Menu
Epress.png

Why We March

Voices of those on the frontlines of Trump’s assault on women

Afaf Nasher | Elizabeth Press | Quon | Ann Schneider Jan 19

Issue 221

Queer & Concerned

Elizabeth Press

On November 11, 2016, I decided to “publicly” invite my sweetie to marry me on Facebook. It was three days after Donald Trump and Mike Pence — who has said that gay couples signaled “societal collapse” — were elected. Our engagement was a protest and a mourning: an expression of my sadness and frustration with those who I know and love who voted for Trump. It felt like they voted against us. I was scared but ready to make a stand.

We decided to get married before Inauguration Day, and on December 30 I met my partner at the City Clerk’s office in Manhattan. Some friends and family joined us. The lines were long — out the door long. Some couples were in jeans but many were in elaborate wedding gowns. We were dressed in black.

What exactly will the incoming administration’s policies be? No one knows the answer to that question. But we are concerned for the ways that these policies will affect all of us.

We are among the many LGBTQ people scrambling right now to finally replace the gender identity marker on legal IDs, get a name change, figure out what channels to health care there might be if and when protections are revoked and, in our case, get our paperwork in order to try to protect ourselves and our family.

As a queer person whose partner is seven months pregnant, I decided it was important to get married immediately. While my partner and I have some ambivalence about marriage, our domestic partnership is not a federally protected status. I know that Trump can’t unilaterally do away with marriage equality. But I also know that he is about to appoint Supreme Court justices who can.

We have to think about protecting my parental rights to our child. As a non-biological parent, even though my name will appear on the birth certificate, I need to adopt my child to make sure that I have a legal tie that will be recognized by all states and countries. This requires us to go through the incredibly invasive and expensive process of second parent adoption (something that is not an option in every state).

In order for me to adopt our child, we have to answer a barrage of questions about our financial, medical and personal situation. We have to attest to our parenting philosophies and prove that we are good parents in a good environment. A social worker will visit and a background check will be done on all members of our household.

We cannot finalize this until after the baby is here. For us, this will be a couple of months after the new administration takes office.

Nonetheless, as a white cisgender queer couple, we have a lot of privilege and protections. What will happen for those who don’t, particularly transgender people and queer immigrants? Protection of medical access regardless of gender identity was directly named in the Affordable Care Act. This will likely disappear with a repeal of the law, which Republicans on Capitol Hill have already put into motion. Meanwhile, the experience for queer and trans people in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention has already been violent and scary. The desire to re-emphasize racial profiling as a central police tactic will put a lot of queer and trans people of color at risk.

Getting married was a happy event to share with our loved ones. It was also a way to speak to the anger and sadness so many of us feel, and as we take on the uncertainties of this moment, affirm the resilience of the community we have together.

‘It’s About What the Hijab Means to You’

Afaf Nasher — Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York 

(Chris Goldberg/Flickr)

The Muslim community is certainly not monolithic, and Muslim women don’t all look the same. There are those who wear a hijab, those who wear a facial covering called a niqab and those who don’t cover their hair at all. I’m of Middle Eastern origin, and I’m Arab. So I’m your more typical Muslim, if I can even say “typical.” By that I mean the ones that are always portrayed in a negative way on TV.

When they’re yelling those Arabic words on television, I’m saying, “You’re not even pronouncing it right, dammit!” But at the same time, I grew up in New York. I’m a Muslim, but culturally speaking, I’m American.

You have to understand the significance of the hijab for those that choose to wear it. It’s the reason why I, as an individual, will not succumb to any kind of fear relating to wearing a hijab. It goes beyond a religious mandate. It is an outward representation of my morals, of my ethics. It’s a reminder to me and an expectation to everyone else of how I should be treating them and how I expect to be treated.

I have four daughters, and I tell them: “Look, because of your outward appearance, people automatically know you’re a Muslim. They’re not going to take a look at you and say, ‘She’s a young girl who’s still developing who she is and what she believes.’ They just take a picture of a Muslim person and that’s it. And they put you into this one category.” It is in one way a burden, but at the same time it’s a privilege and an honor to do it.

Wearing a hijab is a reminder of the Islamic principles you’re supposed to be living out. In Islam, just as in any religion, there is a requirement that people are honest with one another, that they deal with other people fairly and justly. You don’t have to be afraid of showing those very admirable principles to the outside world.

