Questioning the Questioners

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

I’m going to make a lot of people mad at me.  Yup.  Right here and right now.  I won’t just make a lot of anti-transgender people mad at me like I usually do.  I’ll make a lot of trans activists mad at me, especially those fanatically opposed to medical gatekeeping, also like I usually do.

This past week, a notable British anti-transgender organization Transgender TREND released a booklet described as a “resource pack for schools” titled “Supporting gender non-conforming and trans-identified students in schools.” 1

A great many articles can be written concerning the many points in this “resource pack,” in fact far more than what could be included in an article such as this one.  As an American, I cannot assess many of the issues concerning “gender clinics” in the United Kingdom and would invite other writers, most particularly in the U.K., to write concerning them to Trans Muse Planet.  I cannot personally verify what may be happening or not happening.  Some of the claims are quite worrisome.

Do I believe this resource pack is biased?  Certainly I do.  Are there errors?  Definitely.  From a philosophical perspective, I cannot generally recommend this “resource pack” because it was written to advance the agenda of Transgender TREND.

I also acknowledge that not everything written in this booklet is incorrect or bad.  This booklet needs to be recognized as indicative of social change and increased caution on the part of opponents of transpeople.  After all, if laws have not been employed the way they have, the issue of trans kids would not be taken any more seriously than this writer’s gender issues growing up in a religious school in the 1960’s and we would never see a booklet like this distributed.

But if we’re to fairly assess the claims of this “resource pack,” we must consider ourselves including confirmation bias that typically lurks within strong partisanism.  That includes the partisanism of trans activists.  It’s part of keeping a level head.  Our approach to questioning the questioners isn’t just a matter of questioning the writers of the booklet.  It’s a matter of questioning our own claims when we do so. 

 

TRANSPHOBIA AND THE RIGHT TO QUESTION

Is it that the motto “Parents questioning the trans narrative” must be transphobic?  Nope.  At least it’s not transphobic on its face and some trans readers will immediately fume at me for saying so.  After all, we transpeople question our own narratives all the time as well as others who may be considering transition.  In fact the more experienced among us do challenge gender identity claims precisely because we don’t want others to suffer what we have suffered over the years and decades.

In fact the more we question whether transition is correct for any of us individually, the better.  It’s all part of the process of “informed consent” as the more liberal approach to assessment and treatment and it shouldn’t be hurried.  How can we condemn parents for posing challenges concerning their children’s’ prospective transitions when we do as much for adults?  We can’t, at least not ethically.

But consider how I described it as not “transphobic on its face.”  Something may not be transphobic on its face but may be intended to undermine those kids who do prove to be genuinely trans.  There’s the real worry here and that demands we consider the context of the booklet.

Supporting gender non-conforming and trans-identified students in schools is chiefly directed toward religious instruction, whether as a religious school or a school with a religious liaison.  Consider this passage:

“Ensure that staff maintain clear boundaries in their role as educators and use the school’s established pastoral care and safeguarding policies as reference points2

Pastoral care, most particularly as concerns the Church of England which dominates many educational institutions in the U.K. has offered mixed acceptance of transpeople, and this appears to be more the case in the United States than in the U.K. where relations with the Roman Catholic Church are closer, an entity whose leaders have had their own war of words against transpeople.3 Of course, not all schools in the U.K. are run by the Church of England.  Attitudes toward transpeople vary by denomination and some are openly hostile toward transpeople.

One who is a pastor isn’t automatically excluded from the right to question whether approaches to trans kids may be correct.  Developing approaches should have critical review.  It only becomes a problem if it’s done from the position of intending to ultimately quash the existence of the demographics of trans and gender non-conforming peoples.

 

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?

We also find these comments from a teaching pastor:

“Until 2015, we did not have a single child who identified as transgender during their time in school…

“I deal with incidents of bullying on a regular basis and I have noticed that there has been a significant increase in the use of sexist and homophobic language in school. Because of this, it has been a long time since a child came out to me in school that they are gay, lesbian or bisexual; these labels actually seem quite old-fashioned amongst the students now. Instead, children that I suspect might be LGB are most likely to come out as trans which is much more fashionable and means that they are far less likely to be victimised, [sic*] as being trans carries so much power. Our transgender children are very confident when discussing issues related to their identity and challenging their peers and teachers…

The Tavistock Clinic says that not all children who are referred to them will be put on a medical pathway, but we, as teachers, are supposed to treat all trans students as if their trans identity is legitimate.4

Indeed, all trans students should be treated as if their trans identity is legitimate… with the caveat that it may take years for that to be fully confirmed.   Decades ago we as trans students didn’t announce our gender issues because we believed transition to be impossible and that we are forever cursed because of our dysphoria while others would be exonerated for attacking us while using slurs like “faggot”.  Many of us wish we had transitioned at an earlier age but simply didn’t see it as a possibility.  It’s a different age now.

The timeline cited by this unnamed teaching pastor coincides with proliferation of reading material about transgender kids.  The book I Am Jazz was published in 2014.5 The story is about a young Jazz Jennings who stated that she knew she was a girl ever since she could “form coherent thoughts.”6  Jazz has continued to advocate for the rights of trans kids today.

But it’s easy to see how people might ask when presented with the kinds of statistics as in this booklet, “What’s going on here?  That many being sent to gender clinics with a rise in regret?” 7 It should be explored with hard data, much more precise than what this booklet presents.  After all, if a “gender clinic” is cranking out a large percentage of cases headed for detransition, they aren’t doing assessment and education properly.  This should be examined by a neutral third party and Transgender TREND isn’t such an organization.

We must consider carefully concerning unintended consequences of how gender identity issues are presented.  Trans identity deserves to be honored.  So do the identities of those gay, lesbian, and bisexual.  Are kids in the U.K. being hurried into a transition program, circumventing who these kids really will become?

We would be arrogant to presume it can’t be the case.  Anything pertaining to kids has to be approached slowly and with a great deal of care.

This writer recalls one family in Glendale CA (who have since moved away) in which the husband was a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual and the wife a cis-gender bisexual dominatrix.  Their 8-year old child came out of the apartment one day claiming to be transgender.  After all, a transwoman lived in the home and transpeople filled out their circle of friends.  The child had positive feelings about transpeople and that’s a good thing in itself.  But this took the issue to another level.

