A Tragic Loss Within the Transgender Community

More senseless violence against the transgender community results in the murder of a beloved activist. Image Julie Berman (Pride Toronto / Facebook) A few months ago, when writing about violence against the transgender community, I had noted that, by October 2019, there had been 18 …

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The Politics of Personal Destruction and Congresswoman Katie Hill

Both sides want to end the politics of personal destruction, except of course, when it benefits their own side. “The politics of personal destruction” is a phrase originating from conservatives that characterize how Democrats personally demonize anyone that they disagree with. Of course, we know …

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Supreme Court “Politicization”

Is the Supreme Court really becoming too political, or is it just our overly partisan reactions to their decisions and a do-nothing Congress that are the true problems?

The Supreme Court is back in session with many critical cases at hand. Accusations of the court being too political continue unabated, and presidential hopefuls continue to threaten a supreme make-over to ensure that decisions are made in line with the preferred outcomes desired by those candidates. Of course, there are differing judicial philosophies among the judges, but I do not see the court itself as being any more or less political than it has been in the past.

What I do see is that our reactions to their decisions have become as ridiculously partisan as everything else that the other two branches touch, with their hyper-partisan extremes leading the way. When we want a change in direction or a change in how things are done, it is up to Congress to produce and pass new legislation in concert with the Executive Branch. It should not be up to the Supreme Court to have to do the other two branches’ bidding.

Take some of the cases coming before the court this term. There are cases involving LGBTQ rights, particularly concerning whether the Civil Rights Act’s prohibitions on sex discrimination in the workplace also covers the LGBTQ community.

In arguments before the court concerning these cases, justices seem split on a literal interpretation of the Civil Rights Act which could be all-inclusive, based on the limited language, vs. looking at the intent at the time of the legislation, which may not have factored in gender identity or sexual orientation. Personally, it is clear to me that sexual orientation and gender identity should already be covered by the legislation, as discrimination in these cases is based on generalizations that have nothing to do with the ability to perform the job. However, I do understand the validity of the opposing philosophy. These are legitimate differences in judicial opinion, not necessarily the court becoming too political.

Why has Congress not acted to legislatively clarify the Civil Rights Act to specifically cover the LGBTQ community? They passed the act in the first place. The argument will be that any bill cannot be passed in the current environment, but that is a cop-out. Their job is to legislate, not to use their inability to legislate as a means to raise money for reelection.

Politicians would rather posture than to even try and work together, which is the largest single threat to our democracy, in my opinion. The Republic’s health rests on all three branches doing their part in the governing process, and, for far too long, Congress has been punting their duties to either the Executive Branch, for Presidents to sign executive orders that can easily be undone with a changing administration, or relying on the courts to legislate, since apparently, Congress is incapable of doing so.

It is time we hold Congress accountable for their dismal performance and demand that they at least try and do their jobs and pass legislation that helps the people they are supposed to serve.

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Fear in the Shadows

Marginalizing the transgender community is making them increasingly susceptible to hate crimes.

I recently read an article in the New York Times headlined, “18 Transgender Killings This Year Raise Fears of an ‘Epidemic’.” The headline sounded ominous enough for me to delve deeper into the story. On one hand, 18 killings certainly didn’t seem like “epidemic” numbers, but on the other hand, there could be more to the story, and no group of persons deserves to be ignored or marginalized within our society.

In analyzing the available numbers, it is hard to make a case that the murder rate for the transgender community is higher than that of the overall murder rate. Transgender advocates would argue, however, that any such comparisons can be misleading, as law enforcement data shows that crimes committed against transgender people often go unreported, or are incomplete in key information, leaving those incidents ‘unidentified’ as possible transgender crimes.

The advocates may be right, as the killings of transgender people are increasing from year to year and are documented as often as possible, by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Another disturbing aspect of these killings, as reported by the New York Times, is that the murders are disproportionately against transgender women of color, adding a racial component.

