November 12, 2016

Given the recent 2016 presidential election, positive communication seems to be at an all time low:  From emotional Facebook posts to divisive comments on photos and articles, many of us are still processing and working through the stages of grief. No matter where you land on the political spectrum, the ability to lean on your partner for love, acceptance, and support, especially for those of us in the LGBTQ community, is a necessity.

Right now, many of us are communicating differences of political opinions—with our friends, our family, and potentially even our partners. Taking care of ourselves and taking active steps to work through those differences will ultimately help preserve the strong relationships you’ve already built in your circle of trust.

For a queer person, communicating positively with Trump-supporting family and friends presents the ultimate challenge right now. Taking care of yourself mentally and physically, setting strong boundaries, and navigating through your own fear and loss should be your first priority.

As an oppressed person, you do not owe anyone anything, and you are in no way obliged to accommodate the Trump train. Many experts in the fields of psychology, politics, and social activism debate over which tactics, strategies, and responses will positively impact social reform movements. There is no one size fits all approach for communicating your hurt, your fear, or your opinion; rather, there is a way that is right for you. Spend some time thinking and reflecting on the approach you, and potentially you and your partner, would like to take.

If and when you are ready to engage in a political discussion or post on social media, ask yourself, what is the goal of this communication and can I accept responsibility for it? If you are ready and willing to accept the consequences of your post, then by all means, post away; but if your goal is to actually change minds, or lead loved ones to a different perspective, then start with tone in mind. Finding common ground, gathering facts and evidence, and sharing those facts and evidence in a blanket of mutual respect is key to keeping things healthy. Respect is fundamental to keeping the conversation going, and at a time such as this, that’s exactly what may help keep our LGBTQ movement strong.

If you are partnered, handling the response to Trump supporting family and friends can present a particular set of challenges. This is a great opportunity for partners to present a united front, and this is where communication kicks in. Sit down with your partner and discuss how you, as a team, should tackle the hurt and pain you have for family and friends who voted for Trump. Listen to one another. Find common ground. Validate each other’s feelings and fears, and set the big goal of finding the solution. De-friending friends and family from your online or real life is an extreme, and one that you as a couple would need to be willing to accept, if indeed that’s what you decide; however, if you’re being subjected to racist, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise dehumanizing comments on your Facebook, an online space where you deserve to exist safely, then making this decision could be best for your mental health.

Maybe the goal of your communication is to stand your ground, share your opinion and experience, or air your feelings online. Your social media outlets are designed for you to do just that, and you should do so uninhibitedly. If the goal of our communication is to win Trump supporters back to the fold of basic human affirmation, and to overturn red states back to blue in 4 years, then it may be in your best interest to view online communication from a lens of activism.

No matter what approach you as a couple decide to take, if indeed you decide to tackle it together as a couple, talking openly about how you would respond to posts and comments can help you develop positive online communication skills. Sit down together and craft a response, edit it, and talk through it before posting. This can be a great way to affirm your relationship as a couple, as well as your identity as a minority. Respecting the intersection of multiple minority identities, and not judging others for the way they respond to Trump supporters on their posts, is also an important component to navigating online communication at this time.  

At the end of the day, we are all human. Some of us are angry. Some of us are hurt. Some of us are scared. Accepting ourselves wholly and fully for our humanity first, and then communicating that humanity in safe, non-violent, democratic ways, is the first step to navigating these particularly trying political times.