What did these parents do?  They told the child it was too early to make that kind of decision.  They didn’t confirm or deny that the child could be trans.  They recognized that transition can’t be approached on a whim and that a child’s social connections to transpeople aren’t the same thing as being trans.  They also recognized much more than the child the enormity of commitment demanded of a transperson.

The booklet quoted this from a statement attributed to the Lesbian Rights Alliance, but double-footnoted as appearing in The Telegraph about brain science:

There is no acknowledgement or support for these young lesbians in schools and no funded youth groups for them outside of school, although there are many funded trans youth groups. We have been in contact with some of these young lesbians, who have told us about the pressures on them to define as men and who would have transitioned if they had not found lesbian feminist groups. We have also been contacted by female detransitioners who now define as lesbian. They deeply regret the harm to their bodies inflicted by sex hormones and having double mastectomies. They question how they were allowed to receive this medical treatment so young. They tell us if they had been supported in school or by lesbian youth groups they would never have transitioned. Research with young female to male trans has indicated that 95% are same sex attracted indicating the deep homophobia of the trans agenda. This must now be addressed in guidance to schools.”8

It’s a serious charge from a purportedly lesbian source.  If indeed, kids are being pressured to transition early with insufficient counseling to allow any version of informed consent, not only may individuals become improperly funneled into a course of transition but such an allegation threatens to further drive a wedge between the already rocky alliance between transpeople and those who are gay and lesbian.  It may become in itself a violation of human rights in our name and possibly even so a backdoor means of discrediting transpeople.

We cannot ignore the possibility of improper treatment based upon an ethic of automatic acceptance only.  Again, we need to hear more from those in the U.K. who have participated in the gender clinics whether the remote effects are good or not.  We actually need to hear from both, with examination of statistics that are only beginning to emerge.  Unfortunately, this booklet only offers the testimony of those who detransitioned:  labeled Kate, Paul, Gill, and Jessie.9

Presenting only one side in a booklet like this is a clear indicator of bias, and an example of card stacking, a technique of propaganda commonly employed by parachurch organizations and religionists generally.

 

A DANGEROUSLY MIXED MESSAGE

The booklet does recommend relaxing rules regarding gender expression.10  We welcome this.  Many items in this booklet would be welcome by trans activists including:

  1. Providing storybooks and factual books about real people who challenge gender stereotypes
  2. Desexualizing toys
  3. Acknowledging kids for non-stereotypical attributes
  4. Inviting adults to speak who defy gender expectations
  5. Allowing boys to take female roles and girls male roles in performances
  6. No tolerance for use of terms like “girl” or “girly” as insults implying weakness or lesser status
  7. Pointing out examples of sexism in literature
  8. Teaching the difference between sex and gender.
  9. Treating homophobic and lesbophobic bullying as abuse11

But then what is regarded as the difference between sex and gender?  The booklet uses these definitions in a manner to falsely indict the trans position:

“Children are confused by the conflation of the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ which are used by transgender organisations [sic] as if they mean the same thing, or are inextricably linked. It is important to acknowledge the biological sex distinction between boys and girls but relax the divisions based on gender, both in practical school policies and in general school life, PSHE classes etc.

Sex: Male/Female XY or XX chromosomes, biological sex and reproductive organs which cannot be changed (note: under 1% of children are born with a biological intersex condition, this is unrelated to transgender)

“Gender: Masculine/Feminine Societal expectations of behaviour, [sic] aptitudes and appearance depending on sex, which change from culture to culture. Gender or sex-role stereotypes

To believe that your ‘authentic self’ is split off from the body (in the form of a brain‑based innate ‘gender identity’) results in a mind‑body split which is recognised [sic] as an indication of mental ill‑health. The body becomes the enemy. Good mental health is also characterised [sic] by the ability to accept reality. Encouraging children to feel comfortable in their own (sexed) bodies entails creating a culture of respect for the body and what it is capable of, respecting boundaries and differences and fostering bodily integrity. This is especially important in the teenage years when adolescents are developing sexually.”12

 The charge that trans activists conflate “sex” with “gender” is blatantly wrong.  Trans activism has recognized these differences:

  • Sex: Physical sex characteristics which may or may not align with a chromosomal dichotomy of XX and XY, a chromosomal dichotomy which naturally doesn’t exist for everyone.
  • Sexual Orientation: The sex to which one is attracted.
  • Gender Identity: The internal construct of gender, acknowledging gender itself being a social construct and this usually aligns but does not necessarily align with sex.
  • Gender Expression: How one expresses gender which may or may not be indicative of gender identity.

What Transgender TREND has done was couch an old claim often charged upon transpeople in a language that feigns acceptance.  It does so without any outside reference to support the claim: that anyone who transitions is mentally ill, incapable of accepting “reality”.  It’s a position they consider self-evident.  It’s an appeal that, if not restrained by human rights law, would result in full ostracism, incarceration, and extermination.

This belief logically demands another:  that even after transition, a transperson is mentally ill.  There’s no allowance for any exception, except to detransition and become a good little church-going paws.  But even if one does comply with such an agenda as this, suspicion will always follow those known to have transitioned.

So while claiming to offer support to transpeople, the philosophical undercurrent of this booklet gives its readers the impetus to do the opposite.  It becomes a mixed message that says, “Don’t bully.  But it’s okay for you to have your reasons to do so.”

This directly conflicts with the following statement:

A ‘watchful waiting’ approach which neither ‘affirms’ a child as the opposite sex, nor shames a child into changing their behaviour, [sic] gives a child the acceptance and the space to develop without undue influence from adults in either extreme direction.”13

If this booklet were followed, the “watchful waiting” approach will never genuinely happen, but will always meet careful denial, simply because it amounts to waiting for an opportunity to delegate a persisting child into psychiatric oppression.

