I was driving from southern Connecticut to the north shore of Massachusetts when I heard it:
“Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has resigned.”
I felt the wind get knocked out of me as I drove up I-95. The only word that came to mind was “FUCK”, which I repeated over and over again at varying volumes, between tears.
The lingering feeling I’ve had since that day, less than a week ago, has been one that fluctuates between dread, anger, disappointment, uncertainty and, fear. The only thing I can compare this to is the feeling I had when I woke up on the morning of November 9th, 2016.
Except this is worse.
A supreme court justice has their position for life, and is not a limited term like a president’s. So, whoever is confirmed has the ability to shape the direction of this country for decades to come.
I’ve been watching courts make decisions about my humanity and right to be treated with common decency for over 20 years now. If you’ve never had to do that, if you’ve never had to wait to find out a ruling for a court case that could impact not only how you live your life but, the legality of your very existence, your ability to secure employment and housing or, your right to not be retaliated against simply for not being heterosexual – I’m here to tell you that it’s fucking stressful.
I know that a large chunk of the American population hasn’t had to deal with that in their lifetime. A court ruling that impacts their lives almost always means it impacts their money, whether that be in the form of taxes or having to buy insurance or being required to offer jobs or services to all people regardless of your personal prejudices. A court ruling doesn’t usually undercut your humanity in order to allow other people to remain comfortable.
Back when I was drinking, this is the kind of stuff I drank at. The feelings I have right now, the very real possibility that I will be deemed not worthy of humanity, knowing that people I love support an administration that sees me as less than. I am literally tearing up in a coffee shop at this very moment because I’m confronting the fact that I have family members who I can’t count on to have my back. That hurts.
The media’s main focus over the past few days, as it relates to the LGBTQ community, has been on Justice Kennedy and marriage equality. I fully appreciate the gravity of a possible reversal of the marriage equality ruling but, that can’t be our only focus. This is about much more than marriage and the supreme court. Legal cases that determine access to healthcare, safe housing, employment, legally recognizing someone’s gender identity and, many other deeply impactful situations are at the mercy of federal judges who have been or will be placed by 45.
It all feels so overwhelming but, I’m not going to drink at this. To do that and numb my feelings, would allow me to just let things happen. It would allow me to not take action. It would allow me to stay comfortable.
That is not an acceptable response to what is happening. The only acceptable response is action.
We all need to take action. That could look like talking about these issues and how they impact us on our social media accounts. It could also look like protesting, donating money or, volunteering your time. But it mostly looks like speaking up when you see/hear someone you know saying or doing something that is harmful to queer/trans/disabled/immigrant/BIPOC people. The more people see how the people they care about are affected by their words and actions, the more likely it is that they’ll take more than their own experience into account when they vote. And it isn’t just on queer/trans/disabled/immigrant/BIPOC to do the speaking.
If you’re cis, speak up.
If you’re hetero, speak up.
If you’re white, speak up.
If you’re able bodied, speak up.
If you’re a man, speak up.
If you’re any combination of the above, speak up.
SPEAK THE FUCK UP.
If you don’t, if you let the comments go and pretend the jokes are funny and say things like “I don’t care who you love” or “I don’t see color”, you are part of the problem. You are against us and our humanity.
Every single person has a choice here, we can be comfortable or we can be humane. We can’t be both. Not now, not in this world.
So, here I am. Scared but not fearful. Angry but not hateful. Nervous but not hiding. I am hopeful. I am willing to fight. I am not going to shut up about this.
All humans deserve empathy and compassion.