US & Canada

Trump election Pantsuit Nation: Clinton fans find comfort on Facebook

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton acknowledges the crowd as she arrives on stage during the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, 28 July 2016 in Philadelphia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hillary's iconic trouser suit inspired the name of an accidental safe haven for heartbroken supporters

Inside a secret Facebook group, Hillary Clinton supporters devastated by her loss of the US election to Donald Trump have created a support group filled with deeply personal stories - and new political activism.

Pantsuit Nation, named after Mrs Clinton's trademark clothing trouser suits, is an invitation-only group. You cannot ask to join - you cannot even search for it.

After election night, there were around 1.3 million followers. But even with the race over, something unusual happened - the page kept growing.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption The group cannot be searched for - it's strictly invite-only

A week after the result, it had more than doubled in size to 3.6 million.

Members are surprisingly open, laying themselves bare. Some agreed to the BBC sharing their stories.

'You put hate into the world'

Some face isolation from friends and family, especially in Republican-leaning states. They write about being the only Trump critic they know, and feeling cut off or abused.

"A man whom I have dated for years has just told me he is embarrassed of me… and on the verge of ending our relationship," writes one woman, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Image copyright Simon Mendoza Moreno
Image caption Simon has lived in America all his life - but still feels at risk

Simon Mendoza Moreno, a 25-year-old undocumented Latino, is worried he might be forced out of the US, where he has lived since his Mexican parents brought him there at the age of six months.

Under President Barack Obama, he was able to work and obtain a medical degree through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme.

He started his first job as a primary care doctor on election night, serving other Mexican immigrants like his parents.

"It has always been my dream to serve my community as a bilingual and bicultural provider, but I fear that may soon be taken away if DACA ends," he said.

Another Mexican immigrant in the group was left "speechless" by hate mail telling him to "go back to Mexico".

Image copyright Facebook

"I'm hurt that I expressed my legal status to this person and instead of helping the world you put hate into it," the victim writes.

Such experiences aren't rare or isolated. The Southern Poverty Law Centre recorded more than 400 cases of harassment and intimidation in the five days following the election - against immigrants, non-white races, women and Muslims, among others.

In the safe space of Pantsuit Nation, posts about such experiences generate thousands of Facebook likes, and an outpouring of support and advice in the comments.

Image copyright Kimmy Lockhart
Image caption Kimmy Lockheart posted photos of what she called "a wall of hope" in New York's subway system

There are hundreds of stories. A teacher, reprimanded for a private Facebook post sent to school authorities in North Carolina. A white American Muslim woman, who met her neighbour of several years for the first time when the woman called in to let her know she was safe.

The group is littered with messages of support and, as time passes, stories about taking action.

'Fight with good deeds'

Many members have started using the group as a kind of anti-Trump classified advert, posting their location and seeking others to meet with.

Some have used it to organise protests and rallies after the result or to call for involvement in state politics now.

One 80-year-old said she was embracing "my last career - I am about to become a political activist."

Others - like Bethany Johnson from Springfield, Missouri - wear their colours proudly.

Alongside a photo of her home's front fence painted in the LGBT rainbow, she tells group members she was "terrified" when she painted it.

Image copyright Facebook

The support she received from other Pantsuit Nation members, however, "cemented the feeling I got from my local liberal community… we're gonna fight this wave of anger and hate not with more anger and hate, but with good deeds and standing up proudly."

"I'm going to kill everyone with kindness and build from here."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption"Pantsuit Nation has really offered a forum for millions or people to rally around any of us who are feeling scared or hopeless or feeling like we are not in the majority."

This evolution from a kind of support network to a new political activist circle was apparently unplanned.

But founder Libby Chamberlain argues that storytelling is activism: "The very act of sharing a story or listening to a story does makes a difference."

Whether it has any effect will be seen two years from now, in the next mid-term elections.

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