 

A FALSE CHARGE REGARDING GNC PEOPLES

Another blatantly wrong statement appears thus:

Transgender organisations [sic] use the term ‘trans and gender non‑conforming people’ as if those two things are synonymous. Extreme gender non‑conformity in childhood is more predictive of gay or lesbian sexual orientation in adulthood, a transsexual outcome is much less likely.14

Exactly which transgender organization uses “trans” and “gender non-conforming” synonymously?  Such has never been the case with any organization this writer has known.  While definitions have changed over the years, gender non-conforming people have been regarded as a subset demographic under the transgender umbrella in the past, as evident from this influential San Francisco document from before the time “gender non-conforming became an accepted term:

“‘Transgender’ is used as an umbrella term that includes female and male cross dressers, transvestites, drag queens or kings, female and male impersonators, intersexed (sic) individuals, pro-operative, post-operative, and non-operative transsexuals, masculine females, feminine males, all persons whose perceived gender or anatomic sex may be incongruent with their gender expression and all persons exhibiting gender characteristics and identities which are perceived to be androgynous.15

It was the concept of “perceived gender” that has driven the initial change in California law in the form of AB 196 which passed in 2003, giving the first recognition of the civil rights of transpeople in that state.  It’s a matter of how others perceive the gender of another, not simply one’s perceptions concerning himself/herself/eirself.16

While this version of “transgender” enjoyed broad acceptance by civil rights activists, it wasn’t considered precise enough for scientific inquiry, leading to a definition of “trans” as becoming synonymous with “transsexual” ( pre-operative or post-operative, with continuing debate over whether non-operative individuals conform) but not synonymous with those gender non-conforming. It’s a redefinition that has driven an even deeper wedge between transsexual and transvestite.

 

THE NEED TO QUESTION

But it’s interesting that this purports to represent people concerned about gender non-conforming kids becoming gay or lesbian.  It may be true that they will tend toward some form of homosexuality or bisexuality and that identity deserves to be honored, not covertly denied.  The booklet does cite this study from 2011:  “Steensma et al. ‘Desisting and Persisting Gender Dysphoria after Childhood‘” that would deserve closer scrutiny in a future article, especially concerning it’s methodology and assumptions:

“It is estimated that 95% to 100% of girls who transition during adolescence would otherwise grow up to be lesbian.”17

However, partisans (especially religious partisans) have long taken a hostile posture toward gays and lesbians.  Such religionists would accept this booklet because they consider it useful, not because they genuinely care.

Another study cited in the booklet from 2017 in The Journal of Adolescent Health deserves attention: “Rapid Onset of Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Descriptive Study” by Lisa L Littman.  The article alleges undue influence through social media and Internet.18

This writer supports social media interaction between transpeople and the public.  Online friends are good to have.  That’s part of ambassadorship.  But the phenomenon of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” as described, if indeed this is the case, demands that counselors take much greater care in counseling kids.  It also demands of us who are transpeople to take a neutral position concerning whether questioning people are trans or not and offer to them other possibilities.  It’s part of social responsibility.

It means looking past just the sites to which Transgender TREND directs the reader:

  • https://www.transgendertrend.com
  • https://4thwavenow.com
  • https://youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org
  • https://www.parentsofrogdkids.com19

It means getting multiple opinions, knowing that those who don’t want the inquirer to look any further than themselves have an agenda.  Anyone considering the issues of identity needs a party with no stake pro or con.  Anyone who refuses to consider pros and cons has degenerated to an unhealthy partisanism.

Yes.  We should question.  We should all question.  Not only do correct treatments depend upon it, human rights depend upon it.  That includes questioning the questioners.

It includes questioning one-sided positions.  One-sidedness makes for good selling.  But it isn’t good science and it doesn’t promote compassion for fellow humans.  The booklet Supporting gender non-conforming and trans-identified students in schools is clearly one-sided, a proselytizing tool funneling people into its own training program.20

This is where the booklet can become insidious.  By putting on the face of compassion, it not only serves to give people reasons to summarily disqualify trans and gender non-conforming individuals from their own integrity and promoting training to further make that happen.  Instead of a “holistic approach,” the approach really appeals to majority “norms” to ultimately undo advances already made.  The questioning done today would become once more, “be as you’re told.”

After all, when it comes to existential matters, each person must do this individually.  Everyone has a fundamental right to transition, detransition, and even re-transition.  But that right also carries responsibility, including where it evokes the wisdom not to do so unless the prognosis is a favorable one.

_____________________________

RESOURCES:

This article is an op-ed and does not necessarily represent the view of others at Trans Muse Planet.

*It should be noted that many of the British spellings are not considered correct in the United States.

Featured Image:  the background motif of the booklet Supporting gender non-conforming and trans-identified students in schools (This booklet was issued without copyright for free distribution)

  1. Supporting gender non-conforming and trans-identified students in schools: resource pack for schools (Transgender TREND, accessed February 14, 2018) www.transgendertrend.com
  2. Ibid, p. 7.
  3. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Francis’ Mixed Message” Transpire (August 11, 2016, accessed February 15, 2018) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/francis-mixed-message/.
  4. Op. cit., p. 19.
  5. Herthel, Jessica; Jennings, Jazz; and McNicholas, Shelagh. I Am Jazz (2014) Dial Books.  ISBN: 0803741073,  978-0803741072
  6. Jennings, Jazz. Being Jazz: My Life As a (Transgender) Teen (Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, NY, 2016) ISBN: 978-0-399-55464-3, p. 1.
  7. Transgender TREND, p. 5.
  8. Ibid, p. 22. The questionable reference is “brains-claims-neuroscientist.html” http://www.cps.gov.uk/northwest/working_with_you/hate_crime_schools_project/schools_project___lgbt_hate_crime; Verite M (2016) ‘The Surgical Suite: Modern-Day Closet for Today’s Teen Lesbian’ in Barrett, R (ed) Female Erasure. Tidal Tide Publishing LLC.”  An attempt to find the reference yeilded an error.
  9. Ibid, pp. 16-19.
  10. Ibid, p. 13
  11. Ibid, pp. 14, 15.
  12. Ibid, p. 13.
  13. Ibid, p. 24.
  14. Ibid, p. 12.
  15. Human Rights Commission. Compliance Guidelines to Prohibit Gender Identity Discrimination: San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 12A, 12B, and 12C; San Francisco Municipal/Police Code Article 33 (December 10, 1998) p. 3.
  16. The author, who contributed her own efforts in 2000, has closely followed the progress of this California civil rights legislation as it unfolded. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “California’s Trans Rights Collective” Transpire (June 6, 2016, accessed February 15, 2018) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/californias-trans-rights-collective/.
  17. TransgenderTREND, p. 43.
  18. Ibid, p. 45.
  19. Ibid, p. 10.
  20. Ibid, p. 47.
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Religion Out of Balance: Aceh’s Latest Pogrom