Certain 2020 presidential hopefuls are also taking note, stating that more needs to be done to protect the transgender community, be it increasing awareness or strengthening hate crime laws. But would strengthening hate crime laws even work as a deterrence? We ramped-up the laws on drugs to wage a war on them, and all we ended up doing was putting a lot of people in jail, and little progress was made on reducing drug use.

I think maybe we need to focus on finding commonalities of the perpetrators of these heinous hate crimes and use the data for educational purposes and to better train law enforcement across the country. We also need to do better at treating everyone with the respect they deserve, for we are all unique but alike at the same time, and our commonalities should create bonds, not divisiveness.

Our job, individually, is to find common ground, promote civil discourse, acceptance, and knock down discrimination against anyone, including the transgender community, wherever and whenever we encounter it. It is the marginalization of and discrimination against transgender people that too often drive them to the fringes of society in the first place, and make them particularly susceptible to becoming victims of abuse and murder.

Since its founding in 1980, the HRC has been advocating and educating the country on LGBTQ issues and promoting LGBTQ inclusiveness, and isn’t that a cornerstone of America, being a place where persecuted peoples from around the world can count on acceptance and success if given the chance?

Anyone reviewing the HRC tracking on transgender killings from year to year should feel the utmost need to do more to stand up to bigotry and hatred in all forms and from any source.

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The New Conscientious Objectors

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at HHS could be highly problematic.

In 2018 the Department of Health and Human Services announced the formation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. The stated purpose of the division is to “restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”

At the event announcing the division’s formation, OCR Director Roger Severino stated that, “Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice. For too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming, and it begins here and now.”

The basic purpose of the division is to protect healthcare workers from discrimination if they refuse to participate in abortions, based on their religious convictions. This seems reasonable enough on the surface. As long as the protections do not block a woman’s adequate and reasonable access to their constitutional right to obtain an abortion, the wishes of healthcare workers based on religious grounds should be not only allowed, but respected without malice. Abortion is a deeply personal issue on both sides of the debate for those truly torn by its implications, as opposed to those that would simply use the issue for political purposes.

Clear distinctions must be drawn however to insure that protecting a healthcare worker’s legitimate opposition to participating in abortions does not become the government’s open door into fostering situations that limit or prevent women (particularly poor women) from finding adequate options for obtaining an abortion.

The proverbial slippery slope comes into play as well. Where does the line get drawn on not treating people based on religious objections? Does this also become a part of President Trump’s covert attacks on the LGBTQ community to prop up his standing with the hypocritical so-called evangelicals? Could physicians now refuse to provide care for transgender people, same-sex couples, and gay and lesbian people, because of religious beliefs? Do they really think that Jesus would refuse care for anyone in need?

If they are to be consistent, would they then also refuse care to anyone who’s divorced, remarried, had sex out of marriage, had an affair? The list of those not to be treated goes on. I consider myself a religious person, so I am not against religious convictions. I am against the staggering amount of religious hypocrisy on display every day by self-proclaimed evangelicals that act exactly like the Pharisees that Jesus spoke out against.

Again, I sincerely respect the true convictions of those that choose to help others selflessly in the healthcare field as long as protecting their convictions doesn’t become yet another avenue to restrict constitutionally protected rights, or to marginalize our fellow citizens based on gender or sexual orientation.

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It’s Complicated

The largest study to date concludes that human sexuality is complicated. I will alert the media.

Pretty much since the beginning of studies, we have, as a species, been trying to figure out human sexuality and same-sex attraction, and many, along the way, have sought to demonize it. Is it genetics? Is it a lifestyle choice (a “wrong” choice as Dan Quayle once asserted)? Is it a “mental disorder”? Can it be “corrected”?

Before delving into the study, I have always been a proponent of common sense takes on issues, so here is mine. Of course, the human body, and in particular the brain, is extremely complicated and well beyond the scope of full human understanding. I think it probably always will be. There seems to be an infinite number of possible gene/DNA/environmental variants that could determine who we each are, as an individual. It would stand to reason, then, that there are many possible degrees in human sexual orientation, making the Kinsey scale seem outdated and oversimplified.

