A year ago tonight I made my kid go to bed, election returns only beginning to come in, because we live on the west coast and small humans cannot stay up until the end when there is school in the morning. "Wake me when Hillary wins," she said, and I promised to do so, so when I came in the next morning, she was pissed. And when I told her why, pissed wasn't the half of it. Like so, so many of us, she was appalled, afraid, angry, and at a total loss. She goes to an elementary school whose motto is "kind, safe, and fair," so she was in no way prepared for the outcome of that election.
This morning I woke her up with this picture of Danica Roem, newly elected Virginia state legislator and transwoman. Also the news that a gay woman had been elected to be her city's mayor. Also the news that Democrats of color, like her, had been voted into office all over the country. She was thrilled. She also wondered whether Danica Roem's mother was more gentle than hers with her long hair, tangles being a political scourge this country has yet to come to terms with. (This is why nine-year-olds can't vote.)
I was able to implicitly and effortlessly and crystal-clearly make two points to my daughter this morning. One, for the first time in a year, was this: the world may not yet be ending; people may yet be loving and smart and broadminded and fair; all is not lost; good is still coming. And two: transgender people can be anything; transwomen can win; you too can and will and must go forth and make the world a better place.
A lot of people on our side have been bemoaning this year what's loosely termed identity politics. A lot have said it's distracting or it's not time or it's divisive. And that's bullshit. Identity politics is politics. (Like the personal is political. Remember when that one was revelatory?) When one's identity is politicized, that identity becomes political. And when one's identity is politicized, representing in all arenas, including politics, could not be more important. Danica Roem stood up for diversity and inclusion and celebrated differences and level playing fields and, yes, transgender people in the face of an incumbent who was literally running on the identity of being a homophobe (his word). And she won. And so did my daughter. And so did I. And so did all of us. All of you. Everyone in the world. (Even the homophobes.)
There's no point in winning if we're not doing identity politics. And maybe not every time, but eventually, diverse, inclusive, celebratory identity politics won't just be the path of righteousness, it will also be the path to victory.
11/8/2017 01:11:58 pm
Laurie, I appreciate this article, and I was on board with you until this one sentence near the end. "There's no point in winning if we're not doing identity politics." If I understand what you meant, I don't agree. Would you be willing to share more about what you do mean by that statement?
11/8/2017 03:33:16 pm
I have written to you to say that your writing changed my life. Now I’m just writing to say thank you for being wonderful. Thank you for all the little girls and boys, and for all the big girls and boys, who hear that they are valued and important. A year ago today my heart broke. Through my own actions and those of other “kind, safe, and fair” people, it’s mending. It still has a long way to go, but words like yours speed up the healing. Thanks for adding to my hope.
11/8/2017 08:07:35 pm
Beautifully explained to a child so in the know and so aware of the world around her. Kudos to her parents. Thanks for sharing your family with us. Thanks for all the wonderful and poignant things you convey in your writings.
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About The Author
Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words. She's originally from Maryland and makes good soup.