As I watched Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris take the stage in Wilmington, Del., I sipped my wine, jumped a little at the fireworks booming outside my surprisingly exuberant suburban neighborhood and glanced at the video monitor, where Jackson thankfully kept on snoozing. It was the end of one of the most politically and socially momentous days in recent history. But in our household — which is largely run by a 2-year-old — it was just another standard Saturday.
Around 11:30 a.m. that day, Jackson, Ashlee and I were on our way home from a local farm, where we took advantage of the post-Halloween sales and lack of crowds to get lost in a corn maze and take pictures with goats. After spending days incessantly watching CNN, we had a feeling the election would finally be called while we weren’t home and, as expected, a friend group texted us with news of Joe Biden’s victory. We both whooped and screamed and cried a little but, unfortunately, Jackson was not impressed and ramped up into a pretty intense, hunger-driven tantrum, not at all satiated by our quick drive-through trip to McDonald’s. The buzzkill continued as we got home and attempted to watch the news unfold, which was punctured by “Jackson, stop hitting the dog. Jackson, eat your fries. Jackson, don’t pour your milk on the couch.”
While we had some moments of celebration throughout the day — like clumsily popping champagne on our deck after Jackson went down for his nap — our celebration of the end of Trump’s reign was certainly muted in comparison to the worldwide festivities we watched on television. Although part of us wanted to call in a babysitter, don our masks and head to Center City to rejoice with so many others, it felt right to mark the moment simply being a family — boring night and all — because that is one of the many things our vote was for.
While some of the right wing bluster about the LGBTQ agenda, ours is pretty simple: We want the freedom to take our son to a farm on a Saturday morning without worries of being turned away; the ability to pick up fast food where our only concern is the caloric intake and not the treatment of our family; and the peace of mind that we can sit back with a glass of wine on a Saturday night and watch our little boy sleep, knowing that our family’s safety and legitimacy are both protected and respected by those in power.
That, among so many other things, is what we’ve all been yearning for since 2016. The morning after Trump was projected the winner of that race, I remember taking the Regional Rail train into the PGN office on that dreary, gloomy day, fending off a hangover and building terror. For nearly 10 years at that point, I had worked as a reporter and later editor at PGN, my tenure tracking with the building progress for LGBTQ individuals: growing efforts to ban discrimination, a jump from marriage equality in one state to all 50 and a burgeoning recognition that inclusion and diversity should be at the heart of our country. In just one night, it seemed that all of that work was placed in peril. I was terrified for what the Trump administration was going to bring to LGBTQ people, immigrants, people of color and so many other communities he sought to marginalize just in his campaign.
Most of us agreed that Trump’s four years would be a disaster, but I think few anticipated just how bad it would get. The fear and anxiety that became the norm in our community and our country, for me, was amplified when Ashlee and I became parents. Trump was halfway through his term in 2018 and had already wreaked havoc on progressive causes, laying waste to decades of environmental, educational and social gains. We were terrified that Jackson was coming into the world as it was, not just with who was in power, but with the fervor Trump inspires in his followers. Homophobia, racism and xenophobia have certainly long plagued our country, but we watched in real time as they edged far out of the shadows with the approval of the administration. We feared for Jackson and for the future he was going to inherit.
And I don’t want to forget that. The further away from the Trump era we get, I fear that the fight for equality and against social injustice could become slightly tempered, with complacency sneaking back into the picture. As much as I would like to put the divisiveness and hostility of the last four years in the rearview mirror, I think it’s important to really recognize, continuously, all of the ugly potential we’ve seen that our country can have. That’s why the day Biden’s victory was announced, I nearly filled up my iPhone storage taking video clips of the news to upload to my YouTube storage. In a year or two, I want to look back on those videos and not just revel in the excitement but also remember all of the pain inflicted in the last four years to keep myself motivated and doing my part to make my corner of the world a little more just.
Center to that world is Jackson, and I also want him to watch these videos one day and understand that, while rights and freedom can be fragile, better times always follow the hard ones. I want him to see the beauty of a country electing the first woman of color as vice president and the president-elect praising the diversity of Americans, including families like his. I want him to see that the values that we’re trying to teach him — generosity, humility, empathy — can take you far; and, conversely, that ego and dishonesty have a shelf life. I want him to understand that this election was about people fighting back against injustice, not just for themselves but for others, and to emulate that in his own life.
On a few of the videos I took, I cut away from recording the TV to capture Jackson on video watching the news with me. Without fail, each time, he either picked his nose, threw his truck against the wall or went running through the house screaming. He, of course, doesn’t care right now about anything happening beyond his living room, but my hope is that, when he does, he’ll be able to see that the good in this world can outweigh the bad, and when it doesn’t, it’s up to each of us to do our part to tip the scales back toward justice and equality.