Should I ask my parents if they voted for Trump?
November 18, 2016 6:55 AM   Subscribe

My dad and stepmom are historically conservative, but not Obama-hating Bible-thumpers. I am hoping they held their noses and voted for Hillary (or at least Johnson) but I fear the worst. I am a trans gay guy, which they know, and a Trump administration will be likely disaster for me and my friends. I have been physically ill with stress since the election and seeing my family is making me more anxious. Should I ask them? Or how can I function without knowing?

My father almost never talks about politics (or religion; I don't even know if my own father believes in God). The most I've gotten from him is that he voted for both Bushes and McCain (I assume Romney too). He doesn't seem to mind Obama all that much; the most negative thing he's said about him is that he's disrespectful of military members (he didn't salute properly or some nonsense). He's rational enough that I've been able to make inroads on educating him about structural racism's effect on cities. We don't have a combative relationship, but we are not close.

My stepmom is your very stereotypical flag-waving Support The Troops type who loves Sarah Palin (and JFK, but whatever). We had a conversation in August and she said she was undecided between HRC and Trump. Her main reason for voting for Trump was because Hillary was "a corrupt liar.' I didn't put too much effort into arguing or persuading as I was dealing with personal issues at that time. She is not rational and responds to any facts with "well, that's just how I feel." Other than political differences, we're close.

I came out as trans to them last year, and they already knew I was not-straight. They didn't speak to me for several months and finally my stepmom broke the ice. Since then, she's been really supportive (!!), reading things on her own and being pretty great about name/pronouns. After a year, my dad will talk to me about all the same things he talked to me about before (sports, travel) but NOT about transition, and he has never used my chosen name. He has always been disappointed in me about a variety of things, but this is probably the icing on the cake.

Anyway, I know I will feel horribly betrayed if they voted for him and I will have to cut off contact. I don't know how I can trust someone who would figuratively spit in my face. I am seeing them tonight at a restaurant (belated birthday dinner for me) and whether or not I ask them, I can't possibly hide my despair and hopelessness. They are going to act like I'm overreacting and spoiling a nice family gathering. Asking them will be like throwing a bomb into the party. I won't make a scene because my niece will be there, and i'm not a yeller anyway; I'd just leave quietly and discuss later.

I just feel like I have to know if they're really on my side or not. I can't envision a future relationship with a huge elephant in the room. Tonight will be the first time I've seen them since the election and I sort of want to rip the band-aid off. I won't see them at Thanksgiving and probably won't until the first or second week of December. What should I do?
posted by AFABulous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would not ask them; it's really not your concern who someone else voted for.
posted by deadweightloss at 7:01 AM on November 18, 2016 [20 favorites]

Voting is anonymous for a reason. Don't focus on who they voted for, focus on their actions and support of YOU, as a person.
posted by valoius at 7:02 AM on November 18, 2016 [63 favorites]

My rule of thumb: When you list out all the pros and cons and tl;drs and whatnot, what you say last is what you really want, and you're just asking permission:
I sort of want to rip the band-aid off.
Do it. On preview, do it now now, as snickerdoodle says. All politics is personal.
posted by Etrigan at 7:03 AM on November 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

I just feel like I have to know if they're really on my side or not.

That knowledge comes from looking at how they treat you, not who they voted for.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:05 AM on November 18, 2016 [18 favorites]

I didn't intend to ask my parents but it just came out through normal conversation when I saw them. In fact in both cases I said something like "it's probably for the best if you don't tell me." and then they'd say something like "well, I couldn't vote for that woman."

I'm a straight white dude with health care and I was enraged, so I can't imagine what you'd go through.

I'm inclined to say "no, do not ask" but I suspect it will come out eventually anyway. Even if they don't tell you directly you'll know just by they way they talk about him or her. It's a very tough time for all this, what with the holidays coming, but maybe a shitty holiday season is what some of our parents need to sit and think about what they did.
posted by bondcliff at 7:08 AM on November 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'd vote against asking. I feel squicky about asking ANYONE who they voted for; voting choice has always seemed a completely private issue to me. Also echoing the importance on focusing on present actions and values.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:08 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

If I were you, I not only wouldn't ask them, but also don't talk about politics around them either.

True story here. My mother said she wasn't going to vote b/c she was so disgusted about the whole election, so I asked if she could please go to the poll and cast her vote for Hillary just to "help us out a little", since she usually votes Democrat.

I talked to her the day after the election. She voted Trump. I was fucking flabbergasted. I then realized that I should have kept my big mouth shut.

posted by strelitzia at 7:10 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh man, this is rough.

