Even before yesterday, Charlottesville and for that matter vast parts of Virginia would not be places my husband, daughter, and I would travel together. We have strong connections to West Virginia, but we won’t be walking down streets in that state holding hands together anytime soon either.
Since Donald Trump moved into the White House or has visited upon occasion when he isn’t staying at his resorts at taxpayers’ expense, much of the United States no longer feels safe to me. On my own, I might “pass” for straight (although even many of my friends may dispute that!), but I sure would be giving my real identity away were I with my husband and our daughter who was born with an extra chromosome.
Mark Twain, who hailed from America’s heartland, once wrote of Hawaii, “It is the only supremely delightful place on earth.”
No place is perfect, and as a guy of northern European heritage who can’t speak Hawaiian pidgin, I am reminded at least twice a week by well-meaning and sometimes not so well-meaning people that I did not grow up here. But all in all, in the part of the state we live, my family has been warmly embraced by the communities where we work, live, learn and play. We’re even featured by one of those communities in a national diversity effort.
It does take effort, and in many cases years, to open minds and hearts. A decade passed after I came out of the closet before some of my immediate family could acknowledge publicly, without embarrassment, that I am gay. After I brought my husband to a family reunion as my husband, the first time a same-sex couple in my vast family had done so, I was chastised for being a little too open about the nature of our relationship. Now, fortunately, I have several gay cousins, many of whom are also raising children, who no longer have to pretend or be subtle and taciturn in ways no one has ever expected from a straight member of my extended family.
My husband and I are very grateful for ending up in a part of the United States where we can be proud of who we are and raise our daughter to be proud of who she is — and appreciated.
Donald, do your part so that all families can feel this way in the other 49 states you are president of. By condemning yesterday as an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” rather than calling it by its name, white supremacy, you’re making the Land of Opportunity a No Man’s Land.