RuPaul can't sleep because of Donald Trump — many queer people of color feel the same way
RuPaul has had trouble sleeping since the election of Donald Trump.
"I'm still so heartbroken over it," the drag superstar told Vulture in an interview published on Tuesday. "It feels like the death of America. The America that we have all fought so hard for, the narrative of love and peace and liberty and equality, it feels like it is dead."
The idea of "peace, liberty and equality" that RuPaul mentions has been disrupted in the wake of the 2016 election, especially for many marginalized groups in America. Though life has never been a cakewalk for ethnic or sexual minorities, living as a queer person under a Donald Trump administration will not be easy. Given the appointment of notoriously anti-black politicians like Jeff Sessions, and Trump's own law-and-order rhetoric, it will not be easy for black people, either.
Trump's effect on the national psyche has been heavily documented. After he won the electoral college on Nov. 9, users flooded the internet with mental health resources to help others address their needs. Polls showed that American anxiety was high. Suicide hotlines for transgender youth reported a surge in calls after the election, as well. While the election is over, the smudge on our mental health is far from over.
Kalaya'an Mendoza spent four sleepless nights in his bed in the Jackson Heights section of Queens, New York, after Donald Trump became president-elect. He stared up at the ceiling, turned on Netflix to take his mind off reality and began to drink. When none of those helped, he began to take long-night walks outside of his front door.
"I was doing a lot of things that weren't healthy for me," Mendoza said in a phone interview. "There was this foreboding sense of anxiety and unsafety. It just was this unshakeable sense of danger from white folks. And on a good day, you don't even see that many white folks around Jackson Heights."
Ashley Ford, a queer woman of color and development executive for Matter Studios, said she hasn't had a "good mental health day since Nov. 8."
"The only place I really feel safe is my apartment," she said. "I barely write. I've taken Xanax for the first time in my entire life."
Ford acknowledged her own privileges as an employed person with health insurance, living in New York City. That she ended up this way shows just how messed up the election has left her.
"I'm so much more afraid for others," she said. "And the feeling of helplessness is what keeps me up at night."
Queer youth have faced unique mental health challenges, as well. Safe spaces for queer youth of color have become less safe. On Tuesday, LGTBQ Nation reported that a Rhode Island organization for South Asian queer youth was vandalized. A noose was hung inside the program's headquarters, as well.
Mic spoke with Jasmine Banks, a licensed therapist who works with queer youth of color in Fayetteville, Arkansas, about her experiences working with young people since the election. Banks said the number of clients who reach out to her with issues of anxiety, sleep disturbances and even self-harm has risen in the last month. Banks explained that, while queer people anywhere may feel the consequences of the election, those who live far away from urban metropolises may feel the hate more viscerally.
"Trump is normalizing hate and anti-black rhetoric that used to be faux pas," Banks said in a phone interview. "If someone had something racist to say, they used to say it only around other racist family members."
Unfortunately, according to Banks, that's no longer the case. Racist rhetoric has made its way into the public sphere, and anti-black rhetoric can be worse when compounded with queer stigma.
According to Banks, these compounding layers of hatred and fear have led some of her clients — and her friends — to change how they present themselves to the world. Some people have felt less comfortable pushing the bounds of gender and gender nonconformity, even leading some to "de-transition" — a rare but real phenomenon — in anticipation of Trump's arrival in office, she said.
"Whatever you choose to do to survive, there is no shame in it," she said. "What matters at the end of the day is that you stay alive."