What it’s like to be a Hispanic, gay teacher in the aftermath of the election
Driving to work the day after the election, I thought about my students — my Hispanic students whose families are comprised of immigrants. My heart ached. I cried on my way to work that morning because I knew that day was going to be a difficult day. My students' conversations were that of fear and worry. I wasn't sure how to approach this entire situation since I was grieving myself for an America that would accept the gay and Hispanic me.
I stood in front of my junior high students and was unable to voice what I felt. Mainly because I still am not out to my students out of fear their parents may not understand that my sexuality does not affect what kind of an educator I am.
So I decided what my next step would be.
Immediately, I asked how many of them were 14 years old. I told them I needed their help. That I firmly believed every single one of them could make a difference. That in four years when the next election happens, I needed them beside me, fighting the good fight. That they should spend the next four years developing their minds, politically, so that when it came time to vote, they could vote for someone who stood for what's right, who had morals and a belief system that would be accepting of all — who would not rip apart families and discriminate love.
I heard their confusion and pain. They couldn't understand, being so young, how someone so full of hate could be called our leader. They couldn't understand how people could vote for someone like him.
As a gay woman, I already have very present fears about hate crimes against my LGBT community. With tragedies like Orlando, my heart is heavy with the deaths of my brothers and sisters who only sought love and acceptance. I firmly believe the most difficult part of this election result is feeling as though the majority is OK with hate and intolerance. Although you may not feel that you chose hate and intolerance, by allowing yourself to see past it, you have turned your back on your neighbors who only seek love and immigrants who only seek safety and a better future for their children.
It's painful to know that in my own city, there are people who hate me. Without knowing me, without knowing how much I love being an educator, how much love I have for my students, how much love and respect I show my friends, they hate me and are willing to support someone who will do what it takes to eliminate me from this country. Believe me when I say that every single one of us has this permanent fear inside our mind 24 hours a day. However, with the result of this election, it now became a fear that was magnified across the entire nation. We are not safe.
When I was young, I never imagined living in a country where my being of Mexican heritage would make a difference in what opportunities I was given. I believed it when my teachers told me I could do anything I wanted to. I believed them when they said I was smart. The part I missed was that although I was smart, I was going to have to fight to succeed. That even as a successful adult, I would have to fight to have my voice heard. That when I discovered I was gay, I would have to fight harder than ever, against my own family's beliefs, against a society that believes it is disgusting and unnatural. On Election Day, it was clear: We were in for the fight of our lives.
So what I need is for the people who believe in my right to love to stand beside me. I need the ones who believe my students should remain with their families to stand beside them. I need the hate I see across our country to stop and instead help us understand, we are safe, we are loved and most of all, that you believe in all of my basic human rights.