This is My Identity

By David Guirgis (Northwestern University Undergraduate)

I am a gay man, a first-generation low-income college student, a person of color born into eighteen years of poverty.

I have experienced sexual harassment and am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I’ve experienced sexual assault, too. 

I carry Middle-Eastern blood.

I am an aspiring journalist.

This is my identity. This is who I’ve become, this is who I am, and for many of us on campus and in the wreckage we now call America, this is who we all are; we share many of these identities. And this is why we’re all so afraid. The next resident of the White House claimed his space by violating these identities and many others, by violating people and cultures and bringing to the boil a resentment of diversity long-brewing in a certain demographic who now has a voice. 

In January, a man will take office who has fed off of this division and flourished, whose campaign was fueled by hatred and degradation. We have set into motion the endorsement of militant nationalism, of a police state, of the idea that black lives and any lives that aren’t white, straight, Christian and middle class don’t matter. We have regressed as a nation, and our work as the architects of a stronger tomorrow, a place of safety and solidarity and acceptance, will be that much harder.

I can’t imagine what everyone else is feeling, and yet I can; the underlying thread of our reactions is fear. After all, I will be spending my college years in an administration that supports gay conversion therapy, that supports taking away a woman’s right to choose, that believes that black lives don’t matter and women are objects. I will be studying journalism during the tenure of a presidential administration that thrived on bad press and turned on the industry that created him, thus creating a space where people can wear shirts at rallies advocating for our deaths by hanging. I will be fighting misogyny and sexual assault under a man who endorses both.

To be frank, it all seems hopeless. I spent much of Wednesday alternating between crying and silence; I cried for myself as a gay man, for my fellow friends of color, for non-Christians and minority identities victimized by the man who is now supposed to represent us. I cried for the eight trans youth who committed suicide in the hours after the election was called. I cried for my mother, who will see her family’s health insurance disappear, and for my sister, who will be coming of age in a world vastly different from the one I became an adult in.

But hopelessness aside, It’s so much more important now to fight. I am tired, exhausted, emotionally and physically spent from the last 24 hours and from the 17 years I’ve spent slowly coming to terms with myself and the systems of this country. We are all tired—but we can’t stop now. More than ever, we need to fight for the rights we deserve and the life we were promised upon being citizens in America: a place to call home, where people of all colors and creeds can live their lives and figure it out together, whatever “it” may be. We have inherited one of the greatest challenges our country has ever faced; we are charged with healing the divide our country currently faces, and making sure that the world is better off—safer off—for our children by the time we inevitably leave it.

We may not get to see our work come to fruition.

But at least we’ll have died trying.