On the one hand, one way minds get changed is exposure- e.g. your stepmom has been learning and being supportive (great!). And exposure to new ideas, too. And I think the norm that politics is not polite conversation needs to end. I personally plan on doing so with family members whenever I get the chance.

For me, though, it's mostly second order; I'm white, cis, straight, so although it feels ugly to listen to bigotry, it isn't personal in the same way. It offends me, as it should everyone, but we're not going to reduce hatred if people with privilege like me just try to avoid the topic.

But your story is a perfect example of someone who maybe shouldn't have to do this work, perhaps especially not with your dad. As for your stepmom, I think there's an opening there. Something along the lines of "hey you're a Republican, but you like me and I am trans; please call your representatives/senators and tell them you support their policies but not their hate. Ask them to put out a statement condemning these attacks/Steve Bannon." (Or if you're in a state at risk for a bathroom bill, ask that she call to condemn it specifically.)

As always the standard advice applies: put your own oxygen mask on first. (So, make sure that you are mentally healthy enough to keep being an advocate for yourself and for others who might get hurt in the coming administration). If that means not confronting the family, then that's what it means.
posted by nat at 7:16 AM on November 18, 2016 [14 favorites]

I went through this last week and I should start by saying my circumstances are not the same as yours. I am a straight cis white male. However, I spent a lot of time between Tuesday night and Sunday night agonizing about what my parents would say when I asked them. Particularly my mom as she has been on that "both choices are bad" train for a while.

So, I asked and I'm glad I asked. First, because I needed to know where they stood or I would have continued to agonize over it. This is not something you can just stop thinking about and it would be foolish to think you can pretend the American Government under the Trump administration just doesn't exist for 4-8 years.

Second, it turned out my mom is freaking out. She's pretty sure this is going to be the end of America and all of her brothers and sisters voted for Trump. I was so concerned over how this election was making me feel that I did not stop and think it also sucked for my mom. Now more than ever, people need to confront stuff, share their feelings and support each other and you need to make sure you surround yourself with people that will do that. That means talking about this election.
posted by coreywilliam at 7:24 AM on November 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, if I don't ask, how do I act like everything is okay tonight (and beyond)? I've spent a week in despair and it's probably obvious on my face. Even baristas ask me if I'm okay. I can't pretend I am fine and I don't want to lie about why I'm upset. My family is the type that is very "let's not talk about upsetting subjects" and "you are ruining our nice dinner by being unhappy." Even if I cancel this dinner it's not as if the world will magically get better in a week or month or year.
posted by AFABulous at 7:30 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

You are conflating issues.

Your father does not use your chosen name, while your stepmother is more supportive. They stopped talking with you when you first came out. They are never ever going to 100% without question be on your side. They have issues. How do you want to proceed?

Politicians at the top are corrupt liars. I'm a registered democrat and I wish my fellow democrats would stop trading (admittedly, very important) social justice issues at the expense of all other concerns. It's not hard to find legitimate evidence of violations or wrongdoing because no one even hides it anymore. You can read primary sources that are public record, bypassing media that has any sort of bias or agenda. The system itself is super broken, and it's hard to do the right thing when no one wants to talk honestly about the main problem - the system as a whole.

Loving family is not as difficult as this behemoth political problem we are facing. Don't take evidence of one, as evidence for the other. It's within your parents control to treat you decently. Judge them on this.
posted by jbenben at 7:33 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

I don't really understand all these people saying "it's how they act, now who they vote for!" Voting is an action and shows the US gov what the people want. Unfortunately many Americans voted for bigotry.

Ask yourself what you want out of this and what happens when you know. Do you really want to cut off contact if they did vote for Trump? An apology? What would make things right for you? What will you do if they don't "make up" for what they did. I think you can only proceed when you have the answers to those questions.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:33 AM on November 18, 2016 [37 favorites]

Ask. I think it is what you need. You've made it pretty clear that you need honesty, recognition and support from the people in your life. A big component of relationships is getting your emotional needs met.

Everyone has different needs -- mine are to bury my head in the sand right now -- but you seem to be pretty clear on what you need. Go get what you need for your life, your own mental health.
posted by Dashy at 7:34 AM on November 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

That knowledge comes from looking at how they treat you, not who they voted for.

Don't focus on who they voted for, focus on their actions and support of YOU, as a person.