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

Their eyes told a completely different story from what the sullen police chief demanded.  He attempted to present to the world the amazing “success” of his “re-education” of Acehnese Waria (transwomen,)1 to set an example of the imagined superiority of machismo in yet another abuse of religion and human rights.  Many locals in the Aceh province of Indonesia on the island of Sumatra, of course, would believe him, especially the less educated.

Much of the world, however, could see through the pretense.  So could his victims, even if they dared not admit it.  Perhaps others may follow his example of a gross degradation, authorities who back religious Dominionism in its various forms whether East or West, North or South.  But broader-minded people look upon these actions with disgust, and for more progressive Muslims, perhaps even betrayal.  This week’s round-up of transwomen to “masculinize” them has aroused the ire of multiple human rights organizations for good reason.  It’s another of the many pogroms in the name of religion that have accumulated in history’s garbage dump of backwardness.

Not that the authorities of Aceh care.  Religious fanaticism renders such people pathologically incapable of caring, replacing the genuine human interest that brings disparate peoples together into a working society with the stink of high-handed arrogance fueled by ambition.

But it’s neither an exclusively Muslim nor Indonesian trait, of course.  What happened this week in Indonesia, certain factions desire in the United States.  The actions in Aceh province weren’t examples of harmony-a-la-Sharia.  It’s an example of the kind of forcefulness that has typified every society in which religion becomes enforced upon everyone, whether its people universally believe it or not.  It’s a mockery of faith, a blasphemy against the human spirit, the work of the children of a hateful god cloaked in the garb of the Highest, and a slide in fulfillment of international human rights obligations.

 

ACEH’S POGROM

On Monday, January 29, 2018, AFP reported the local police chief Ahmad Untun Surianata declaring:

“We have reports from mothers that their sons were teased by the transgender women.  Their numbers are growing here.  I don’t want that.2

That came after a raid upon 6 beauty salons in Lhoksukon and Pantonlabu.3 The police rounded up a dozen trans employees.  The round-up was accompanied by local vigilantes who tried to storm the transwomen.  Police charged the transwomen with “violating the religious laws of Aceh province”.  Police sheared the long hair of some and forced them to wear male clothing.4

Aceh province has been collectively ruled by Sharia law since 2001, sanctioned by the Jakarta government to appease separatists in the region.4 Sharia, of course, offers no universal standard of conduct, except that it’s based upon Islamic teaching as laid out by local imams.  It’s whatever the locals make of it.  Sharia could in some places make a harmonious society.  It can also be abused, teaching intolerance and bigotry, causing many to hate it and to hate the very religion that promotes it.

But the words of the police chief were tell-tale.  What exactly did he mean by “teased”?  Could “teasing” mean people somehow felt moved by the femininity of these transwomen and they felt dissonance with their Islamic upbringing?  It could.  Could this “teasing” have been a defensive measure much like what transwomen did at the Stonewall Uprising in 1969?  It could.  Were these transwomen first under attack by local vigilantes before they had a chance to do anything else? Very likely so.   It’s difficult to believe that transwomen from 6 beauty salons in 2 separate towns would somehow conspire to make trouble at the same time.  How does anyone get a singular incident of “teasing” out of 2 towns without some planned provocation in the first place?

Worse yet, the “I” in the police chief’s comment, “Their numbers are growing here” and “I don’t want that” is a very big one.  In saying this he suggess that this action was his own, not one ordered by the provincial authority.  It reeks of selfish ambition, possibly as a means of scoring religio-political points of his own.

This is clearly a pogrom instigated at the hands of an ambitious police chief representing a party of extremists.  CNN reported that the operation was part of a campaign to prevent LGBT peoples from “adversely affecting” the next generation of Indonesians.  The actions weren’t even intended to force a cosmetic makeover either.  Officers also forced their detainees to run for an extended period, chanting loudly till their “male voices came out.”6

North Aceh Police Chief Untung Sangaji addressed a crowd according to a YouTube posting, where he said:

“Our ulama [scholars] disagree with this disease. [It] is spreading.  It’s inhumane if Untung Sangaji is to tolerate these [sic] sissy garbage.”7

He also declared that he decided to work with the Sharia police after receiving complaints from local clerics.  He warned that he not only intended to prosecute the transwomen but also any visitors to their salons.8

 

A CRIME OF EXISTENCE

It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what the relationship is between Sangaji and Surinata, or whether these are 2 names for the same person.  But the attitude is clearly the same.  The decision to work with Sharia police was his own.  The North Aceh police chief considers it “inhumane” to require “tolerance”, specifically “inhumane” against him personally as an affront to his authority.  It’s the same kind of “inhumanity” that religious extremists in the United States consider a violation of their own “religious liberty” if they are required to “tolerate” LGBT peoples.

 But we don’t call upon peoples of the world to tolerate us.  That’s not what we demand.  We demand liberty.  Tolerance isn’t the opposite of intolerance.  Liberty is the opposite.  Tolerance is a shifty mean.

Tolerance in societies is like tolerance in shop practices measured by inches, millimeters, or microns. A standard is set and any allowable deviation from that standard is tolerance.  In societal tolerance, that standard is one by which one uses to judge another.  As concerns actions of cruelty and meanness, we must judge.  Cruelty must not be tolerated.  But when it comes to how a person identifies, the fact of his, her, or eir existence cannot be judged this way, whether it’s a matter of ethnicity, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  We have no right whatsoever to pass judgment upon people concerning existential matters.

