My Family Couldn’t Help Me Process the Election—But My Fandom Did
The night of November 9th, my younger brother and I were both unable to fall asleep, both haunted by the same thing: the spectre of a Trump presidency.
“So… Donald Trump is gonna be president?” he asked.
“But he’s so… mean. He hates everybody who’s different from him. Does that mean he hates us too, ’cause we’re autistic?”
I couldn’t find a good way to respond. How do you even answer that? But I couldn’t lie to him. “Trump’s said some awful things about autistic people before. But he’s wrong about all of it—we’re every bit as smart and brave and important as other people. You know that, right?”
“I know. You tell me all the time.”
I do tell him that a lot—almost the exact same wording, every time—but I’m the only other autistic person in our family, and that means I’m the only one I trust to really level with him about it. I worry about the fact that the world largely looks down on neurodivergence; I don’t want my brother to ever think that he’s “less than” or broken. I know that feeling all too well. A lot of the same stigma that accompanies neurodivergence comes with being nonbinary, too—and after the election, I felt it all in its full effect, along with a lot of fear and a feeling of isolation.
It’s not something I expect my family to understand. They’re all cisgender and neurotypical (with the exception of my brother, of course). My parents aren’t really going to be affected by the Trump administration, or at least not as much as some other people. But this meant that I didn’t really have anyone to help me process my emotions during that first week, which I desperately needed. I turned to my fandoms, but found largely-dystopian science fiction to be unapproachable in my current state.
That left a rather unlikely candidate: Hamilton: An American Musical.
Hamilton was something I fell in love with on sight. Upon hearing the song “My Shot” for the first time, something clicked; this obnoxious, loud-mouthed, impulsive dude with sky-high ambitions sounded an awful lot like a certain nonbinary person I know. I’ve listened to it all the way through more times than I can count (although “Guns and Ships” is far past my reach; I struggle with words, even before I put on a French accent and try to rap at twice my normal speaking rate). So when I needed something to help me process my fear and apprehension about the future, it was a natural starting place.
I must have listened to “The Story of Tonight” fifty times that first day, letting it run on repeat while I tried to at least wrap my brain around this strange new timeline that I hadn’t planned on, the one I had desperately hoped wouldn’t happen. And while it played, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation were pledging to fight any attempts to infringe on the rights of Americans by this new administration. It gave me hope to hear “we’re not giving up, even if it’s going to be an uphill battle”.
Slowly, I stopped feeling quite as directionless.
“Raise a glass to freedom, something they can never take away—no matter what they tell you…”
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn’t alone in this—quite a few of my friends and people I follow on Twitter are in the fandom. Every few tweets, between messages of “I don’t know whether we’re going to be okay, but I’ll be right beside you” and “my DMs are open if anyone needs to talk”, I’d see “#RiseUp”, and every time I did, I smiled. I wasn’t sure what we were rising up against, exactly. I could vaguely characterize it as rising up to counter hate, but how was that going to work, in practice? I wanted to do something, anything, but even donating money to organizations like Planned Parenthood or the ACLU was out of my reach.
Meanwhile, a friend added me to a Hamilton Facebook group, and there were so many posts just expressing love and support for the people who needed it—they haven’t really stopped since the election. I’d never seen a fandom so united in a common goal. We don’t really know each other; the only thing we have in common is this musical. The amount of love, grief and rage coming from the fandom all at once was a little overwhelming. At the same time, however, it validated the reason I fell in love with this weird musical about the Founding Fathers in the first place—there’s something about Hamilton that brings people together and reminds us that there’s a place in the narrative for everyone.
It all kind of came together for me then. We counter hate with love, from the ground up. It starts with the small things—reaching out to a single person or a small group and saying “I’m here if you need to talk” or “here’s the number for Trans Lifeline, pass it on,” or even just “you are smart, brave and important, and you’re going to get through this.” We donate time and money if and when we can. We write, we sing, we tell our stories.
Most importantly, we love each other, even if we don’t know each other—especially if we don’t know each other—because love is the only thing that can get us through these next four years. Love, as Lin-Manuel Miranda has said, cannot be killed or swept aside.
So you, reading this? I love you. Whatever Donald Trump has said about you, he’s wrong. We’ll get through this.
We have a lot of work to do.
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