I'm sorry, but when one of the stated first intents of a new administration is to work with congress to pass a law that attempts to legalize discrimination against you and your partner and then set up the supreme court (after having supported the extraordinary refusal to fill the current vacancy) so it can't be undone, that vote is pretty fucking personal.
posted by Candleman at 7:35 AM on November 18, 2016 [54 favorites]

I agree with bondcliff; it'll come out eventually. In your shoes, I would rather know than suspect. If it comes out in conversation, at least you can tell them what you think. It sounds like your stepmother, at least, may not be aware of how personal this is. (It sounds like she describes her own decisions in a very personal way but that is never a guarantee of understanding how personal things are to other people-- more the reverse.)

Your decision about tonight is very tricky because your father and your stepmother are very different and you would probably handle each of them differently, individually. If it were me, I'd probably ask to cancel or postpone the dinner to give me time to talk to each of them. But this may just be me; I absolutely hate going out for a meal that's going to be a conversational/relationship minefield. Something about being trapped in the restaurant with all those people. I'd rather go for a walk instead.
posted by BibiRose at 7:35 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd say, get yourself out of the immediate situation first. You feel ill. Let them know in the next couple of hours that you think you've caught that bug going around the office and you think it's best you not do dinner tonight.

If you want to talk to them afterwards, perhaps individually, when it's *not* attached to a dinner that's supposed to be "a nice time for everyone," then do that. But if you're not ready or there's not a good time to do it privately before being in public with them, don't feel like you *have* to do it at the dinner in public, or over the phone from work.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:38 AM on November 18, 2016 [11 favorites]

I think you can be pretty sure they voted for Trump. Most of the "undecided" voters who were undecided because Hillary is a liar or they just can't stand her or whatever seemed to pretty much always mean that they were voting for Trump but just wouldn't admit it.

I understand why you'd have a problem with how they voted in this election. This election was personal, and was made more personal than any I've ever seen due to the way Trump ran his campaign and the behavior of a lot of his supporters. So if you're clear on how their voting makes you feel, asking them how they voted becomes more a matter of doing it when you're ready to hear it. Kind of like a break up. You might see it coming, but sometimes you need to wait until you're prepared to do it. Because you made the band-aid comment I think that might be now.
posted by Polychrome at 7:39 AM on November 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

I vote to talk to them. My partner just had this conversation with her Trump supporting mother. It was painful for her - seemed kind of awful for both of them actually - but she stuck it out and had a long conversation where she focused on being straightforward about her fears of what will happen to her own rights (talked about Pence wanting to electrocute queers into straightness for example) and about her fears for the country at large (told her her mom about the sharp increase in hate crimes that's already happening).

Her mom said stuff like, "that's not your problem" and "it doesn't matter who's president" but my partner stuck with it through the tears and stress of the conversation.

As a result of this, her mom actually asked some of her own family and friends about their feelings about Trump, and learned that these folks are some of them also scared of what his administration will do to them. I don't think this will be a magical transformation or anything - her mom has been conservative for decades so that's not going to just flip overnight - but it actually made a real difference in her thinking.

So I think it will help you feel that you are doing something about this horror show, and potentially actually help make a small shift in the world - if you do choose to talk to them about this directly. Also, it will allow you to be your true, whole self with them. Finally, by saying something, you will be actively resisting the tide of what is coming at us right now - you'll be part of resisting this. So I vote ask.
posted by latkes at 7:42 AM on November 18, 2016 [13 favorites]

You may already know this because of my obsessive facebooking lately, but I, too, HAD to know. I kind of already knew they voted for Trump, but I needed to know-know, you know?

In my case, I had been explaining all along to my parents my (lol, "my" EVERYONE'S) problems with Trump and to have confirmation that they knew how important it was to me and continued to vote for him anyway just really confirmed a lot of things I've known about them forever. It still hurt, though.

I had planned not to go home for Christmas this year like usual because I am always miserable, just now this time I would have more specific reasons for being miserable, but my grandma's old and having health problems, and I realized I kind of have to go back.

But now when I do, I'll be armed with a mountain of REASONS why I am NOT OK instead of my usual curling up on the floor with the dogs and ignoring everyone while they make fun of me for being liberal. Nope, this time I have concrete reasons.

I needed to know. The information didn't make my life better in any way, but it did help me clarify and put words to a lot of the problems I have with my family independent of this election and Trump, which I find useful. I couldn't stomach the idea of keeping shut up about it. Not any more.
posted by phunniemee at 7:42 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: One other thing: Sometimes it's OK to "ruin dinner" for everyone. You don't have to take care of them about this. And to whatever degree you're comfortable talking this out in front of your niece, it would actually be really valuable to her (depending on her age?) to see that this is not just a normal situation.
posted by latkes at 7:45 AM on November 18, 2016 [36 favorites]

Response by poster: She's 12, so she can understand the situation. It took her awhile to come around (she was sad at losing her "aunt") but now she calls me Uncle Kevin. *heart eyes emoji*

Good point about emotional labor.
posted by AFABulous at 7:49 AM on November 18, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Could you go ahead and just be blunt: "I'm very worried about my future right now. I cannot and will not fake it to make you more comfortable when my future just got a lot scarier, and I do not want to have my very real concerns dismissed. It may be best to postpone dinner."

I generally feel easonable people can disagree on politics and feel that voting is private. But Trump made it very personal, and your family hasn't been overly supportive in general. Being blunt about canceling dinner may break through their blinders that this is something serious for you. Or it may just be something else they don't handle well. Either way, you don't have to show up and be lectured to your face at your own birthday dinner unless you feel you need to make these comments in person (which is also fine, you don't owe them a smiling face, either from a distance or in person).
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:51 AM on November 18, 2016 [27 favorites]

"Listen, I want to talk to you guys about something. I know that politics isn't something we normally discuss much in our family, and I don't want to make this conversation any more difficult than it has to be, but I need you to know that ever since the results of the election came in, I've been really sad and scared about the state of the country. Given everything that Trump's supporters have said about gay people and trans people, and how likely it is that we're going to lose a lot of rights in the next couple of years, I just need to ask you... did you vote for him?

...[awkward mumbling we still love you blah blah blah]

"Okay, I mean, I love you too, and I hope that a lot of the fear I'm feeling right now will end up being overblown, but I want you guys to promise me that if he does end up doing some of the things he's promised, like [[pick something that's important to you]] you'll stand up to him. As moderate Republicans, your voices are going to be really, really important in the next few years, and we need you to speak out against the more hateful elements in the base. Will you do that for me? Promise?"

I mean, obviously, the level of emotional labor required to have this conversation is so far beyond what should be required that if you just wanted to shout FUCK TRUMP and then turn over the table and leave in a huff, I wouldn't blame you, but there's a script for you to use if you're feeling like a candidate for sainthood.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:52 AM on November 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

One of the things I've had my eyes opened about during this election is that a lot of people are less engaged in the political process than they are in football or the office potluck. They don't think of their vote as meaningful, or are essentially single-issue voters who have never even thought that hard about that single issue - just that there's abortion or not-abortion and abortion seems bad so there you go.

Especially white people. Especially especially white Boomers.

So there's a really good chance they have no idea they spat in your face. Unless you know them to be especially politically active and astute, you can't assume they did a single iota of active research or did more than watch the evening news and consume pop culture. They may have just voted in a popularity contest with no idea they just changed the landscape of their own retirement, must less the lives of anyone who isn't them. They may very well have voted for him assuming, as he said, that LGBT people love him, you gotta believe it. (Did Hillary ever say that? No, she didn't, because she's not a talking turd emoji. She blah-blahed on about rights, and cis straight old white people only hear "rights" in the context of theirs being taken away. This is how he won.)

That doesn't mean you can't cut them off for it, and it doesn't mean you have to fake it through one dinner if you don't want to, but I think you'd be better off finding out what you're actually cutting them off for if you're going to do it. Cut them off for being stupid if that's what they are, or cut them off for being evil if that's what it actually is. I don't think a restaurant is the place to make that determination, and if you don't have it in you to fake your way through it without being yelled at I think you should get the flu right now and bail so you can do it in a context where you have more control and more privacy.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:56 AM on November 18, 2016 [20 favorites]

Another thing we are all conflating here is that America has a racism problem. All other countries in the Western world outlawed slavery, while we fought a civil war over it. There's a white (male) dominance culture here that is so totally ingrained we're not even allowed to name it.

If we could talk about these issues maturely, our political system would not be so easily co-opted when these issue are used against us. Don't name the problem "Trump."

I told you that you should judge them by how they treat you. They don't really treat you well. Of course they voted for trump. Don't bring that up, because then they'll hide behind it.

The problem is what racists and bigots think about their fellow human beings, and how they don't consider us worthy of decency or as equal to them.
posted by jbenben at 7:56 AM on November 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

You said yourself your dad doesn't think your are good enough. Deal with that if you must confront them on anything.
posted by jbenben at 7:58 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's horrible that if you were to express your true feelings *at your own birthday dinner*, you would be rebuked for "ruining a nice time". It's your party and you can cry if you want to!

Don't let them have the attitude of "I can do hurtful things and if you actually show that you're being hurt, then you're the one in the wrong." You're supposed to comfort them so they don't feel guilty over causing you massive pain? Screw that.

With regard to the "no one needs to know each other's political decisions", they used to say that about being gay. "People don't need to know you're gay, just hide it, don't ask don't tell". But hiding something so core to our identity causes a lot of pain. There's a reason why coming out is very liberating.

I think you should bring it up. But you don't need to be accusing, or to make any decisions tonight on whether you cut them off. You can focus on explaining how this affects you. e.g. don't say "you guys are terrible! don't talk to me again!" You can instead talk about how much despair you feel, specific worries you have, how it has affected your friends. If you're at the state where baristas notice your unhappiness, you probably have a lot of deeply felt emotions to share. Let them see the consequences of their choice.
posted by cheesecake at 8:04 AM on November 18, 2016 [26 favorites]

This and this +1000.

Please do not subject yourself to their disregard and casual cruelty. This election is a tragedy for our country precisely because of the very real dangers it poses to people exactly like you.

Under these circumstances, your obligation is to your self-preservation and self-care. Assume they voted for Trump -- there is absolutely nothing that you've written that suggests they would have done otherwise* -- and proceed accordingly with your own personal well-being and emotional health as your only priorities.

*In fact, I suspect if they had voted for Clinton, they would have told you -- precisely because voting for Clinton over Trump would have indicated, on some level, a conscious vote on behalf of your rights.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 8:34 AM on November 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

It sounds like they've shown they're on your side. But they may have voted for Trump.

Knowing they voted for him will not change that they're on your side, but it may very well change how you feel about them.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:38 AM on November 18, 2016

My mother almost certainly voted for Trump (lifelong Republican, increasingly conservative in recent years, adamantly refused to talk politics with my liberal siblings and I in the run-up to the election). While I'm a white bisexual woman with a male partner, my partner is non-white and a member of specific groups that Trump hopes to persecute.

It has been unbelievably painful over the last week to realize that, as we plan a wedding we don't want and can barely afford because it would break her heart not to take a traditional role in her Only Daughter's Wedding, she couldn't even fucking push a button for someone who doesn't explicitly want her son-in-law dead. Including quite serious talk about canceling the wedding and cutting her permanently out of our lives.

Don't go down this road if you don't have to. If you can let yourself believe that your parents voted for Clinton, keep doing that. Also, know that it's OK to have whatever feelings you have about them, regardless of what you know for sure. You don't owe any obligation to them.
posted by Sara C. at 8:44 AM on November 18, 2016 [11 favorites]

Everything you're saying here sounds like every friend I have ever had who is on the precipice of having to cut contact with family. This is a really hard situation, but what you're saying sounds like - your dad is not supportive. He won't use your name or pronouns. Your stepmom is a little better, but they cut contact with you for a time when they should have been congratulating you on taking such a huge step to live your life as yourself.

The birthday dinner is stressing you out, and not knowing how they voted is stressing you out. How they voted is important, and while technically someone's vote is private, let's be serious: most of us know how the people close to us are voting, and this vote is very personal for those of us for whom a Trump administration will be personally dangerous. For everyone who is saying that they wish they hadn't known or that it's not your business, I disagree. I'm in the ripping the band-aid off school of thought (I'm a lesbian and have been out since I was 15), and if someone doesn't love you enough to consider your personal safety when they vote, and to think that you should just be okay with that is totally unreasonable.

Cancel your birthday. You are too stressed out to pretend that you're not, and they're going to blame you and make out like this is just your personal problem. Ask them who they voted for, and act accordingly. I know this is hard, but it's not going to get easier if you wait. If they can't understand why this matters, if they can't understand your fear, then you may want to at least take some space from them if not cut contact permanently. None of us get to choose our parents, but we do get to choose who we spend our time with, and to me it sounds like you have been aware for a long time that this was coming.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:46 AM on November 18, 2016 [9 favorites]

Maybe a question worth asking yourself, OP, is would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?

Yeah, in a perfect world, one's parents would be supportive of him/her at all times. And in keeping with this idea, a parent's behavior would always show that unconditional love.

If your parents did in fact vote for Trump, it doesn't mean that they are against you. It means they made their own voting decision. Just like you made your own voting decision too.