That’s the difference between tolerance and liberty.  Tolerance presumes the right to pass judgment upon one’s neighbor.  Liberty allows no such right.  Germany was an incredibly tolerant nation and even had a thriving gay culture prior to Hitler.  Then Germany sowed death camps across central Europe like sowing winter wheat.  Tolerance ran thin.  After all, social tolerance upon existential matters can’t be measured except perhaps through surveys.  It’s something vague, subjective, and changeable on a whim.  That shiftiness alone makes tolerance untrustworthy because “tolerance” sooner or later will end in acts of wholesale cruelty.

It’s a shift that has repeated in every society without exception including the United States.  When tolerance fails, something else happens.  Principles like liberty, humanity, and inhumanity go through redefinition to accommodate their claimants who become desperate to assert their own authority or imagined authority.  Police Chief Sangaji called any call for his tolerance “inhumane” not only because he felt that authority threatened somehow, but because he acted out of religious hatred.  In much the same way, many American parachurch organizations demand “religious liberty” to force their religious mores upon those not of their religious communities.  The 2 are essentially no different.

This kind of criminalization is essentially like what Arkansas legislators attempted in 2017 in a series of bills designed to make it impossible for transpeople to exist in that state.  They wanted to prosecute any transperson with “public indecency.”9 Their bills didn’t fly in 2017.  Few believe proponents won’t make another try.  Proponents in Arkansas attempted a pogrom of their own. 

But in Indonesia as a whole, the shift in human rights recognition isn’t just evident in Aceh.  Homosexuality is already prohibited in by Aceh’s Sharia law.  In May 2017, 2 men were caned 83 times, a punishment, not only designed to inflict serious pain, but disfigurement as well.  But now the whole nation of Indonesia could likewise outlaw homosexuality in February, with convictions resulting in 5 years in prison.10

 

THE CONTEXT OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN INDONESIA

A completely different face concerning human rights in Indonesia appears in the website for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) than what’s revealed through Amnesty International.  The ASEAN website attempts to show that the world’s largest Muslim nation honors human rights.   We find this immediate claim about the establishment of a human rights office:

“The issuance of Law No. 39 Year 1999 on Human Rights reinforced the creation of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), initially established under Presidential Decree No. 50 Year 1999. Komnas HAM is endowed with the functions to study, research, disseminate, monitor, and mediate human rights issues. Komnas HAM has completed investigations into five past human rights cases and recommended that the Attorney General’s Office establish ad hoc human rights courts for the following cases: Trisakti Case (1998), Semanggi I (1998) and Semanggi II (1999) Cases, May 1998 Case, Talangsari Case (1989), and Wasior and Wamena (2000). The establishment of such human rights courts was impeded by the unwillingness of the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute the cases.”11

It sounds impressive.  But 5 sets of human right cases represent a teaspoon of sugar in a swimming pool of rancid tea.  Besides, what has Komnas HAM done since 2000?  Did the Office of the Attorney General so thwart the activities of Komnas HAM that they only exist as a figurehead?  Amnesty International reported this concerning LGBT peoples in 2016-2017 with even greater indictments concerning freedom of expression, freedom of minority religions, prisoners of conscience, impunity given to rogue law enforcement people, torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment:

Discrimination increased against LGBTI people after officials made inflammatory, grossly inaccurate or misleading statements in January on the grounds of ‘defending the country’s public morality and public security’. In February, police disbanded a workshop organized by a leading LGBTI NGO in Jakarta and prevented a pro-LGBTI rally from taking place in Yogyakarta. In the same month, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission issued a letter calling for a ban on any television or radio broadcasts promoting LGBTI activities, to ‘protect the children’.

“Also in February, amid increasing anti-LGBTI rhetoric, the Islamic school for transgender people, Al Fatah in Yogyakarta, was forced to close following intimidation and threats by the Islamic Jihadist Front. In June, the government voted against a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council, and again at the UN General Assembly in November, to appoint an independent expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”12

It’s interesting that in Indonesia, as in the United States, extremists declare similarly against LGBT peoples, declaring us “diseased”, “a threat to public morality,” a “threat to public security,” and a “threat to children.”  However, the American Psychological Association disagrees with the view that we’re “diseased” and children generally have no trouble accepting the concept of transpeople unless taught by elders to disrespect us, with examples being found in everyday trans experience.  It’s a religiously orchestrated red herring.

We also find this on the ASEAN site concerning their glowing report on Indonesia:

“Indonesia has ratified or accessed to eight of nine international human rights treaties, namely the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and two of its Optional Protocols, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Indonesia is a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (OP-CEDAW) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (CPED).

“Indonesia was selected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (2011-2014) for the third consecutive period since 2006. As of September 2013, Indonesia has received 13 visits of the UN Special Procedures and agreed to the visits of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the Special Rapporteur on Health.”13

So what has happened to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)?  You’d think the actions against transpeople in Aceh would be addressed by this convention.  But Amnesty International made the following observation about Indonesia’s commitment to human rights:

Broad and vaguely worded laws were used to arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association. Despite the authorities’ commitments to resolve past cases of human rights violations, millions of victims and their families were still denied truth, justice and reparation. There were reports of human rights violations by security forces, including unlawful killings and the use of excessive or unnecessary force. At least 38 prisoners of conscience remained in detention. Four people were executed.”14

Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch reported that more than 300 LGBT people were arrested across Indonesia in 2017.15  Nothing is said concerning the nature of these arrests.  But given the actions this week in Aceh, we may expect an escalation of incidents.

It appears that the desire to hold the Indonesian union together in the face of Islamist extremists has undermined the Jakarta government’s willingness to fulfill its international human rights obligations.  What’s happening in Aceh is representative of growing intolerance.  That intolerance cannot help but further fracture the Indonesian union over time.  Jakarta increasingly risks losing the goodwill of many of its diverse peoples.  Instead of preventing civil war, it has sowed the seeds for exactly that and for many, Indonesia will cease to be a country where anyone but a structured majority could possibly live.

