In case you haven’t noticed, we have an election this Tuesday. (And if you haven’t noticed – how are you getting this newspaper delivered to your house on Pluto?) If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that political polarization in this country is at near-peak levels. I’ll say up front, I don’t have any solutions, except maybe to have Congress conduct their meetings at a dog park, instead of in the Capitol, because everyone likes dogs, right? (Members of Congress who are cat people can meet at a local library instead.) But what I can do is explain, from my experience, how I came to fall on one side of the polarization, and why “the other side” makes me a little wary.

I was born in 1992. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in America to legalize same-sex marriage, the same year I turned 12 and developed my first crush on a girl.

Our experiences in our teenage years often shape who we are. For better and for worse, we explore our identities and begin tiptoeing into the adult world. And I grew up as a girl, who liked other girls, and who maybe wanted to get married to one someday in the future, watching people fight over whether or not I should be allowed to do that.

Maybe you don’t remember, or maybe you weren’t paying attention, but the fight got pretty nasty at times. Same-sex marriage was going to lead to legalized bestiality, or a downfall of our societal morals, or heterosexual marriages would become meaningless. That none of that had happened in any of the states that allowed couples to file their taxes jointly, regardless of gender, seemed to matter. But the worst were the people who got to shrug and say, “Eh, I just don’t like it. It just sort of makes me uncomfortable.” And then they got to vote against it.

It broke something inside of me, deep down, when Maine voted against gay marriage in 2009. I will never forget the sense of utter betrayal – that this state, which I loved then and love still, told me that I couldn’t get married if I fell in love and wanted to have a life with another woman. They got to vote on a decision that should only ever be made between two people.

The 2009 same-sex marriage vote was the first real heartbreak of my life, the first time I felt the ground beneath me shift and realized the world was not what I had thought it was. I was 16.

And it was, as a general rule, Democrats who were for gay marriage, and Republicans who were against it. Liberals in favor, conservatives disproving. Blue good, red bad.

There were exceptions to that rule, of course, especially in Maine, which has always been a pretty independent-minded sort of state. Some Republicans were for it, some Democrats were against it, everyone had their reasons. But overall, one political party was pro-gay marriage and one political party was anti-gay marriage. So, like many people, I became suspicious of people who described themselves as conservative, and who voted for political representatives who were against gay marriage.

Now there are people who might say, “Don’t be so sensitive, don’t take it so personally.” There are plenty of Team Red voters who are perfectly fine with gay marriage and gay people – they just want lower taxes and decreased regulation. And that’s not a bad point to make, but how can I not take it personally when people vote for representatives, to represent them, who think there is something “less than” about the way that I love?

I’ve actually voted for a couple of Republicans in the past, particularly in local elections, and I did vote for Susan Collins in 2014. But overall, I tend to be wary. The sting of 2009 still haunts me. And more importantly, there are still teenagers all over America being rejected by their parents and kicked out of their homes because they’re queer like me. It’s one thing to have the voting masses or the state government turn against you; it’s another horror altogether when it’s your own family.

I can’t speak for anyone else. This is only my story, and my way of thinking. But I write this column because people seem to find that I have something interesting – or at least entertaining – to say. So, this is my explanation for why I “don’t trust” the “other side.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. I hope everyone reading this votes, and I hope that you vote for people who represent you well. And keep in mind, there could very well be a 16-year-old, somewhere in Maine, whose future might hinge on the choices you make.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

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