By Tallon Kennedy
Wisconsin turns red. Wisconsin wasn’t even supposed to be in play tonight. Wisconsin was supposed to be a given for Hillary. Just drink more wine. Pennsylvania turns red, and stays red. Apocalypse. Disaster. Call my parents. Call my friends, all of them, old and new, dearest and estranged. “What is happening!? Do you see this?”
“The country just elected a reality TV star con-man, with no governing experience, who started his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists, who did everything wrong, who broke all of the rules, who called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, who lost all three debates, and who was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault, as the new President of America,” my friend on the other line bluntly says.
“F*ck Donald Trump! F*ck Donald Trump!” Loud chants are heard outside my apartment. I grab my jacket, leave the apartment, run down the fire escape, and follow the sounds of fear and pain and heartbreak.
“I hope I die tonight” I tell my friend on the phone before hanging up. It may seem melodramatic, but as a queer person who grew up in a homophobic culture and who has constantly been made fun of and threatened for being effeminate, it seemed like the country just told me that my life and the lives of marginalized people like me, do not matter. As a person who has struggled with depression for years, and more recently, a growing societal nihilism, it felt like the last straw. Tonight, for the first time, I didn’t care what happened to my body and my safety.
“No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!” I find the angry crowd. They gather outside of the Cathedral of Learning. Police cars. Red and blue lights flashing. The crowd as a whole is inconsolable, and disorganized. Some try to keep the peace, others are too emotionally distraught and angry to care about peacefulness. Some are screaming. Some are silent bystanders, intrigued by the outburst of emotion as if it were a spectacle.
“Go to the Hillman library!” The crowd follows. We march up the library stairs, only to be met by officers in full riot gear blocking the library’s entrance. I am surprised by how fearless I am. Any other night, I instinctively would have felt an eminent threat to my life and safety. But tonight, my body isn’t just a body— it is a queer body. A queer body that rejects displays of masculinity and prefers to present more feminine. A queer body that loves other queer bodies. A queer body whose safety and life doesn’t matter anymore.
We stage a sit-in on the patio of the library, in front of the police guarding the entrance. I take the closest spot possible to the police. The group encourages people to stand up and say what they want to say. People of color, queer people, and survivors of sexual assault stand up, speaking out on their fears and the pain of living in a society that rejects your personhood. A white guy stands up and tries to preach about tolerance and free speech, the crowd rightfully shuts him down— it’s not the right time, nor the right place, for that type of conversation, when so many people are experiencing emotional trauma.
Someone stands up and tries to rally the crowd against the police. He succeeds, momentarily. The crowd turns to the police and yells expletives at them. Police stiffen up. Some in the crowd start to worry. Someone successfully calms down the crowd. This cycle repeats two or three times.
“People of color only, follow me, let’s form a healing circle!” one woman yells. All of the people of color separate from the crowd, and join hands in a circle. Debate breaks out in the remaining white group about whether this is segregation and exclusive or not. Those who believe the act to be exclusionary and divisive are criticized. A debate about free speech ensues. This cycle repeats as well. Not the right place. Not the right time.
“LGBTQ! LGBTQ may join!” the same woman yells. LGBTQ people, including myself, join the healing circle as well. We stand hand in hand. A small group of about five Trump supporters decide to occupy the middle of the circle as a counter-protest. None of us have the emotional energy to deal with that. The future is bleak for us. People like those in the middle are the cause of it. A few angry individuals yell back and forth with the Trump supporters. Even in a healing circle for people of color and queer people, the oppressors found a way to make themselves the center of attention.
Some time passes, the circle breaks down. Everyone is exhausted. A journalist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asks me some questions, “it’s almost 3AM, why were you all out here so late?”
I answer half-consciously, “Because there was no other choice.”
People disperse. The cops smile and laugh as they leave. I lay down on the ledge of a library window. Let my queer body fall asleep on the cold stone.
Tallon Kennedy is an intern journalist at The NewPeople Newspaper. He is a poet and an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh studying writing, literature, and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies.