Every morning, I recite to myself like a prayer, “You are strong, you are worthy, you are wonderful and you deserve to exist. You have overcome so much — you cannot let them win.”
Every single day, I have to reaffirm myself in these ways. I convince myself that if I just make it through the end of this day, tomorrow will be better. I do this not to inflate my ego but as a means of survival. Constantly being engulfed by transphobic and homophobic rhetoric has spiraled me back into depression.
Every single day, it’s something new. Whether it’s the explicit dehumanization by Trump, ASUC Senator Isabella Chow’s transphobic statements or the “casual” homophobia by my peers, it severely affects me. It doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or unintentional, the impact is still the same. Each instance slowly chips away at my ability to cope and function. I constantly feel like I am about to have a mental breakdown, and over the past few weeks, every single day I’ve had one.
Yet, at the same time, I feel the pressure to act as if nothing is wrong. Our campus culture is so toxic that we barely address mental health, let alone how the dehumanization of groups impacts those students being targeted at UC Berkeley. I feel the pressure to fake a smile and pretend like the political climate hasn’t triggered me into a deep depression. In all honesty, I am not OK.
I had to take time off of classes to take care of myself, but I have no clue how to explain what I am going through to my professors. The stress and anxiety of everything have induced chronic migraines. On top of that, I am struggling to simply take care of my mental health. I constantly feel emotionally drained and break down crying. As someone with ADHD who does not medicate, I need this energy and adrenaline to force me to focus.
So, we need to stop pretending like transphobia and homophobia are just words. This rhetoric severely impacts those being targeted. For example, The Trevor Project – one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organizations – reported that suicide hotline calls from transgender youth more than doubled after President Trump’s tweet regarding transgender military service members and the announcement of the “bathroom bill” in the Texas legislature.
It’s so easy to overlook the impact of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric when you’re not directly being targeted. To excuse the words of people like Trump and Chow is toxic. Words that dehumanize historically marginalized groups and lead to their oppression are not free speech. These words are violent bigotry, and we need stop parading around acting as if there are two sides to this debate of my fucking humanity. In reality, there is no debate: The LGBTQ+ community has always existed and will always exist. We have existed in the shadows, written out of history books, excluded from the national narrative.
Our campus needs to put its words into action to protect the rights and mental health of LGBTQ+ students in light of the political climate. But we need to be honest in that the campus has historically failed to support us. The 2015 campus climate survey found that transgender and genderqueer students along with LGBQQO students are among the most marginalized groups on campus. Specifically, transgender and genderqueer students face the second highest rates of exclusion on campus, as 47 percent of these individuals experienced exclusionary behavior in the past year. Another alarming finding shows that 65 percent of transgender and genderqueer students felt as though their group is respected on campus, in comparison to 93 percent of women and 95 percent of men.
I demand that the ASUC, Chancellor Carol Christ and the administration do their jobs to support our students. I suggest they reassess their policies and actions to legitimately support the LGBTQ+ community on campus. Frankly, I feel utterly unsupported. So it’s great to have reaffirming resolutions and statements, but I demand tangible solutions and action. I demand that the campus upholds and uplifts all marginalized people, including LGBTQ+ folks.
To my queerly beloved LGBTQ+ family, we must take care of each other. Each and every single one of you is needed in this world. You are light. You are magic. You are revolutionary. You are changing the world and communities for the better. You are good, right and true.
Kaitlyn Hodge is an assistant opinion editor. Contact them at [email protected] .