Fighting to Survive

By Jake Bjork (Undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis)

Until Election Day, I was naive enough to believe that I would never be scared as a white male American. Growing up, I genuinely believed that the United States of America—the land of the free, the home of the brave— was untouchable. Because how could “The Mixing Pot of the World” ever be place that was not safe for a person like you and me to live in?

We all have the freedom to practice our preferred faith. We all have the ability to marry whom we wish to marry. We all have the opportunity to work hard to obtain our dreams jobs...and get equal pay. We all have the right to not be discriminated against based off of innate characteristics such as race, gender, and many others. 

Or at least that’s what I believed before Election Day. 

The week before my first day as a college student, I found the confidence within myself to finally let the world know, after 18 long years of hiding it, that I was gay. For 18 years, I felt as if I was living my life as one, big straight lie. Was I scared of who I was? No. Was I uncomfortable with who I was? Yes, and I’m sure many people within the LGBTQ+ community have felt feelings similar to the ones that I have. 

But last Tuesday night, when I saw Trump’s red voting count inch higher and higher on the TV screen in front of me, my chest became tighter and tighter as each vote seemed to take away a little more life out of my gay body. I tried listening to the MSNBC reporters just a mere 10 feet in front of me, but they were muted by a never-ending playlist of my own thoughts: he’s allowing conversion camps to be funded using HIV research money. He said he’ll work to pass The First Amendment Defense Act. He’s already indirectly commenced hate crimes and discrimination against people of the LGBTQ+ community nation-wide. 

It took me 18 years to become comfortable with being who I am today. And now, I’m not only back to being uncomfortable with my sexuality— I’m scared. I want to focus on studying for my first college finals. I want to focus on becoming more involved in my new university. I want to focus on embracing my outed sexuality. But with Trump and Pence standing side-by-side as the country’s most powerful individuals, I can’t.

I constantly worry about the future. I constantly worry about the present. I constantly worry about my LGBTQ+ friends, not to mention that one has been receiving anonymous mail saying “back to hell faggot bitch #trump”. I constantly worry about all of my friends who are a minority. And I constantly worry about everyone in the country, because I truly believe that none of us are safe now. 

Last week, I was a happy, naive teenager who felt invincible against any obstacle that life may have to throw at me. Today, I feel like I’m just fighting to survive.