My mother’s first words to me in Donald Trump’s America: “You need to buy a passport.” I had gone to sleep early Wednesday morning, disheartened by the steady growth of electoral votes next to Donald Trump’s name on every news station in America. When I’d awoken, my mother offered her solemn advice in place of her usual cheery greetings. And then, I knew. I knew what I feared most before succumbing to sleep: Donald Trump was now the President-elect. My mother had done me the courtesy of designing an exit plan.
Thirty seconds into this new world, I wasn’t thinking about fleeing. Simply put: America is my home. By virtue of my parents’ fateful flight almost 30 years ago, it is the only home I have ever known. In the 17 ghoulish months leading up to Trump’s devastating win, I’d never once considered leaving — though, much like my peers, I’ve been known to throw around a “moving to Canada” joke or two. The reality is, being who I am — a visibly Black, queer daughter of naturalized immigrants — means that no corner of the Earth will ever be safe for me; I simply cannot afford to entertain such a delusion.
The reality is, being who I am — a visibly Black, queer daughter of naturalized immigrants — means that no corner of the Earth will ever be safe for me; I simply cannot afford to entertain such a delusion.
Another lofty consideration: Much like other first-generation kids, I have never known the world as intimately as I do my home state of Texas. To say that my relationship with my home state and its policies — including vehement anti-abortion, anti-immigrant stances that affect women like me — has been “imperfect” is quite the understatement. Still, my connection to Texas is born of nothing else but a cautious familiarity. My respect for Texas is paid to its rich natural history, and the Black, Mexican, and Vietnamese communities that have built it from the ground up.
Which is why I’ve now decided to partake in one of its oldest traditions: purchasing my first gun.
Under any other circumstance, laying a Beretta or a Ruger into my hands would mark a momentous win for Texas pride. With more than 1 million Texans owning a gun, guns and gun violence are weaved tightly into our history.We are the state where western heroes are born, and where noble leaders have died. Guns are as Texan as driving 30 minutes to get barbecue and loathing the kitchen workers who make your Tex-Mex.
But my decision to partake in the Texan tradition of gun ownership lies purely on the wave of violent racist, queerphobic, and xenophobic attacks that have followed Trump's win. At the time of this writing — just one week into what will eventually become Donald Trump’s America — more than 200 reported attacks have occurred against bodies that look like mine, in neighborhoods like mine. Even stronger than the feeling of my livelihood being attacked is the feeling that my life will come next. I don’t resign myself to the fact that I live in a suburb or work a nice job. Unlike “well-meaning” moderates and Democrats, I'm not interested in waiting for noted bigot Donald Trump to condemn hate crimes, and can't afford to rely on discriminatory police protection.
My safety is important to me. My country has given me the right to protect it.
I am not at all naive to what embracing this right can mean for me as a Black woman. Gun rights and the Second Amendment has not always played out fairly for Black people, especially Black women. I am invoking the same right that placed Marissa Alexander in prison, Philando Castile in a body bag, and Mark Hughes at the hands of a digital lynch mob. Though I am a staunch believer in gun control, I have always been indifferent to the pleasures of gun rights, because for many Black (and brown) people, participating in gun culture can bring dangers of its own.
I'm not interested in waiting for noted bigot Donald Trump to condemn hate crimes, and can't afford to rely on discriminatory police protection.
Like many people of color, queer folks, immigrants, and women, I now stand at an impasse that requires me to choose which danger I am willing to swallow. I can either meet a potentially violent bigot unprepared, or carry my concealed carry license close to my heart and hope I can protect myself in time. This is just one of the many difficult decisions people with marginalized identities have been forced to consider in ways we never have before.
In the next year, I will apply for a concealed carry license, complete the six (yes, only six) hours of training that Texas requires, and become another face in a sea of vociferous gun owners in this state. My dutiful pilgrimage to gun ranges will be not in celebration of my Second Amendment right, but rather in urgent relief of my access to it.