Are you trying to find a way to prove that they don't love you? Like snickerdoodle mentioned, they may not be the parents you need them to be, which is unfortunate. The best antidote for situations like this that I have found is to look at who is on my side today. Things feel a lot different when my perspective shifts even a little. Then the opinions of others don't matter so much anymore.
posted by strelitzia at 9:03 AM on November 18, 2016

OK, if I don't ask, how do I act like everything is okay tonight (and beyond)? I've spent a week in despair and it's probably obvious on my face. Even baristas ask me if I'm okay. I can't pretend I am fine and I don't want to lie about why I'm upset.

I think you should assume that they voted for Trump, and go to the dinner anyways. If they ask why you're upset, tell them the truth: The coming Trump administration will be very hard for you and yours.

Think about it this way: what if Hillary had won? Would you still be upset-to-the-point-of-cutting-ties that they voted for Trump? Or just disappointed but willing to go along to get along?

As others have said above, how they treat you is much much more important than two votes in a sea of millions. I hope that the actual effects of the Trump administration don't prove out our fears, but if it is as bad as we worry about maybe your continued relationship with them will help them to realize the hurt caused by the policies that their votes supported.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:18 AM on November 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

If your parents did in fact vote for Trump, it doesn't mean that they are against you. It means they made their own voting decision. Just like you made your own voting decision too.

Are we seriously going to pretend that voting for a man who openly professes a desire to discriminate against a person is not an act against a person? I feel like some people here are analyzing this particular election as if the incumbent was someone with conservative attitudes towards capital gains taxation and retirement accounts. (Reminding me of that line in The Third Man, about a black marketeer who sold watered-down penicillin to hospitals: "You talk about him as if he had occasional bad manners!") Voting for Trump was a direct endorsement of the idea that trans people are not full human beings entitled to equal rights and protection from our government. That is an act against trans people. If some trans people are able and willing to overlook or overcome that in dealing with Trump voters close to them, that's great for them, but this suggestion that under these particular circumstances holding someone responsible for who they voted for would be somehow un-American is malarkey.

OP, I've never been in your shoes, but I'd cancel the dinner, and I'd explicitly tell them you are too anxious and sad about the future--with concrete examples--to enjoy an evening out. It sounds like they wouldn't even be supportive of your sadness while you're together, so what would you be gaining from the dinner, really?
posted by praemunire at 9:19 AM on November 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

If your parents did in fact vote for Trump, it doesn't mean that they are against you. It means they made their own voting decision. Just like you made your own voting decision too.


My parents voting for Trump means they made their own voting decision full in the knowledge that my life, the lives of my friends, the lives of my neighbors and coworkers, would feel real, negative impacts from his election. It means they put their support behind a guy who said racist things, mocked disabled people, advocated war crimes, mocked veterans, bragged about sexual assault, and generally sowed a campaign of violence and fear and hate. I don't care that they have different political opinions, I care that they looked at Trump and said, "yup, that's my guy!"

Respect their difference of opinion is not helpful advice to people who are experiencing real fear and hurt and danger.
posted by phunniemee at 9:21 AM on November 18, 2016 [37 favorites]

I'd call out sick and postpone dinner. Half-jokingly suggest celebrating your half-birthday in six months. By then, you might be feeling less acute shock and pain, and dread of the unknown, than you are today. And your stepmom will have had more time to (maybe) influence your dad, so there might be a greater chance of his respecting your actual name and who you are. Just from the point of your enjoyment of the birthday dinner, I think your chances are better if you do it six months out.

That said, yeah, I think it will come out whether you ask or not. I would ask, because I would want to choose the time and setting to have that conversation. I wouldn't want to live in dread of the surprise moment when they show themselves. There is also opportunity for discussion and increased awareness. It is emotional labor, and I would also build in recovery time for yourself afterward. Because if they fundamentally misunderstand your life experience and how you, their loved one, are affected by their votes, such a talk might really open their eyes and motivate them to do better in the future.
posted by witchen at 9:30 AM on November 18, 2016

You're sick tonight, cancel the dinner. At this level of upset you're at it's not going to go well.

