I met my friend when we were infants. And although his dad was a doctor and mine worked at a paper factory, we were friends from kindergarten through fifth grade. I was never invited to play at his house, but we would meet every day he could in the summer. We sat on the school bus together during sixth – eight grades, though we never had any classes together and rarely spoke. In high school, we did not have common friends, but we would spend hours talking about our fears of being ostracized, our confusion with sexual identity, and our constant desire to leave the rural place we were born and find out place in the outside world.
If you’ve heard my mugging stories, he’s the slight person who was with me in New York City, presenting as fem, when I fought off our attacker while I was presenting as male.
After that one trip, he returned to our hometown. I went to New Jersey and you know how that turned out.
In October 2005 while I was a sophomore in college, my friend committed suicide.
I’ll never know for certain if he was really gay or trans. But I do know it was the hate in that town that killed him.
I never thought I would see the day when the ugliness of my hometown would be given the kind of power that it has been given tonight.
By electing a sexist, homophobic, racist, abilist, anti-immigration, anti-Islam hate-monger, we have sent a message to every person in America who is different. People like my friend are waking up to hear that the weak and frightened hatred of my in rural town – the hate and the fear that killed my friend – has the power. We told every rural American who is not a typical white cisgendered male that they deserve to be hated and that they should be afraid. We told them their lives don’t matter.
I want to send a different message. I want people in those communities – the Muslims, the disabled, the racial minorities, but especially I want to tell the rural queers like me and my friend – there is nothing wrong with you.
You do not deserve hate.
You do not deserve blame.
You do not deserve to die.
If it seems like the majority of people in rural areas of America don’t want you, get out of the rural areas. Please. If you live in among people who make you feel unsafe, get out. If you live among people that make you hate yourself, get out. If you are considering self-harm or suicide, change your location before you take your life. Please.
I’ll tell you the same thing I told my friend every single time I visited him. It’s hard to change. It’s scary to go to a new place.
But when you find people who will accept you for you, it’s worth it.