As someone with generalized anxiety disorder, I’m prone to catastrophizing. It’s easy to imagine worst-case scenarios and fall into a black hole of worry over them, seemingly at random. So on Election Day, my anxiety went into overdrive. Not only did I imagine worst-case scenarios, I watched them play out in real time as Trump took early leads in key swing states.
I’m not alone in this. LGBTQ people are between twice and four times as likely to suffer from mental illness (like anxiety disorders) as straight, cisgender people, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Plus, LGBTQ people — especially Black, Latino, Indigenous and undocumented LGBTQ people — have been consistently disadvantaged by the Trump administration’s policies and court nominations. Waiting for election results to roll in was like sitting shiva for the death of our country. Tony Strat, a transgender, nonbinary activist, called it “anticipatory grief.” We were anticipating a loss that hadn’t yet happened and, I might add, reliving the loss of 2016 that left so many of us reeling.
Strat was one of many LGBTQ Coloradans to attend a virtual summit Nov. 4, the day after the election, hosted by LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado. The summit, moderated by transgender corrections consultant Rachel Esters, focused on resilience and community, and included presentations on managing distress, reporting bias-motivated crimes and figuring out where we go from here as activists — as LGBTQ people just trying to live our lives.
LGBTQ activists and allies from all over the state attended, including from organizations like Out Boulder County, The Center on Colfax, Denver Public Library District and, locally, Inside Out Youth Services and even the Rampart High School GSA.
The summit’s discussions were at times divisive, at times hopeful. But one thing we all shared was fear. Fear that the struggles we’ve faced since the Stonewall Riots of 1969 would become that much harder to fight in the next four years.
Thanks to history-making voter turnout, we can now say what we couldn’t say with any certainty on Nov. 4 — that Joe Biden will be our next president. But as many pointed out during the summit, Biden’s presidency will not wholly ease our worries.
This is where catastrophizing comes in: There could be unrest, an uprising. Trump could refuse to let go of his power by citing nonexistent voter fraud — which he’s already doing — or the white supremacist militias that support him could choose to act out.
But here’s something to worry about based wholly in real, obvious fact: Almost half our country supports the values that Donald Trump stands for, and change will not come easy, even under a Democratic president.
There’s no easy fix for this. I don’t have any answers. No one attending the summit did, either. We live in a country built on white supremacy, misogyny and destructive nationalism, and too many of us don’t see an issue with that. There is a lot of work to do.
But for now, we have to keep ourselves alive and moving and doing the work, and that means we need to take care of ourselves. Below, you’ll find a list of resources for the LGBTQ community and beyond, all suggested by attendees of the summit — your neighbors and friends. If you’re in crisis, if you’re scared or need someone to talk to, start here.
Esters, in closing the summit, imparted some wisdom she learned from her father that seems like a helpful reminder as we plan our country’s future. “Rather than curse the darkness, light a candle.”
We have to keep our candles lit.