Since I began injecting testosterone six years ago, I have believed in America. I have believed in the mothers who commiserated with me about hormones, and the ways their pregnant bodies echoed my shifting, transgender one.
I have believed in family friends, men who knew my mom and honored her when she died. Men in rural Pennsylvania and West Virginia, white men who did not blink when she told them that I was a man, just like them. “That makes sense,” they said. “Thomas,” they called me, so easy.
I even believed in the Trump supporter I wrote a long letter to last month, a woman who I knew to be kind and good-hearted, living in a ravaged part of Ohio. We barely knew each other, but I believed. I wrote, in part:
I am asking you, as a person I know to be full of love, if you might consider the hatefulness Donald Trump so casually references, which has a very real impact on so many of us who are already in danger of not being loved by our families, who have to rely on our government to allow us to use the bathroom or get married or adopt children or not be separated from our families by deportation. I just hoped you might meditate, or talk to God, or search your heart about this issue when you consider your support of this man who scares so many of us. I have found you to be a decent and smart and loving person. I am sure I am just a small blip on your life’s radar, but I am grateful for the gift your presence has been to me, and I send love to you and your family.
I believed in my mom, who canvassed for Hillary Clinton, and then Barack Obama. She was a physicist, and at one point an advisor to Ted Kennedy. She taught me that women could be anything, and that our bodies are vessels for our dreams, not our destinies. She taught me that politics is a civic duty. She voted mostly Democratic but she was an independent, just like me. She believed in having an open mind and an open heart. She would have loved Clinton’s campaign slogan. My entire life has been a story about love trumping hate.
Donald J. Trump, my new president, doesn’t care about my body, or most of my friends’ bodies. Beyond his vague transgender policy (he supports state’s rights to decide which bathrooms transgender people can and can’t use) and Mike Pence’s horrifying track record on LGBT issues; beyond the immediate danger he poses as a man who has admitted on tape to sexual assault, who speaks of women in terms that my mom told me she faced as the only woman on the job in the 1960s and 1970s; who thinks black Americans live in “hell” and that we should build a wall to keep out Mexican “rapists”; beyond and beyond and beyond all that: This is the president my nephew, Ronin, who turns one tomorrow, will know as his president. This is the role model my fellow Americans have elected for our children.
Since I transitioned, I have tried to be the man I wanted to see in the world. I have struggled with expectations of what a man is supposed to be, like all good men do. It is hard to disregard a culture that expects mistreatment of women. It is hard to both be in this body and to refuse to uphold the history of what a man’s body can mean. But I believed that I wasn’t the only man ready to change that expectation. I believed that men, and women, wanted a woman president, a president that cared about my body, and the bodies of my friends. I believed in Americans’ hearts.
I am in London now, and will return home to a country that elected a walking symbol of the most noxious masculinity there is to lead us for the next four years. When America voted for Donald Trump, it voted for the kind of man I have tried, every day, to not be. I don’t know what will happen to my body, or to the black bodies and brown bodies and female bodies, that face dire consequences because of this choice. I have always believed in you, America. I wish you’d believed, just as hard, in me.