By David T. Valentin
Image from @anthonybryanc on Twitter
On November 7th, after a grueling weeklong Election Day, Joe Biden was announced as the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris, the first ever woman of color, as Biden’s Vice President. The news officially came to me at 11:30 a.m. that day, even though it had come earlier at 10:30 in the form of a tweet. Though, I guess in a way, I didn’t want to believe it at first as if something, somehow, would happen to not make it true. But it was true, and very real.
“HE WOOOON,” was the text that my sister sent in our group chat with my brother and his girlfriend. Celebratory gifs were sent, and, I admit, one or two jokes about a few conservative’s tweets and Facebook post aged like milk. Should we take shots? Was the question we were asking ourselves at 11:30 a.m. and the answer was a resounding yes. “I could make White Russians!” I said. I ran out of my room, slipping my sweatpants on. After a few trips from upstairs to downstairs, to the liquor cabinet and back downstairs, shots were poured, White Russians were shaken. And we cheered, cheered to a better tomorrow.
People were celebrating all over the city. My brother’s girlfriend, who lives in Brooklyn, invited us to celebrate with her friends. At first, I didn’t want to go. I kind of planned to do nothing all day, was what I said. What the hell was wrong with me? The United States of America hadn’t decided to do nothing today. We had just ousted Donald J. Trump. After a thinking, I knew my stupid ass would regret it if I had just done nothing all day.
So, I ran upstairs, quickly shaved, quickly showered, and ran out the door to go celebrate. Walking out of the house in that moment and into the fresh air was strange. And no, not just because I live in Staten Island. The whole of New York City was alive for the day, celebrating the presidential defeat of Trump and Staten Island was completely, utterly silent to the celebrations. Sadly, it unsurprising to me. For those who don’t know much about Staten Island, or only know that it has a giant garbage dump in the middle of it and not much else, it is, essentially, Trump land. Well, the south shore is. I give more credit to the North Shore for being significantly diverse, but I digress. It’s filled with the type of people who mix up a difference of ethics and opinion. The type of people who “respect” LGBTQ+ people but “don’t agree” with their “lifestyle.” The type of people who most certainly say, “I can’t be racist because I have a black friend!”
I certainly can’t speak of the experience of people of color and Black people on Staten Island, but I can speak somewhat on the experience of LGBTQ peoples in Staten Island, and I’d say this: If you are LGBTQ and happen to be friends with people who say these kinds of things, you’re seen as one of them. One of Us. And they might say He’s not like the others. And in what way? The other whats? The more feminine gays? The ones who are conscious of LGBTQ history? The one’s who know what kind of fight is up for the rights of minorities in this country? The ones who refuse to ignore their individual experiences as queer people living in a heteronormative world? Are we supposed to just… forget?
Being in Brooklyn was different. A breath of fresh air. A moment to stretch out and feel safe, less tense, less on edge. That’s how it feels being around other like-minded. In Brooklyn the streets were alive with music and dancing and cheering as if a weight had been lifted off our shoulders. And the crowd was diverse of all kinds of different people. Rather than ignoring their differences, ignoring the pained experiences of minorities, for the sake of a false sense of patriotism and nationalism. It was more like a mosaic, less than a melting pot. More like a stained-glass window, rather than a boring clear mason jar.
That’s not to say the Democratic party is flawless at all. Believe me, neither Joe Biden nor Kamala Harris were my first, second, or even third choices in the Democratic Party. And I’m not at all saying they’re the best candidates. But in these moments fighting, it’s important to celebrate the small moments in which we feel seen and we feel heard. It’s important to still recognize Kamala Harris’ historical victory as the first woman of color VP. It’s important to still recognize that, for the first time, a president has mentioned the trans community in his victory speech.
Will that amount to real policy changes to protect the Queer community? Will his words be put into action? Only time will tell. But I can say this: the eyes of the youth, the queer community, and all the Black and BIPOC organizers and activists who rallied to defeat Donald Trump are watching. How the Democratic Party moves in the coming months matter. Will they keep this political movement alive by invigorating the masses with policies and rhetoric we can get behind using politicians we look up to, or will the Democratic Party once again abandon the movement of the masses to cozy up with the status quo, again abandoning us to a Trump-like politician?
Only time will tell. But for now, we take our fresh breath of air and we celebrate.