I think we can be pretty damn sure sure they voted for Trump at this point from what you've said. What are your plans to cut them off? What is your plan when they say yes? Do you know what you will do if/when you directly ask and they say yes? I'd try to come up with a pre-planned way of handling it before I chose to take on that fight with them, especially since you know it's not going to go well.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:41 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Couple comments removed, this needs to not turn into an argument regardless of the charged context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:22 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's called a "secret ballot" for a reason. No one should ever ask someone else who they voted for.
posted by LauraJ at 2:06 PM on November 18, 2016

You don't need to ask ... because they almost certainly voted for Trump. When someone wins an election so narrowly, there are a dozen reasons for the victory in the sense that any one of them's absence would have changed the result (all the "this" -- "no, that" stuff is statically silly) but by far the biggest reason was that the large majority of habitual Republican votes, and almost all of those from people demographically resembling your folks, looked at Trump and his Supreme Court list and said, "good enough for me."
posted by MattD at 3:01 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

(And remember that this wasn't just the case for nasty white people ... Asian, Hispanic and Black Republicans were pretty darn steady too.)
posted by MattD at 3:03 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Imagine that the tables are turned. You are preparing to vote. Candidate A has made many remarks indicating that they're going to get rid of social security and Medicare. Your parents talk a lot about how they're depending on those items, and that they'd be plunged into worry and despair if they were taken away.

But then it turns out Candidate B is someone you've disliked for many years. Candidate B is rumored to have done things that you find unethical.

How would you make this decision?

If I were in this position, I'd do a ton of research on Candidates A and B. I'd study everything I could. I'd find primary sources of information. I would take my parents' concern seriously and weigh it carefully in my decision.

I think that if your parents did that, then you can probably reason with them. They would have well-thought-out answers. You might be able to forgive them, because they were between a rock and a hard place.

But if they were dismissive of how you feel (which it sounds like they are), then I would not forgive them.
posted by cheesecake at 10:15 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you don't ask them, that doesn't mean you need to put on a happy face. It's okay to be upset, and it's okay to say why. The election results have been really disappointing and personal to you.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:10 AM on November 19, 2016

Response by poster: Here's how it went. I was actually in a decent headspace when I got there (thanks, Big Pharma!) and I arrived about the same time as my parents. We chatted while we waited for my sister & her family. Stepmom asked how I'd been and I said "I haven't slept well since the election because I am so devastated." Her response: "Oh. Well, did you at least have a good time at [resort] last weekend?" I know some of you would say I should have walked out right then, but I didn't, because I wanted to see where this was going to go. Dad made small talk about work, and then my sister etc arrived.

From there it was mostly a normal restaurant experience. I sat at the far end from my dad (it was a hibachi place) and next to my sister. Ordered food, drinks. etc. I mentioned to my sister about the despair I felt and my fear for myself and my friends, and her response was "well, let's see what happens in January." I told her my (gay, trans) friend had been punched in the face last week and ... "mm-hmm, wow, is there soy sauce over there?" I mentioned that the only reason I keep this scruffy scraggly beard is for my own protection, so I pass unambiguously as male. Nothing. She showed me videos of her cat.

Fuck it. I decided to take the free meal and gifts and smile and silently wish their ice cream would turn into bees.

So. I don't need to ask the question directly. There's no way anyone who voted for Hillary, or even Johnson, would respond like that. I mean... your kid says they are devastated and despairing and can't sleep and you have NO REACTION... I just.

I can't leave it like this without saying my piece so there will be a forthcoming email telling them how I feel. We have no Thanksgiving plans, only another family birthday (brother in law in three weeks) and then Christmas. BIL won't care at all, skipping Christmas will be a nuclear bomb to my stepmom, but I can't allow myself to be treated this way. Right? I am not overreacting?

[Sorry to the mods if I am threadsitting or turning this into chatfilter. If you can leave this, I promise to shut up.]
posted by AFABulous at 7:13 AM on November 19, 2016 [25 favorites]

Not overreacting. Families should have empathy and it's fucked up that yours didn't show any.
posted by clavicle at 8:25 AM on November 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

There's no reason to put yourself through that at Christmas, no.

It doesn't really sound like anyone in your family has any emotional intelligence (and your father sees to it that nobody's allowed to, or it'll "ruin" everything by making him have a feeling), and you can't fix that for them. All you can do is set your boundaries and defend them.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:55 AM on November 19, 2016 [11 favorites]

You are not overreacting. Sever.
posted by subbes at 8:56 AM on November 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

I can't allow myself to be treated this way. Right? I am not overreacting?

I'm so sorry this happened. You are 100% right -- you do not have to allow yourself to be treated this way any more, or ever again. You are not overreacting.

My suggestion would be to start thinking now about ways to spend Christmas that will feel nurturing and affirming for you, while also leaving space for you to grieve. This might involve a combination of plans with friends and alone-time, spending some time in nature balanced with a day under a cozy blanket watching your favorite movies or reading an amazing new book, etc.

