For weeks, I’ve listened as client after client plopped on my couch, riddled with anxiety over the long list of human rights that Trump’s presidency will put in jeopardy. Many of their fears are predictable: Losing health care benefits, undocumented friends or family members being deported, a resurgence of stop-and-frisk, Muslim brothers and sisters being placed on a list for God knows what, the planet’s health, racism and bigotry rising, and losing federal rights as married spouses, for starters. But there’s also been some surprising common denominators to their angst…
It seems that well-meaning colleagues, friends and family members are handling my clients’ fears in much the same way that people everywhere and under most circumstances respond to an emotional individual: By minimizing their concerns. By telling them that the very things they fear won’t happen. It turns out it’s just jacking people up more.
Today’s post is for the people least likely to read a lesbian’s advice blog - the victors of this election. If you truly want to calm your loved ones, if you have a desire to heal this country’s wounds and quiet the imaginations of your progressive neighbors who envision unthinkable horrors occurring during the next 4 years, listen up:
DON’T tell us that our reproductive rights (or any other rights) won’t be taken away. It makes us want to jump on our soapbox and double down on our position. It escalates us because it puts us in a defensive position. It’s bad enough we’re frightened – we don’t want to be told that we’re also wrong.
DO tell us that, in the unlikely event that our greatest fears materialize, you’ll advocate for us. Reassure your family members and friends that you’ll fight the good fight with us. (Many of) you say you voted for the economy, and that you don’t really believe that human rights are in jeopardy. Promise your loved ones that you’ll donate to fight for their rights. Offer to volunteer for organizations that support their human rights. Tell them that you’re willing to attend a protest with them. Show that you’re prepared to take action on our behalf. Our biggest problem isn't the large number of people in this country with bad intentions. It's the large number of people with good intentions who don't take action.
DON’T tell us why Obama has sucked. Or why Hillary would have been worse. Don’t reference political talking points. Stay away from facts and stats, which will only put us in adversarial positions. Don’t try to change our minds.
DO validate our feelings. Tell us that you hear how frightened, concerned, enraged, or [insert emotion here] we are. Remind us that we’re not alone. That you’re here for us. And that you’ll help to protect us.
DON’T surround yourself exclusively with like-minded people or immerse yourself in media that only echoes your political beliefs. It creates the illusion that your perspective is the only perspective. It creates an us verses them mentality. It polarizes us. And it doesn’t give you the information you need to initiate productive dialogues with us.
DO watch the BBC and listen to NPR. There are media outlets that express opposing views – the whole story – whose mission is to keep the electorate informed. Or, bypass the news altogether, and follow organizations on Twitter (the names of which I've listed below for you) to receive updates in real time. Exposing yourself to the issues that many of us contend with on a daily basis is the only way you’ll be able to relate, sincerely and compassionately, to your progressive counterparts.
DON’T tell us that we’re being poor losers. When you do that, you sound like ungracious winners.
DO remember that ours is the only party that’s won the popular vote twice while managing to lose the election. We fucking lose when we win. We’ve got big problems.
ONE MORE THING: You can ask your progressive neighbors to tell you what you can do to support them during this time. As a therapist, I love to problem solve, and I’m often surprised that what appears to be a clear solution to me isn’t actually what my client wants. I only know this because I ask. And you can too.
REALLY, ONE MORE THING: If you want to be an UpStander and not a bystander over the next four years, here is an incomplete list of orgs to follow:
- International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)