 

NEW EFFORTS

For the Waria, Aceh is already unlivable.  Various eye expressions appear in the “thumbs-up” AFP photo of 8 of the dozen victims in male garb and close-cut hair.  They’re gathered around a stern police chief whose uniform shined with decorations reminiscent of Ugandan tyrant, Idi Amin.  We see eyes full of mockery, eyes that suggest a desire for revenge, eyes that suggest a desire to die on one’s own terms, and eyes that were just plain tired.

Islamic authorities may think they’ve won.  They haven’t.  Far from it.  Those with a genuine and persistent desire for transition can’t be kept down forever.  Perhaps some may acquiesce to detransition.  Some may choose to suffer.  Some may choose suicide once they find opportunity to carry it out.  Others would try to escape Aceh, even Indonesia entirely and then re-transition.  By sea, it’s less than 500 kilometers to Phuket, Thailand, where surgeons perform gender confirmation surgeries.  Some may flee to Jakarta or even Australia.

In fact, some Waria have fled already.  Shannon Power of Gay Star News has been kind enough to cooperate with those who seek to assist Waria seeking to escape Aceh.  She published an e-mail for anyone seeking information on how to donate to that cause: shannonp@gaystarnews.com.  Her help provides a buffer between genuine donors and those who seek to target such efforts and to further abridge the liberties of the Waria.16

After all, if the police chief threatens patrons of the beauty salons, one could expect to be targeted just by approaching one of the Waria or asking questions to identify them.  Facilitating escape is a dangerous activity.  One could as easily take severe risks with the law by facilitating an escape from Iran, Chechnya, or North Korea.

It’s the case when any society goes mad with NIMBYism (NIMBY being an acronym for “Not In My Back Yard”) amid a pernicious craze of religious extremism.  Today’s freedoms could evaporate in a tide of intolerance in any country.   Indonesia is sliding downward right alongside America’s current slide, both built upon fear of one’s neighbor that a majority does not want to understand.

It’s for us to help.  It’s also for us to protect what liberties remain as part of our role to heal the earth.

_______________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured image:  Map of the region, showing the location of events described in the article (by author, adapted from satellite image Google Earth), Enhanced details of mistreatment of transwoman by shearing and arrest of detainees during the round-up (YouTube: Current Affairs).

  1. AFP photo showing the police chief of North Aceh posing with forcibly masculinized transwomen, all giving the “thumbs up” signal, article: Megan Palin. “Transgender women released from jail on one condition: ‘Return to their nature as men’” com (Australia, January 29, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018) http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/transgender-women-released-from-jail-on-one-condition-return-to-their-nature-as-men/news-story/bbcb8bb2f61b41f70f33a987709a8474.
  2. AFP “Indonesian police force ‘manly makeover’ on transgender beauticians in Aceh” The Straits Times (January 29, 2018, accessed January 29, 2018) http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/indonesia-police-force-manly-makeover-on-transgender-beauticians.
  3. Jakarta Post “Amnesty International condemns arrest of transgender women in Aceh” Jakarta Post (January 30, 2018, accessed January 30, 2018) http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/01/30/amnesty-international-condemns-arrest-and-re-education-of-transgender-women-in-aceh.html.
  4. Op. cit.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ben Wescott and Mochamad Andri. “Indonesian police shaved transgender women and made them dress as men” CNN (updated January 30, 2018, accessed January 30, 2018) https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/29/asia/indonesian-forcibly-shaved-transgender-women-intl/index.html.
  7. Andreas Harsono. “Indonesian Police Arrest Transgender Women” Human Rights Watch (January 30, 2018, accessed January 30, 2018) https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/30/indonesian-police-arrest-transgender-women.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Stefanie Gerdes. “Arkansas could make it ‘illegal to be transgender’ this week” Gay Star News (March 27, 2017, accessed January 29, 2018) https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/arkansas-criminalize-trans-people-indecent-exposure-law/#gs.VkNEJoo.
  10. Josh Jackman. “Indonesia is set to ban gay sex” Pink News (January 31, 2018, accessed January 31, 2018) http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/01/31/indonesia-is-set-to-ban-gay-sex/.
  11. “Constitution, Laws & Court Decisions” Human Rights in ASEAN (ASEAN Website accessed January 30, 2018) https://humanrightsinasean.info/indonesia/rule-law-human-rights.html.
  12. (n.a.) “Indonesia 2016/2017” Amnesty International (accessed January 30, 2018) https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/indonesia/report-indonesia/.
  13. Op. cit.
  14. Op. cit.
  15. Andreas Harsono, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/30/indonesian-police-arrest-transgender-women.
  16. Shannon Power. “Trans women are trying to flee Aceh after police raids and vigilante attacks” Gay Star News (January 30, 2018, accessed January 30, 2018) https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/trans-women-are-trying-to-flee-aceh-after-police-raids-and-vigilante-attacks/#gs.TLBmQo0.
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China’s Evolving Stance On Transpeople: Change Amid Deep Conservatism

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

We can learn much from the Chinese, given the richness of their history alone.  In fact most nations on the planet cannot come close to their depth.  Not only do we learn lessons from ancient China, we can also learn from the modern Chinese experience which in less than 150 years has absorbed a tumult of change with seismic shifts among their teeming array of peoples.  That includes change in their approaches to transpeople.

It’s a bit tricky to speak of China’s demographics because of its diversity of peoples.  Not all are Han Chinese.  We also find Mongol, Uighur, Tibetan, Manchu, Szechwanese, Cantonese, and many other nationalities within the mainland.  At the same time, when we speak of China, we often must differentiate between the mainland of the People’s Republic of China (with or without Hong Kong), Hong Kong as an economically “autonomous” zone, and Taiwan.  Many Chinese communities have also dispersed globally, with strong presences in the Russian Federation, Southeast Asia, South Africa, and North America.

Estimates of how many transpeople believed to exist in China has its own trickiness because transpeople appear to have been counted differently on Taiwan than on the mainland including Hong Kong.  According to Asia Catalyst, an estimated 4,082,160 transpeople exist in Mainland China with an additional 21,705 in Hong Kong specifically.  In both cases, the estimate falls to exactly .3% of the general population.  In Taiwan, however, 70,231 are believed to exist.  Compared to the general population, the ratio of transpeople to the general population of Taiwan is .9707%1

Even such an insignificant number is a lot of transpeople, enough to singlehandedly repopulate a large city like Detroit or Milan.2 It’s enough for both Taiwan and the Mainland to take notice, examine best practices for government services and actions, and to consider their own traditions that run deep into the collective psyche of generations beyond memory.

