As an openly gay Cambodian American living in a rural, predominantly white state, I have watched in dismay as the country that my parents and grandparents saw as the land of opportunity, justice and liberty for all descended into the darkness of demagoguery and turned its back on human rights. For Black, Brown, Indigenous and LGBTQ Americans, President Trump’s four years can be described as a reign of trauma –some would say a reign of terror, given recent events in our nation’s capital.

President-elect Joe Biden, the incoming administration and the new Democratically-led Senate and House are faced with the daunting task of repairing the damage dealt to our democratic institutions and healing a divided nation.

When it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, there is a litany of both overt and underhanded ways in which the Trump administration has assailed and rolled back hard-won progress. It started with erasing mention of LGBTQ+ issues and content from government websites. From there, the Trump administration grew more emboldened and belligerent, arguing in several cases that LGBTQ+ people are not protected by civil rights laws, banning transgender soldiers from serving in the U.S. military and supporting arguments that health care providers and adoption agencies can deny services to LGBTQ+ people by claiming religious exemption.

The Trump administration has and continues to divide the country along racial and ethnic lines by refusing to condemn white supremacy, doubling down on racist and xenophobic rhetoric and imposing inhumane immigration policies. From the very get-go, Trump’s administration issued a series of bans on immigration from Muslim countries – discriminatory bans that inflamed existing attitudes and stereotypes against people of Muslim faith – all while ignoring the rise of far-right religious extremism here in the United States. In the past year, with Black Lives Matter protests happening in cities all over the country, the president willfully engaged in demonizing the legitimate claims and demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and the family members of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Rubbing salt in that wound, the president banned diversity and anti-racism trainings for the federal workforce, as well as contractors and organizations receiving federal funding.

Wounds inflicted by the Trump administration are especially painful and traumatic for LGBTQ+ and Black, Brown and Indigenous people. Our collective hearts have raced and our breaths held as our deepest worries have been realized. Despite President Trump casting himself as an ally of LGBTQ+ Americans, Black Americans and minorities, his actions have proved otherwise.

As President-elect Biden so rightly quoted during his victory speech, there is “a time to heal … this is a time to heal in America.”

What I hope my fellow Americans understand is that the healing process is not without pain, especially with wounds that go deeper than our political differences and across generations.

Good feelings alone will not bring us to the precipice of great change. Moments of great change and progress require immense courage and the willingness to face hard truths and have uncomfortable conversations. This is made more difficult by the prevalence of misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories that have fueled and incited violence throughout the country and on Capitol Hill.

The United States of America still has to reckon with the darkest eras of its past, to reconcile with the people it has conquered, killed, enslaved and marginalized and to inclusively and equitably reconstruct what America can and ought to be.

The task before the incoming administration, before We the People, is to heal our body politic, our democratic institutions and our trust in them and each other.

The first step to healing is honesty and a reckoning with hard truths. Now is the time for that first step. Now is the time to heal. Now is the time to work toward becoming a land of opportunity, justice and liberty for all.

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