Those additional environmental and social factors further complicate matters, but here is the bottom line: sexual orientation is and has always been varied throughout our history. We need to stop judging and marginalizing others based on faulty biases and misunderstood (both innocent and deliberate) interpretations of religious texts.

Now for something completely different: a scientific study. In the largest study of its kind about human sexual orientation, researchers analyzed the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people. For generations, there has been the quest for the single “gay” gene, but that is not what they found. Not surprisingly, what they found is that sexual orientation is much more complicated than a single gene can determine.

Their study suggests that there are at least five genetic variants that could be related to same-sex behaviors. I will predict, right now, that future studies will undoubtedly find more. The researchers also found that environmental factors play a role and that no one single factor can determine someone’s sexual orientation. Our human experience is so much more complex than what can be identified, even by large and well-executed studies, as this one seems to be. As with most advances in scientific knowledge, we continue to learn that the more we know, the more we realize that we don’t know.

As with prior studies, there are already concerns with this study that its findings will be cherry-picked for items to exploit for political gain or bigotry and hate. Unfortunately, those behaviors from small people will exist with or without studies attempting to better understand ourselves.

While I generally prefer common sense over scientific studies, I completely agree with its overall conclusion, as expressed by its lead author, Andrea Ganna, European Molecular Biology Laboratory group leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland. The conclusion is simply that same-sex behavior is “a natural part of our diversity as a species.” Makes sense to me. I would add that our diversity is something to be embraced and something we can all take pride in.

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Why All the Hate?

As Marianne Williamson might say, hate has no place in our hearts or our country.

While the argument goes on in a senseless never-ending drone as to whether hate crimes are on the increase or rather it just looks that way because more agencies are reporting them, a very simple point goes ignored: even one hate crime is one too many.

But, why do we hate? Psychologists point to many factors including the fear of others or cultures that are different; fear of aspects of our own selves that we project onto others; our family and cultural histories, portions of which get passed down through generations; lack of compassion, and the need to belong or to fill a void in our lives. Many times, it may be a dangerous combination of some or all these factors.

I also think that there are other contributing factors to the underlying “hatred,” and that each hate crime needs to be analyzed individually to obtain a better understanding of their origins. The speed of societal change may be a contributing factor. For example, there have been great strides over a comparatively short period of time in LGBTQ rights which may prove jarring to some. A majority of people, fortunately, deal with such rapid changes in a manner of acceptance, or at the very least, they keep their biases to themselves and go about their lives. However, the dangers come from those in society that are disenfranchised and irrationally see such rapid changes as threats that need to be combated.

Religious hatred has been around since the beginning of religion, but in this country, it has ebbed and flowed throughout our history based sometimes on world events. For example, I can remember as a kid during the Iran hostage crisis, the hatred spewed irrationally against Iranians in this country who fled the revolution and were very pro-American. The same goes now that, after 9/11, some feel that those of the Muslim faith are trying to destroy the United States from within.

Racial hatred has also been around, unfortunately, for far too long and will take us all, collectively and diligently, to battle the abhorrent ignorance of the belief, held by too many, in some racial superiority fantasy. It is the responsibility of all of us to help raise a generation that can one day be as free as possible to move beyond our racially unjust legacy.

Economics also plays a role in hate crimes. One group has more and wants to keep it or wants more and plans to take it. Too often this can lead to said group demonizing another group irrationally as the reason they don’t have what they “deserve” in terms of possessions or wealth. This twisted economics bias has led not only to individual hate crimes but to genocide as well.

What can we do? We can start by standing up for, helping out, befriending any person who is marginalized or hated because of their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I may be a dreamer, but hopefully, I’m not the only one.

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Religious Freedom and Citizen Rights

It seems nonsensical to me that we could allow religious freedom to trump a person’s right to work without being discriminated against for their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Trump administration recently announced plans to remove protections for the LGBTQ community by adding religious …

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