I’m a senior at Penn, and I’m gay, I’m black, I’m Latino, and I call Orlando, Florida home. I woke up this morning (after very little sleep) hoping this would all be a dream. Wishing that love trumped hate, that hope beat fear, that we would be congratulating the first woman as the President-Elect of the United States. However this was not the reality. It was particularly hard to see Florida turn red last night, especially after a summer where I saw my community come together after such tragedy and loss and choose love over hate. However, this sadly did not extend to the rest of the state last night. I couldn’t help but think back to all the instances of discrimination and hate I’ve experienced in my life, because of my identity, and one particular instance stood out. I went to high school in a pretty conservative part of Tennessee. I was closeted in high school, and had to deal with many conservative, homophobic, bigoted individuals. At the end of my senior year, I planned to ask a girl I knew to prom. She was really into me, but I later realized it was probably because she was fetishizing my body, which has unfortunately happened many times since. That is not the worst of the story though. Before I even had the chance to ask her to prom, she told me her parents wouldn’t allow me to go to prom with her, because of the color of my skin, because I was black. Her mom said, “You cannot go to prom with a black boy ever.” This was four years ago. I was crushed, hurt, and in disbelief. How could this happen to me in 2013? I couldn’t believe that someone who worked at the school, as a secretary, someone that I had to see multiple times a week, was racist. I did not stand up, I did not fight back, I put my head down and graduated. Today I saw this same woman spouting hate and praising the President Elect and his running mate on social media.
What got me through though this time and other tough times were my friends and allies that surrounded and supported me then and still to this day. Today this support is important, now more than ever. We must surround ourselves with allies and friends, we must challenge those in power, those who discriminate us, those who want to take away our rights, those who want bully and dehumanize us. We must not allow this xenophobic, racist, homophobic, sexist, and misogynistic rhetoric become commonplace. I learned from that experience that I must never be complacent with injustice. I must stand up and fight for what I believe is right. The next four years may be rough, but we must come together, we must not be complacent, and we must never allow hate to trump love!