If you say, “I’m going to be afraid of wearing a hijab,” you’re succumbing to fear of hatred and of bias and of discrimination. When the hijab is something that’s so positive, why would you succumb to that?

I have mothers come up to me whose kids are taking public transportation, and they say: “Is it safe for my son to wear a kufi, or wear cultural attire? And my daughter?” I’ve had grown people — professionals, doctors — who will say: “I walk into the office and I’m afraid of what my clients may think.”

What I tell people is, “Look, this is a personal decision for you. It’s about what that hijab means to you and how much strength you derive from it.”

Having said that, you have to use common sense. It’s not meant to put you in a position where you’re fearing for your life.

One thing that I tell people all the time is to be aware of their surroundings. I tell young people in particular: “Stop putting the earphones in your ears when you’re walking around with a hijab on. You want to be aware. You want to be hearing what’s being said around you.”

I tell people, young and old, that when they’re at mosque events, or they’re going for prayer services at nighttime, to not walk alone. We have a lot of incidents that occur around the mosques. When people are coming out of prayer services late at night and they’re walking alone, they’re an easy target.

I test my kids: “If you’re being followed and somebody is making remarks, what do you do?” I yelled at my daughter once when she said, “Well, I’m gonna call you and try to get home.” I told her, “You duck into a commercial store, you go up to the cashier and make sure you avail yourself of the people around you. You don't want to walk into a residential area in which there are not a lot of other people there. 

We have these very frank discussions in front of my younger children, who are as young as five, opening up their ears because they have to know. They have to be careful.

I know a woman who is non-Muslim — she happens to be Asian-American — and she was with two young ladies, one of whom was her daughter, and the other was a friend of her daughter’s who was wearing a hijab. They were on public transportation and somebody said something rude and racist to the one who was wearing a hijab.

The woman got very upset and treated it like an attack on her own daughter. She completely pushed back, saying: “How dare you talk to her this way? This is a young girl. This is America. She’s free to wear what she wants, how she wants, just like I’m free to be the way that I want.”

She spoke up, and I’m glad that the younger person had somebody like her on her side.

We need to treat these incidents it as if it’s your child, your friend, your parent who is under attack. If we look at it with that perspective, common sense dictates that we as bystanders step in, while being safe, whenever possible, and help out.

One of the ways that Islamophobia really spreads is because of a cloud of suspicion that certain public policies promote. We have a city administration that has very openly and publicly supported refugees coming into New York, that has supported Muslims and said, “We will stand with our Muslim neighbors, there’s no room for hatred.”

But then there’s this other piece of it. We know for a fact that the New York Police Department targets Muslim communities for surveillance. Ninety-five percent of the Intelligence Bureau’s investigations from 2010 to 2015 were directed at Muslims, according to the NYPD Inspector General. Does not that, in and of itself, promote Islamophobia?

When you’re spying on and surveilling Muslim communities it inflames suspicion.

Then there’s the issue of data retention. On the city level, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that he will not give federal agencies information on NYC ID card recipients. That’s great. But that same promise has not been made with all the documentation and surveillance information on the Muslim community. Let’s not forget the Demographics Unit that operated under de Blasio’s predecessor. What are they going to do with that information?

We’re pushing for answers with other organizations, not just Muslim organizations but other groups of people who are concerned with data retention and how the Trump administration may use it, especially with threats of a registry, increased surveillance and whatnot.

We want a promise that officials will not share if they haven’t already. We’re asking for more transparency and knowledge, with the understanding that it’s a fine line when you’re dealing with national security issues. But you can’t trample civil liberties.

The Sexism I See Every Day in Divorce Court

Ann Schneider (right*)

I practice law in a highly regulated environment: family law.

Tight legislative regulation of domestic relations is needed because your typical jilted dude will retaliate economically when he’s kicked out of bed. Where he was once happy to waste money on cable TV, cocaine or cruises with her, now he’ll say, “I love my children, but why do I hafta give money to that bitch?”

Divorce laws are set at the state, not federal, level. But with the example of a thrice-married, twice-divorced, admitted groper and accused rapist in the White House, men are likely to be emboldened by his example. Trump has paid out big awards to buy silence, but otherwise paid no consequences.

Abandonment of women and children is so common in this country, it is not even socially stigmatized. There isn’t even a name for it. We swim in a sea of misogyny every day.

