You can curate your Facebook feed, unfollow your “friends,” and decline a happy hour invite with a coworker who once said that thing about another coworker you’ve never been able to forget. But family? You stick with them through disagreements and tough times, and especially in times when your individual political outlooks don’t align.
We’ve both been lucky to have grown up with dads who’ve always had our best interests at heart. And on Tuesday evening, when we both felt like the already marginalized communities we are part of — Connie as a woman of color; Landon as a gay man — might be even more in danger under a new establishment, we both texted our dads: “I’m scared.”
Landon's father, a lifelong Republican, has always been supportive of his sexuality. Connie's father is a lifelong fiscal Democrat, and has recently evolved to become socially liberal, as well. The hard conversations we have both had with our fathers have brought them to where they are now, politically, and when we reached out for a little comfort, we were both surprised to see that the kind of love we’ve exposed them to was returned back in spades.
Below, we share how our fathers helped us process the loss we felt, and the next steps we were encouraged to take with people from the other side.
Landon Peoples: "Totally. I was shocked when he first told me he was voting for Trump. I didn’t really know what to make of it. I wasn’t sure if it was a monkey-see, monkey-do thing (he lives in a conservative area in Texas), or he really believed in the kinds of things that Trump does. Which is, to be frank, not me — or at least anything I can remember him ever teaching me as a child.
"But the day he told me he was voting for Trump, I couldn’t be silenced. I sent him a flurry of articles that detailed Trump and Pence’s plan to forget about me, his very, very gay son. To which he replied: 'I didn’t know that.' I knew he didn’t know that, much like a lot of Trump’s supporters — and perhaps Trump himself because they have never known what it’s like to struggle against the kind of laws the government is trying to establish."
The day he told me he was voting for Trump, I couldn’t be silenced. I sent him a flurry of articles that detailed Trump and Pence’s plan to forget about me, his very, very gay son.
"That type of vote didn’t just mean a vote was taken away from Trump. But it was a vote for me. It was my dad, yet again, protecting me from the evil of this world. It was a vote for unity, that even still, despite the language and attacks that would otherwise seemingly divide us, he still believed if I had a place in this country, then everyone else did, too."
LP: "I totally empathize with you on that. It seems [our parents are] the ones who need the protection nowadays, but I’m too far to keep them 'woke,' in a sense. But for me, I still get frustrated that I have to relate these types of issues to me, especially because not all of these issues that we hold so dear apply to us. Or at least in any real way beyond the surface. I care just as much about trans rights as I do my own rights because, you know, those are my people. But to try and explain that to my parents — the idea that caring about people other than themselves is a moral obligation — always results in a headache. But I know the potential is there. I just don’t know how to break that barrier, or tap into that kindness, so to speak."
I talk about politics with my friends way more than my parents, but the first people I wanted to text after I voted were my parents.
LP: "He was kind, yes. I’d texted him last night that I was scared. He called me when I woke up, and the first thing he said was, 'It’s gonna be okay.' And for maybe the first time, ever, I didn’t really believe him. He might think that Trump and Pence couldn’t possibly take my rights as a gay man away from me. But I feel a palpable danger with a Trump government. He has to learn these things for himself, but a part of me feels like I’ve failed him."
CW: "It’s a process. By the time you get to an age where you can talk with your parents at their level, a lot of their prejudices and opinions are already set. But, you convinced your dad to vote for someone he would have never voted for, by appealing to his compassion, and that’s a huge, huge deal, and something that makes me think that a lot more changes could be enacted in this country, if we spent as much time establishing empathic relationships with people who don’t agree with us rather than muting them or unfollowing them. We could get somewhere."
He might think that Trump and Pence couldn’t possibly take my rights as a gay man away from me. But I feel a palpable danger with a Trump government.
"He told us that this election meant there was a big group of Americans who have felt their lives degrading, and we were lucky to see our lives improving, and that politicians work to protect the weak. And that the strong ones — us — needed to get to work. Honestly, he has a lot to be scared of — his business [an after school tutoring center] revolves around immigrant children, and that’s not only his passion, but his livelihood, too. But seeing him so clearheaded and optimistic helped me process my own thoughts. Here’s an immigrant, who the new establishment considers as part of a group of people antithetical to the tenets of what being American is, with so much faith in America. It was awesome."
CW: "The funny thing about dads is that they always seem to want the best for us and our families, but those views are sometimes contradictory with their beliefs about people like you. For instance, my whole family immigrated here in the ‘80s, we were one of the few Asian families in our communities, and we faced quite a bit of discrimination. But, my dad — up until recently — had a pretty ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mentality that seemed to contradict all the assistance, help, and compassion we received. Has your father always been empathetic with you?"
LP: "Yes and no. To this day, that story still doesn’t make much sense to me, because he was supportive when I initially came out. I’d cried in his arms after my first boyfriend broke up with me. He comforted me in a way that wasn’t cajoling [how] I imagine a parent with a closed mind would — you know, to convince me that heartbreak was a heterosexual emotion, and that gay relationships should somehow hurt less because they’re less real."
Last night, both my sister and I texted my dad that we were scared. And he stepped right up into Dad mode and reminded us that the exact reason that we were raised in the United States is the exact reason we shouldn’t be scared.
CW: "That’s horrible."
LP: "It was. I was so confused because this was a man I didn’t know. But since then, he's done a 180. We've never had an exchange like that ever again. He couldn't be more supportive of his gay son, which I take not only as a blessing, but a privilege that I know other gay men like me don't have."
CW: "What’s interesting is that the way your father behaved in that moment toward you is probably how those who don’t have close family or friends who are gay think about the gay community. In that moment, you weren’t family, or he didn’t want to treat you like family, and that’s probably what hurts so bad. My dad, too, has had moments in the past where he’s treated my LGBTQ friends or non-white or Asian friends with distance, but he did a complete 180 this year. It had a lot to do with the conversations my family had with him, the fact that he works with a much more diverse group of people these days in his new career as an educator."
It’s my hope that while we’re chatting over green bean casserole and cornbread stuffing that we can find common ground. I’m tired of agreeing to disagree.
CW: "Do you think Thanksgiving will be awkward?"
LP: "Well, while I don’t expect dishes to be thrown (at least not from me), I’m going to spend the next few weeks trying to figure out the best approach. You can’t mince words in [light of] this election, and if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we’re a country divided. Especially when it comes to my family, I will have to craft a way to build bridges, to borrow a phrase from the campaign. It’s my hope that while we’re chatting over green bean casserole and cornbread stuffing that we can find common ground. I’m tired of agreeing to disagree. That is how we got here in the first place."