While we all now quietly assemble and do that thing we do when Hillary Clinton isn’t running for office, where we praise her work, her tenacity, her leadership, and the trails she’s blazed for so many, we are also left picking up the pieces of a dream shattered by the voices of an insurrectionist right. How do we move on or up, in a room that now feels like it’s got higher walls and a lower ceiling?
My husband and I have enjoyed the benefits of our tax-paying citizenship by entering the constitutionally enshrined bonds of marriage. The Obergefell decision ensured that our marriage was afforded the same protections as anyone else’s. Not more benefits, but the same. Not greater protections, but equal. That we could make medical decisions for each other in the event of a grave accident, that we could cover one another on an insurance policy, these are the rights conferred through marriage. Marriage legitimized our union.
We started our family through adoption, because we are meant to be parents, and we have known this for a long, long time. I was in the delivery room when my son Gabriel was born, kissing his birth mother on the forehead as she encouraged me to go meet our son, to be the first face his tiny eyes would see when they opened. She trusted us, made the most loving choice she could make for him.
Every month, we sit Gabe in the same rocking chair that my husband was rocked in as a baby, and we take a picture of him. We remember the days that have come before; we celebrate another month, another day, another minute as a family.
We finalized our adoption on August 4, surrounded by friends and family, setting a court record for the number of guests present for a finalization hearing. At our celebration party afterwards, my husband and I had hand-sewn little 12-inch felt monsters, so that each guest could enjoy their own little adoption, complete with monster birth certificates and the like.
Under the Obama administration, our family has become not just a possibility, but a reality. A sitting president, for the very first time, was supporting our marriage, our family, our love. The world was not changing, it had changed, and from the mouth of our nation’s first African-American president flowed words that spoke to people who had, for too long, felt marginalized and cast aside. We were no longer on the fringe. We were part of that greater idea of Us that has truly made America great.
And because of Barack? Gabe.
The day before our son’s 1st birthday, our family loaded into the Subaru and headed to our voting place. I held my son in my arms, and I voted for Hillary Clinton, the woman who had articulated clear and unwavering support for our family. I voted for her. And, secondarily, I voted against Donald Trump.
I voted for her because I believe in progress, because I believe that the examples of hard work and determination that were tantamount to her campaign served to inspire children to care about those around them, and because my family is the living embodiment of her campaign slogan, that we are stronger together.
But the dreams we hold dearest also carry with them the possibility of hurting us most deeply, and in this case, the woman who carried with her the dreams of the Other, did not win. I have always believed that facts empirically weigh more than opinions; in that vein, I do not need to take my time or yours to string together a litany of all the ways that Donald Trump’s campaign spit in the faces of the Other. The facts on this will outweigh anyone’s opinions, the proof is directly attributable to the man himself.
On election night, I went to bed around 3 a.m., Trump crossing the threshold on the same day my son celebrated his 1st birthday. I’m working to process the grief that Hillary will not be president, and that will take time. But as Hillary said, her campaign was never about one person. I knew what had been lost, beyond a campaign. We have people in our lives who claimed to be champions for our family, who then voted for Donald Trump. That is incompatible, friends. When given the power to protect our family, you either did, or you did not. There is no gray. And there is no going back from that.
Gabe celebrated his 1st birthday with dads who worked hard to be as happy and enthusiastic as possible. Hillary’s example of service, that we ought to work as hard as we can, for as long as we can, was the one to which I adhered, even in smaller ways. My son did not see me cry on his birthday. My responsibility as a father is to put all of myself aside and focus only on what Gabe needs. I have no problem letting my son see me cry on any other day, because emotions are normal, and they define us. But on his birthday, there were cupcakes and not tears. There were presents, not pain. There was Us.
I walked to work the next morning through the streets of New York, and my path took me past an elementary school. I saw little brown girls holding the hands of their moms, and little black boys with their dads. And my eyes flooded at what people who look like me have done to people who look like them. That the Us and Them we have cultivated has the propensity to only become more inflamed and more visible over the course of the next four years. My heart breaks for what could have been, had we not relented to the distraction of e-mail servers, had we rebuffed the notion of these two candidates as equals.
How, then, can things get better? What have I told myself, to get through nights when I am sobbing in bed, being held by my husband, working to lower my volume so our son doesn’t wake up? How do we clear the bleary-eyes that well up at the sight of backpacked children walking to school? From where does the next day find its feet, its voice, its heart?
I remind myself that it is already here. We are not on the cusp of greatness, we are not seeking a return to greatness. It is here, now. I have a husband, and a son. And I worked damned hard to get them both. I have black friends, brown friends, lady friends. They have worked hard to be heard, and because I am a white man, I must hear them. I will do everything I can for them, because I am them. I am the black and the brown and the lady and the child, and my voice is only made stronger because of and by theirs. I am Us, I am the Us who won the popular vote, I am the Us who declared in one voice that bigotry and hatred will not become the rule of law, and I am the Us who must continue to fight for the beliefs of heroes and allies like Bernie Sanders, like Hillary Clinton.
Because yes, the arc of history bends toward justice, but it also bends toward righteousness, equality, love, freedom for all, toward families. Toward Gabe and his dads.
It should be clear that the majority of America is going to do everything it can to insulate children like Gabe from racism, sexism, divisiveness, bigotry, and hate. Families fight for each other, and to everyone who used their vote to protect us, we will never forget it. We love you, all the way. The Us we have built is big, so when we find each other, man and woman, black, brown, and white, we have to stick together.
So here’s to being glue, not rubber. Here’s to the Us we must continue to be, when the days are long, when the nights are dark, when the winters are cold. We have to hold doors for each other, say please and thank you, and we have to mean it. We have to take time to learn each other’s names, and actually wait for a response when we say, “How are you?”
We are a family, more so now than before the election. And we have to use this chapter in our family’s story to help those who need it most, against whatever obstacle comes next.
Hillary fought for it. Gabe demands it. Let us make it so.