New York has had a fairly feminist judiciary for several decades, so Trump’s presidency won’t make a difference for those who can afford to litigate. But the complex and dehumanizing social-welfare environment nationwide pits low-income mothers and fathers against each other for mere crumbs. Nationwide, the average amount of child support actually collected is just $314 per month. Considering the amount of grief involved in suing and collecting, many women don’t bother, or will sell themselves short. Men know this. It encourages them to act badly.

In my mind, it’s not the adultery that is the crime. It is the economic dependence of women, especially mothers, on one man for her family’s food, shelter and health care. This marks us as an uncivilized nation. We need free or subsidized, quality day care. Child-care work deserves to be well compensated. Only true feminist solidarity can turn the tide.

When Your Boss Loves Trump and Your Co-Workers Follow

Quon

I work on Wall Street. There are 20 of us in the office. It’s mostly male, which I assume is the case for most financial organizations — older white men who live in Long Island, Staten Island, New Jersey and the nice areas in Queens.

We deal in bonds.

There was always some animosity toward Hillary Clinton, but never a resounding support for Donald Trump until a couple of months before the election. I can pinpoint the moment. My boss, who is a woman, was speaking to somebody and asked, “Well who do you think is going to win?” And the guy was like, “100 percent it’s gonna be Trump.” And you could see the little cogs start to turn in her head and she was like, “You know what? I think I underestimated him.”

That’s when she started fully going for Trump and the rest of the office followed. I started noticing she was saying “yuge” a lot more — unironically. There’s a “Make America Great Again” hat in my office, a pen with Trump’s head on it and a Hillary nutcracker floating around. It’s all very fucked up. It’s mostly Trump’s personality that they’re drawn to, this idea that “Trump says what he wants. He’s a good businessman.”

It’s an open office. Nobody has cubicles, so things are just kind of shouted across the office at different points of the day. We have a TV in the middle of the office where Bloomberg, sometimes CNN and very occasionally Fox News will be on all day. Certain headlines will come up and it will be discussed across the office.

That’s also why it’s kind of a scary office environment.

When the whole “grab her by the pussy” thing happened and all those women came forward saying Trump groped them, the men in the office were vehemently defending him, saying, “What are they coming up with this stuff for?” It was victim-blaming, like the victims were wrong and just trying to get Trump in trouble, despite the things that were actually coming out of his mouth!

My boss was pretty much silent on the issue. I was wondering if she would realize that this guy’s psychopathic, but instead she stayed on the Trump train by mainly disparaging Hillary. She said Hillary is a “bought woman,” and “I heard she hates dogs.”

I hear sprinklings of racist comments. They’re very skeptical of black people, of Mexicans. Any kind of minority is just generally looked down on. People who aren’t white are viewed with suspicion. They’re very much interested in what China is doing over there — what those Chinese people are doing — even though me and a couple other people are Chinese.

Everybody likes me, and that’s fine, but with anybody outside of their circle, their family at the office, it’s like, “Who are these people? What are they trying to get out of us?”

I have years of practice biting my tongue from growing up in a Republican household. I don’t want to bring anything up, because my coworkers are very irrational when they’re arguing.

If I got into a conversation and pointed out specific political points, they would say: “Oh well, you’re a millennial.” It would be very ad hominem, a dismissal. So I never assert myself.

None of the left-leaning people in the office are going to say anything. Especially since Election Day. My boss was shouting, “Okay, if any of you guys have to leave work early to vote, please do — I mean, only if you’re voting for Trump.” She literally told a client, “You’re an idiot for not voting for Trump.”

Headphones are one of my coping mechanisms. I kind of just sit quietly and do my work. Now and then I’m asked to type up something for our company blog about how great Trump is and I’ll accidently leave out adjectives. I’m be transcribing my boss saying things like: “A fantastic victory for Trump.” And I’ll leave out “fantastic.” Sometimes nobody proofreads, but sometimes they do and I have to put “fantastic” back in.

One interesting problem that we have to deal with right now is that a lot of our clients are unhappy with the election. Clients have told us: “I’m scared. I’m scared that this is happening, I’m scared that we elected this man. This is really awful. I don’t know what to do, I’m kind of panicking.” My boss and coworkers are surrounded mostly by other people in the industry who agree with them, and they are completely taken aback — they had no idea!

I can’t really make any change in my office, but I definitely want to get active. I have to. I attended a DSA [Democratic Socialists of America] meeting and I’m looking into getting involved with them. I’m going to be there for the Women’s March. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to D.C., but there’s going to be something in New York.

 

*Photo: Jonathan Nack