 

AN ANCIENT LEGACY

In addition to what records exist in the West and the Subcontinent, China’s history tells us that transsexualism has existed in ancient times.  This included the periods of the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220CE) followed by the Wei-Jin period (220-420 CE) and the period of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912 CE).  That’s over 1000 years of recorded cases of transsexualism.  However, the documentation of reasons for “change of gender” pertained to “unexpected incidents,” serious illness, or to covertly perform acts of filial piety.  In those days, and often remains so today, it was considered shameful for a male to transition to female, but a family blessing for a female to transition to male.3

The Mulan story, popularized by Disney animation, was actually a known 6th Century CE Chinese legend.4  But it was in the Ming and early Qing period where operatic performances in Beijing featured male artists and actors who acted the role of females and sometimes lived as females as well.  To this day, male-to-female dancers and performers are more apt to be celebrated than those of other professions.5

Variations on gender non-conformity have been noted including eunuchs, some of which served the Emperor.6  The navigator Zheng He was such a person, leading an immense fleet of Chinese vessels West to Africa in the 5th Century CE, and according to some, east to the Americas.7

Apart from this, the Chinese custom of foot-binding made a difference in gender perceptions during the early Qing dynasty.  Manchurian women, because they didn’t bind their feet, were perceived as “masculine” and so were considered less desirable.8

Traditions rooted in such legacies continue to fuel the continued conservatism of Chinese society.  After the tumult of the Nationalist movement under Sun Yat-Sen, the Communist Revolution, the Cultural Revolution, and the economic revival initiated by Deng Xiao Ping, today’s mainland transpeople have been finding cracks of societal acceptance, and this has also appears to be the case elsewhere.

 In limited situations, Chinese people have adopted the designations of the West for transpeople.  The acronyms CD for “cross dresser” and TS for “transsexual” have been adopted by Chinese within trans community units in order to acknowledge one another with terms of concealment.9   Other English terms have gained similar usage such as “transvestite”, “ ladyboy”, “ kathooey”, and others.  Mandarin terms include kuàxìngbié (to go beyond sex)” for “transgender”, biànxìngzhě (one who changes sex) for “transsexual”, and  rényāo (human monster—a pejorative generally pertaining to Thai transsexuals).10 The pejorative underscores that the desire for ethnic dominance isn’t just a feature of the West, but carries over as an attitude fostered by previous generations of Han Chinese as well.

 

CONFRONTING SOCIAL BARRIERS

China’s recent awakening to the existence of transpeople appears to begin in the 1990’s, and in fact, 1990 is when the first modern gender confirmation surgery was reported in China. 11 In 1995 a dancer and former Colonel in the People’s Army gained gender confirmation surgery and published stories about her struggles.  Bian Yujie (opera), Chen Lili (singer and Miss World contestant), and Liu Shihan (model) captivated Chinese intrigue and rocketed to fame.  But the one to grasp the most attention in Chinese society was Jin Xing, a variety show star commanding 100 million viewers per week.12

In 2007, Liu Ting was awarded as a “national role model of virtue” because she physically carried her mother back and forth from the hospital for treatment.  Then in 2015 she came out as a transwoman, gaining interest that their virtuous hero wasn’t a performer of any kind.  It was a revolutionary idea in its own right that a transperson could be understood, despite social stigma and press scrutiny of degrees of femininity, as a pillar of moral excellence.13

This rise in understanding of transpeople is no small feat, and mass media seems to have made the difference including Internet.  In 2011, a survey of 1,762 respondents conducted in 5 universities in the areas of Chongqing and Chengdu in central China demonstrated the negative attitudes maintained in the upcoming generation due to the traditional conservatism.  Only 16.8% considered transpeople acceptable.  12.6% would accept a date with a transperson.  4.2% had gender identity issues of their own.14

The Williams Institute released a survey of 23 nations concerning trans rights in 2016.  It ranked these nations, including the United States and China on a “Transgender Rights Scale.”  The highest scoring nations included Spain at 74, Sweden at 72, and Argentina tied with Canada at 70.  The United States tied India at 61.  China came in at 52, immediately behind Turkey’s 54.  The nations who fared the worst were Hungary and Poland at 49, South Korea at 48, and Russia at 41.15

In the same survey, a mean of 2.2% in China admitted to having transgender friends and family compared to 15.7 in the United States and 10.8% in Canada.16 Support for “gender change” in China revealed  that 17.8% “agree strongly” and 43.4% “agree somewhat;” in other words, “agree” speaks of an inclination to support those in transition.  On the other hand, 7.5% of Chinese respondents “disagree strongly” and 12.8% “disagree somewhat” while 18.4% didn’t know.  In comparison to respondents in the United States, 45.6% “agree strongly” and 27.0% “agree somewhat.”  10.0% of Americans “disagree strongly,” 7.8% “disagree somewhat,” and 9.6% don’t know.17

For a difference between 10 points on the human rights scale, this survey tells a significant story.  It’s more than the strong difference between America’s acceptance and Chinese reluctance.  If 4.2 of university students admit to gender issues but only 2.2% of the population admits to having transgender friends or family, it appears that few act upon their gender issues through transition and prefer to suffer instead.  It’s easy to see why this should be.  For many, the prospect of transition is prohibitive.

