Parting Thoughts: A Gay Man Returns to the Deep South Under President Trump

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This morning, I’m packing. My phone buzzes on my desk. “Be safe, OK?” I set it aside and toss more clothes into the donation pile.

Donald Trump is my next president. Everywhere I turn on social media feels like drowning. The progressives I know don’t just fear what a Trump administration will mean for queer rights. They fear for the basic integrity of the country.

I fill a cardboard box of books and tape it closed.

No, I’m not moving to Canada, or Europe. I am not, as many liberals threatened, leaving the country now that Trump will become president.

I’m moving to the Deep South. I’m going home.

I am going home to Alabama as a progressive, openly gay man. I am going home to a family who voted for Trump. I’m going home to a part of the country where the dark companions of the Trump campaign  still rule—the racists, the homophobes, the sexists.

My phone buzzes. Another message. “So are you still leaving?”

Yes, I am.

I’m returning for the usual reasons: health, family, money. But this morning, I want to go back for another reason. I want to be a part of the fight for my America.

And that America starts at home. Over the years, I’ve watched what made the Trump campaign. I’ve watched moderate-to-conservative families stare in bewildered rage as their rural towns died from lack of jobs or education. I’ve watched these people, my neighbors, whom I disagreed with and still respected, give away their rage to an “alt-right” that promises a return to prosperity they can’t deliver. And when they can’t, they will blame us.

They will blame me.

Despite my out queerness, I have lived in the reddest parts of this country and witnessed a coexistence of spirit that can only be called “American.” I have watched family and friends struggle to accept me, fail, yet still welcome me through a common bond of love. Donald Trump threatens that love for each other; for many of us, his campaign has destroyed it already. I refuse to believe that.

This presidency could mark the beginning of the biggest civil rights mobilization in this country since the 1960s. And I know queer people will be there. I will be there. Whether it’s a rally at Stonewall or my father’s workshop in Tupelo, I’m there. And if we begin to see these people again as our neighbors, maybe they, in turn, can see us the same.

This morning, surrounded by boxes and an uncertain future, it’s the only hope I have.

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