Rebel Well: Why We Made This Guide

This piece is part of Rebel Well: a Starter Survival Guide to a Trumped America for Teens and Emerging Adults.

What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well... ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Almost 20 years ago, young people found me and asked for direct and truthful help, advice and information about sex, intimate relationships and other complex parts of life. So, I started Scarleteen to do just that. Being real with you about the hard stuff is a responsibility I’ve taken seriously ever since. I always aim to honor the trust young people have placed in me and do the job of being helpful and honest with you as well and as much as I can.

Sometimes, the truth is a bummer, so it stinks to be real with people because you know they’re going to feel disappointed. Sometimes, the truth is wonderful: you know it’s going to be great news to the person you’re telling it to, so it’s easy and feels really good to tell.

Then there are times like these, where it’s as hard as it gets. Times where what we are dealing with and facing is awful. Times when the truth literally hurts to tell. The last thing I want to do is tell anyone awful, scary things are happening, and will probably get a lot worse before they get better; that awful scary things not yet happening are probably on the way. I’ve woken up every day I’ve worked on this and raced to read the news in the hope that we don’t actually need to do this at all. Sadly, every day when I’ve done that, it’s only been made more clear that we do.

But again, I take my responsibilities to you seriously. I take your lives seriously, and have a highly vested interest in doing what I can to value your lives and help you live them as safely and wholly as possible.

So, here is the awful truth: Our rights, our safety and our civil liberties are currently and broadly at risk to a degree they’ve never been in my lifetime, even though some of them, especially for some of us, have already been tenuous or partial at best. Before the election, the Trump campaign intentionally stoked and escalated racism, sexism, xenophobia, ableism and a host of other ills; further normalized and enabled discrimination, abuse, assault and other violence as part of its strategy to win. That strategy, tragically, worked.

Even though the United States is technically a democracy, what Donald Trump and Mike Pence have promised and already begun doing to set up their administration looks, and will likely function, more like an autocracy or plutocracy. Donald Trump has no political experience, and a well-documented record of engaging in abuse, including sexual abuse, fraud, harassment and intimidation throughout his life. His life history seems solely defined by a quest for power and personal gain on the backs of others. There have been, in years past, as there are right now, endless instances where he has threatened or lashed out at anyone he feels is in the way of what he wants for himself. He keeps showing us we can expect all that to continue; his actions and words so far suggest he intends to abuse the power of the presidency the same ways he’s abused power before he was elected. Mike Pence’s record as a politician when it comes to the rights and safeties of many people is abysmal, particularly when it comes to women, sexual health and LGBQT people: we have every reason to believe it will remain so. The Republican Party has yet to give any indication it will refuse or resist the dangerous policies or harmful social attitudes Trump and his campaign have promised, suggested or enabled.

This is, unfortunately, not a drill. This is real, big bad. Under a Trump administration many of us are going to hurt, get hurt or struggle, or find our existing struggles are made even more difficult. Many of us will need to protect ourselves; many others will need what help, protection and solidarity we can offer them.

Our aim with this guide is to provide information to help you protect yourself and others, and to cope with the bad stuff as best anyone can, so that you feel less scared in facing it and, hopefully, come out of it okay. But the fact that anyone needs this is all by itself really scary, and reading it may make you feel scared.

Please know we aren’t trying to scare you. We’re being realistic based on the facts at our disposal and trying to do what we can to help everyone reduce risks of harm and take care of themselves and each other. We have decades of shared experience across continents, genders, sexualities, races, and lives. Some of us grew up surrounded by people with numbers on their arms, in or near authoritarian regimes, in the aftermath of the Jim Crow South, in abusive households. Many of us already know what it’s like to fight for our lives, and that it’s important to stay calm in the face of danger, but equally important to look it in the face.

A pragmatic view might seem intimidating, or, to some of you,  it might seem like overkill, but others are nodding along, already sadly aware of the dangers and very familiar with some of the things we’re suggesting here. Some of you may find this is the first time you feel very unsafe in your world. Some of you have already known that feeling for as long as you can remember.

People already vulnerable in our country are now more so, and will likely become more vulnerable. That includes: children, women and the elderly; trans people and queer people; black and brown people; Muslim, Jewish, Arabic, Asian, Latinx, Native and other Indigenous people; young or single parents; disabled and chronically ill people; abuse or assault survivors or those still in abuse; those who are homeless, transient, or in the foster system; pregnant people, poor people, sex workers, any people engaging in any kind of political resistance and more. As some of you know or may even have personally experienced, even just in the week after election day, vulnerable people have already been hurt. Sources like the FBI, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have all reported unprecedented increases in hate crimes, threats and intimidation.

If you’re not someone in that list and reading this makes you uneasy, think about why. Talk to people who are in those groups. Let them know ways you are willing and able to help them if they want or need your help. Be the change. Don’t look the other way: remember that liberation for some is justice for none.

I wish I could just tell you it’s not that big of a deal, it’s all going to be okay, and the people saying this is really bad and likely to get worse are being paranoid. But, when I look at all the long-gathered facts at hand, history, and our current realities, I can’t truthfully do that. This is really bad, it is likely to get worse and it is a very big deal. Some people might do alright throughout, while others won’t, including some who might not get through it at all. My hope is this guide helps you and others to be more okay than you might without it.

Know that there is little in this guide that isn’t a good idea to be doing, no matter what. If more people were already doing many of these things, we may not have wound up in this spot in the first place, or at least would have been better equipped to more strongly reject it and resist it from the front. All of the things here are good ideas in or out of crisis, which is why we suggest most of them all the time in our work at Scarleteen already.In the wonderful event we’re wrong about what may be coming, I can assure you none of these things will be a waste of your time. Most of the things listed here make it more likely, whatever the circumstance, that we and others will be okay. Some of them are the only way we can keep what’s awful now from getting worse and start changing things for the better, not just now, but so we never wind up dealing with something like this again.

Trump and his administration are very powerful and, for many of us, very dangerous. But just as powerful — if not more so — and just as dangerous, is our own populace, and what we do, or don’t do, for ourselves and for each other. Our resistance, which includes caring for ourselves and others, can get us through this but also has the capacity to turn this awful mess around and create the kind of world all of us can coexist in safely and fully, no matter our government.

Heather Corinna, November 19th, 2016

all of rebel well: front page • why we made this guide • for everyone • healthcare • relationships & sex • conflict resolution • for those suffering harassment online, at school or at work • for those in abusive/controlling relationships, or who are homeless, transient or in the foster system • for those who are trans or LGBQ • for those who are of color • for those who experience religious intolerance or who are undocumented citizens • for those who are disabled • for those interacting with the justice system • for those engaging in active protest • when everything seems terrible or nowhere feels safe • how to help each other & improve this godawful mess • resources and helplines