling an asthma and allergies flair up the past few days. Bleary eyed while I stumbled around my kitchen making coffee, I logged on to social media to see what the latest travesty of a health care bill the GOP was attempting to shoe horn through the Senate, and instead saw the Liar in Chief had tweeted a horrifyingly cruel announcement that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military.
I was beyond enraged. It was a fiery anger I had not felt in months and I was almost glad to discover that I still had the capacity for it and had not been numbed to the ongoing nightmare in DC. I started drafting epic statements to post to facebook to try and express why this was such an asinine and pointlessly heartless thing to do. In the process I saw my boyfriend had posted simply “I stand with trans* people, always. #resist” and I realized that was all that needed to be said. I copied his post and shortly after I got a facebook invite to an emergency protest being planned for Harvey Milk Plaza at 6pm that evening. I knew I had to literally back up my words with action and responded yes and invited more people.
Like so many other people I occasionally struggle with anxiety and depression and in the age of Trump its become a bigger struggle since it sometimes genuinely feels like the world is a terrible place that is only getting worse. Many, many therapists will tell people with mental health issues that identifying things in your life to be grateful for is a key way to help get over the hurdles of depression and anxiety. The last seven months have presented more challenge at finding gratitude than just about any other point in my life. But on Wednesday evening I found so many reasons to be grateful and I woke up on Thursday feeling more positive than I have in a long time.
As 6pm rolled around I was exhausted. Netflix and the couch were calling to me. I texted a friend “I’m trying to find the motivation to go to the protest”. And then I remembered, I was just tired, I wasn’t really that sick and I could still walk. I had no plans that evening and there were no people who were depending on me to pick them up or feed them dinner. I had trans friends who legitimately couldn’t make it to the protest who really wanted to be there. I live on Castro Street about a 5 min bus ride from the plaza and have a loaded clipper card so I told myself, “just show up to the plaza for 30 mins and then you can go home if you want”. As soon as I got on the bus I realized half the people on it were their way to the protest too. Traffic was backed up because protesters were spilling onto the intersection at Market. At 19th St a man on the bus announced, “we should get off here, it will be faster to walk” and everyone did. It was the first time I had seen someone yell out something on Muni and everyone just agreed without complaint.
I made my way into the plaza and hundreds of people were already there, trans activists were speaking and there were many other cis-gender allies present too. A trans woman asked me to take her picture with her homemade sign stating “Health Care is a Right” and I was immediately glad to I had decided to be there. I turned to my right and saw a trans pride flag billowing and perfectly framed by the Castro theatre sign. I snapped a photo and posted it. A few minutes later, having seen my post, my friend Ryan texted me, “Are you going to march the whole way?” He was just a few yard away and maneuvered his way through the crowd to find me. I told him I hadn’t been planning to march but since he was going to, I would go for a bit and see how I felt.
As we started down Market street I said, “its nice to have a friend to walk with”. We discussed what a bully Trump is and Ryan said “he’s a toddler.” Then we saw a girl about three year old running along the sidewalk waving at the marchers and he backtracked, pointed at her and said “actually, that’s an insult to toddlers”. Then a man who worked at a convenience store on Market ran out and started handing American flags to the marchers as they chanted “this is what democracy looks like”.
We approached Octavia and I realized the police had shut down the highway on-ramp to accommodate the protest. After headline after headline of people of color being unjustly targeted and murdered by police, I felt relieved to have a moment to see so many police officers doing their jobs well and protecting a group of people who are so often subjected to hate filled violence. Officers who probably agreed to come into work unscheduled or took on overtime on a few hours notice to allow this protest to happen safely. I pointed them out and Ryan said, “It makes it a lot easier to show up when they are on our side”.
A young black boy, about 10 years old, covered from head to toe in Warriors gear, marched near us with his parent and a bull horn, leading us in chants. He seemed so proud when his chants spread through the crowd. It felt good to see a child being shown the power his own voice and it made me feel positive for the future to envision him growing up to being a leader for social justice.
As we walked and blocked traffic I did not witness a single person trapped in their cars saying or doing anything rude or angry. We got many hands lifted out of windows with solidarity peace signs or fist raised. Horns were honked in support and as we crossed Van Ness, we realized many of the loudest horns were coming from the tech buses. It reminded me that these luxury behemoths that I curse on a regular basis were being driven by working class people, many of whom are people of color, some of whom are immigrants, seemly all of whom are just as horrified as everyone else who is vulnerable to the whims of a vicious president.
We arrived at City Hall, which was displaying the trans pride flag and would soon be lit in the blue and pink of the trans rights movement. Ryan turned and said “you made it the whole way!”. I couldn’t even remember why it had seemed so unlikely in the first place. Along the way I had found my way back to gratitude. Sure, there are still a myriad of thing in our world to be upset about, but at least for today, I feel grateful to live in San Francisco, where trans activists rallied hundreds of people to turn up last minute on a Wednesday after work. Grateful our local government went out of its way to support, accommodate and protect a quickly planned protest march. Grateful to be in a community where trans people are respected leaders, co-workers, parents, partners and friends, and we know that some of them always have and always will bravely serve in our military. Grateful that so many people decided this was an important enough issue to show up for. Grateful that we still get to say to the President of the United States, “you don’t get to do this without a fight”.