How Election Anxiety & Family Drama Are Taking Over My Life

Are you struggling too?

I was going back through some APW archives this week and came across a post that stopped me in my tracks. It was this advice question from a reader who needed help figuring out what to do about a wedding invite for a family member with deeply opposing political views. The post was from 2018, but the question is still so incredibly relevant and real. My fiancé and I have been facing some of this head-on lately—and I just know we can’t be alone, in this life-altering political climate.

My story: I come from a family full of a lot of educators (progressives) and a number of self-assigned cowboys (ahem… not… progressives). I grew up in a very small town (about 10k people now, but more like 4-6k when I was growing up). That small town is, and always has been, uncomfortably white, and pretty split politically. So, let’s just suffice it to say that I came up in the literal gray area of life. I also grew up very cis-hetero-femme presenting and didn’t ‘come out’ until I was well into adulthood. I’m now engaged to a woman. My partner spent her youth in a number of different places (living mostly abroad and on the West Coast), and was ‘out’ pretty early in her adulthood (other than when she had to hide her truth during military service). Our experiences are different, and now as we stare down this year’s election, we are colliding (hard) with the discomfort of navigating family dynamics, politics, and our queer-liberal-female-ness.

We are in the early phases of wedding planning for a 2021 wedding, and while my family is less of a topic in our planning (in large part because my parents and much of my family are deceased), her family is a huge part of our lives. I adore my future-in-laws and feel really lucky to have people like them in my life. Maybe it’s being an adult orphan, but marrying into a family of people who spend time together and generally like each other, means the world to me. At the same time, 2020 has exposed how even for a family that chooses closeness—this political landscape and differing views—can make that closeness a struggle. And it’s left us with questions not so different from that letter writer.

For what it’s worth, we still receive my deceased dad’s hunting and NRA magazines to our address (ugh), and I know without a doubt that I’ve dodged the tough conversations since he’s not here to vote this year. I’ve muted/blocked a number of more distant family friends on social media who’ve blatantly shown their opinions are in direct opposition to my right to live my life the way I’d like. I’ve had tough conversations, I’ve overshared my heart and feelings in hopes of opening people’s eyes. Still, there is just no handbook for how to handle all the feelings and problems that come with knowing your family (or friends, or in-laws) love you, but also might vote against your basic rights. (Well, I don’t think there is. If you’ve found the handbook, will you send it to me? This article felt like a welcome read, but still left me feeling a bit defeated about it all.) To be fair, we have a few real champion family members in the mix who will go to bat for us, and vote for us (thank goodness for them!)

Art of two women talking. White woman says "we can disagree and still be friends". Black woman replies "Yes bitch, about pizza toppings, not racism"
Art borrowed from Reddit, based on a tweet from @WilliamVercetti

What’s so hard about 2020 and this election? Well, everything. First, there is the fact that this election (like 2016), is exposing everyone’s true colors. There is no hiding political views right now—because, honestly, if you’re not talking about politics right now, that tells me where you sit (and it’s not a good look). It means that we’ve had no way to avoid the truth and clarity of knowledge about what each of our family and friends believes. We’ve all heard the arguments: “we can disagree and still be friends,” or “can’t we just avoid talking about politics and love each other?” But, what about those of us that are queer (or BIPOC, or disabled, or Jewish, or a womxn) and our rights are literally at risk? What if we feel, deeply, and without question, that politics is everything and is in everything? What if we are scared shit-less that we’re on the verge of losing our rights to healthcare, womxn’s reproductive rights, marriage (not ‘gay marriage’… because to me it’s just marriage), reasonable immigration policy, the right to practice our religion without the looming threat of violence, and safety and equality for Black and Brown humxns? Because… that’s how I feel. I am anxious, scared, worried… also hopeful, and enraged, and empowered. I’m having PTSD symptoms and flashbacks to November 8-9, 2016. And I just don’t know how to navigate this time, and the season that is coming post-election (regardless of outcome).

So, APW, how are you holding up? Are you running into family drama and anxiety because of this election? Have you seen the true colors of people you love? What are you doing about it? HOw are you keeping your sanity in it all? or are you?
Fingers crossed, friends. Let’s let Halloween be the only scary day in the next week.

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