Hugs to you.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 11:21 AM on November 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Can you arrange your Thanksgiving and Christmas so that not only are you just not there with those people, but actually instead spend it with loving friends?
posted by blueberry at 11:32 AM on November 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

You are 100% allowed to "nuclear bomb" Christmas. Fuck Christmas.

Do something awesome that makes you happy, instead.
posted by Sara C. at 11:41 AM on November 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Don't go to Christmas. Especially avoid your sister and dad until they've given you real reasons not to.

"Oh. Well, did you at least have a good time at [resort] last weekend?" - you know best what this was because you were there, but this might have been a hamhanded way of trying to encourage you to focus on positive things, in recognition of the hard time you've generally been having and that she's maybe seeing. Some people really believe that things will be better if you just focus hard enough on positive things. It's not the cleverest, but I think it's often well-meaning. Not excusing it. But to me, it sounds like she does care about your wellbeing in the way she can. It sounds like she's been trying to catch up to you, trying to grow so she can be supportive... She just doesn't know better (about this and some other things).

If her not-knowing-better is hurtful to you, now, or in general - definitely, stay away. And for sure, tell her why.

But... maybe, at some point this season, you're going to want or need to feel cared for by someone close. Even if they don't know how to do it perfectly. I'm thinking, maybe leave that door a bit open (wide enough for e.g. a phone call, or something). Maybe write letters to each of them, separately.

But yeah, don't actually go to the next family event. Plan something with others, now. I think there's a thread on MetaTalk where people who are also not seeing families this year or have a chair at their table are arranging alternate dinners. (Please don't spend that time alone.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:42 AM on November 19, 2016

No, like-minded people do not instantly change the subject when you're bringing up things that are devastating to you.

"Relatives" and "family" are not the same thing. These people are not your family.
posted by sageleaf at 11:47 AM on November 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

I can be pretty clueless sometimes so I am totally the type to try to redirect to happier/more optimistic things if someone I care about tells me that something I cannot control is bothering them. "I just need to talk" isn't a thing I do, and so I have trouble recognizing that need in others.

That being said.... Ughhhh. I think that you should send the email that you are planning and make better plans for Thanksgiving and Xmas (if you lived closer you'd absolutely be welcome at Chez Motion, for what it's worth).

Let your family's response to the email be your guide going forward. I hope they smarten up, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:10 PM on November 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I thought of you and this question when I saw Lynn Breedlove's post on fb (it's public) earlier today:

you will make unpopular choices. your family will abandon you. you will, desperate, stab in the dark. miss your mark.

you will be tempted to give them what they want, then see you have no choice.

you will be accused of fucking over. you will be seen as what youre not.

what matters is the heart not the brain not the 5 thousand, not the 8 billion other hearts.

what matters is to not drift apart or hide under beds where monsters lurk. stand up on it and jump in unicorn slippers, swinging pink and blue trans flag bats. attend friends who switch off destructo mode. mourn those who dont approve. stick with who loves you, because of, not in spite of, what you choose.

tell tales of whoa. document love proclamations in chalk on broken benches before rains wash them away. say THIS IS HARD and I AM HERE. kung fu, wing chung, boxing, pit bull, gun range love. impersonate willie mays dropping his bat behind him as he looks out at the future he's creating. say bye bye baby.

offer your bed, your quiet place as recuperation for a trans friend, who says I DONT NEED THIS PART ANYMORE but i do need love understanding silence, not just adding sound waves to an already swimmy situation.

bring back the 3-row stud belt. reclaim gospel, klezmer, lakota prayer songs, what locked you out. one day you’ll be asked to do something harder than you have ever done, and you can fall into the bottom of a glass, smoke yourself into oblivion, point fingers at who fucked it up royally, betrayed us all.

or you can stand for what, in the last moment, you will not regret.
posted by rtha at 1:26 PM on November 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

You're not overreacting at all. I'm sorry this is where things are, but I hope having it over with is a relief. Give yourself the gift of not dealing with them at christmas and of building the life you want to have, with people who are supportive of you.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:58 PM on November 20, 2016

I don't know if you've seen this comment by Mrs. Pterodatyl on MetaTalk. It is a letter she kindly shared for repurposing, which might help you formulate your own.

I'm really sorry you are going through this; a lot of people have found themselves suddenly (or not so suddenly) emotionally homeless due to recent developments, and I know it hits some worse than others.
posted by miorita at 4:25 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

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