Fewer than 10 medical establishments in all Mainland China even provide hormone replacement therapy for transpeople.18 Patients may feel compelled to seek alternatives through Internet or the black market. If a patient desires transition and requests gender confirmation surgery, that patient must pass a rigorous set of requirements that exceed requirements in other parts of the world:

  1. The patient must obtain a permit from a public security bureau demonstrating that the patient has no criminal record.
  2. The patient must present a certificate from a psychiatrist who must show the patient has continued in treatment a minimum of 1 year without being dissuaded from transitioning.
  3. The patient must draw up a report requesting surgery and have it notarized.
  4. The patient must present a certificate showing that next of kin have been notified.
  5. The patient cannot be married.
  6. Documents need to show that the patient must have desired transition for a minimum of 5 years, living in the role of the gender in which one identifies.19

 

REASSESSMENT AND REACTIONISM

Of course, it’s impossible to show “no criminal record” if one has been charged with prostitution or some other crime in the underground economy.  Like other nations, Chinese transwomen have often felt compelled to turn to this shadowy life to survive.  In China, like elsewhere, not only do transpeople face discrimination in every aspect of life, they fear further abuse by friends, family, employers, or others.  Fear of retaliation prevents reporting even though discrimination is illegal under the Employment Promotion Law 20 and Chinese domestic law.  Profession of sex work marks an individual for further rejection, even aside from gender identity.21

Compulsion of transpeople into the underground economy results in serious dangers, not only for those transpeople entrapped in the sex and drug industries, but upon Chinese society in general.  That includes enhanced transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, especially in areas where condom use isn’t promoted.  The enhanced risks prompted Asia Catalyst to issue recommendations for the government of the People’s Republic of China and international donors.22

But it appears that a lesser degree of openness remains the trend.  In June 2017 the China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) published a new regulation banning any display of “abnormal sexual behaviors” including homosexuality in online video and audio content.  According to Reuters, this ranges from film to documentaries to educational videos.23

This happened a month after police in the old royal city of Xi’an detained organizers of the Speak Out 2017 conference.  Xi’an police told the organizers, “LGBT events can never be held in Xi’an. Xi’an does not welcome LGBT events.”  Organizers were ordered to hand over their cell phones, administrative passwords, lists of speakers, and were kept from contacting anyone.24

But much of the battle for trans rights has focused upon one locale particularly:  Hong Kong.

Hong Kong itself is currently hearing the case of 3 transmen who are challenging the government requirement to complete transition before identity cards could be amended to show that they’re legally male. The petitioners claim the practice violates the Sex Discrimination Ordinance and they have support of the Equal Opportunities CommissionSince female-to-male surgery often requires multiple procedures, transmen often face a protracted danger of legal limbo, especially with respect to holding onto a job.25

This isn’t the first challenge to come to Hong Kong.  The Court of Final Appeal ruled in 2013 that a transwoman may marry her boyfriend.  Others are also challenging Hong Kong laws as “out of date” in a changing conservative milieu in which the people of Hong Kong previously didn’t discuss transgenderism, referencing transpeople as “cross dressers” or “perverts”.26

In the same year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International intervened in the case of a Columbian transsexual, Eliana Rubashkyn, who obtained legal recognition as a female in 2013 despite not having had gender confirmation surgery.  She had been prohibited from entering the country till taking refugee status, and claims Hong Kong authorities continue to discriminate against her. 27

Hong Kong has an extra dimension of conservatism over that of other parts of the People’s Republic of China or even Taiwan.  Hong Kong has been a hot market center since its years in the British Commonwealth.  Money is king here and strong conservatism orders corporate practices throughout the area.  The struggles represented in Hong Kong are endemic to traditional values common throughout China with additional influence from British conservatives.  But resistance to recognition appears to slowly melt with understanding.

In which case, Hong Kong is the place to watch.  Change would take generations of trans visibility and education throughout China.  But what happens in Hong Kong would set a precedent for the rest of China and Hong Kong’s staunch conservatism would speak loudly to conservatives in other Chinese regions who may not have considered the case of transpeople before trans visibility sharpens public awareness.

It’s a trend to watch regardless of whether Beijing cracks down on Hong Kong’s murmurings to assert its own autonomy.  To the Mainland, Hong Kong has always been and will always be properly part of China.  Assertions of autonomy won’t prevent the rest of China from considering Hong Kong’s legal trends, though the rest of the mainland may be slower to adopt their approach to trans rights than Hong Kong.  After all, resistance to change is a feature of conservatism and the hinterlands change more slowly than the cities.

But given the increased visibility of transpeople in other parts of China, it’s inevitable that regions will be forced to confront the issues visibility demands.  Either a regional authority can shut it down in an attempt to erase the memory of any such thing as a transperson or they can take the wiser approach of considering the social repercussions of discrimination.  Given that Chinese laws have already shown some cracks by which transition is possible, however remote for most individuals, the trans struggle cannot help but become more visible.  Chinese must learn and understand.

_______________________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  Hong Kong at night, with a hint of the outline of the emblem of Hong Kong.  (adapted from Wikimedia Commons)

  1. Asia Catalyst Staff with Beijing Zuoyou Information Center and Shanghai CSW&MSM Center. “‘My Life Is Too Dark to See the Light’: A Survey of the Living Conditions of Transgender Female Sex Workers In Beijing and Shanghai” (Published by Asia Catalyst, NY, accessed January 24, 3018) p. 11. http://asiacatalyst.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Asia-Catalyst-TG-SW-Report.pdf.
  2. O’Callaghan, Jay; Flahive, Ryan; Kelleher, Laura; et. al. “Urban Agglomerations-2005” National Geographic College Atlas of the World (National Geographic Society, 2007) ISBN-13: 978-0-471-74117-6, p. 271.
  3. Eugene K. Chow. “China’s Complicated Approach to Transgender Rights” The Diplomat (October 23, 2017, accessed January 24, 2018) https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/chinas-complicated-approach-to-transgender-rights/.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Esme Benjamin. “Is China Making Strides for Transgender Rights” The Culture Trip (October 26, 2017, accessed January 24, 2018) https://theculturetrip.com/asia/china/articles/is-china-making-strides-for-transgender-rights/.
  6. Jill Levine. “From the Shadows: China’s Growing Tolerance of Transgender Rights” The Atlantic (August 9, 2013, accessed January 24, 2018) https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/08/from-the-shadows-chinas-growing-tolerance-of-transgender-rights/278540/.
  7. Frank Viviano. “China’s Great Armada” National Geographic (July 2005, accessed January 25, 2018) http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0507/feature2/.
  8. Op. cit.
  9. Asia Catalyst, p. 18.
  10. Carlos Ottery with Weijing Zhu. “Crossing the Gender Lines: Transgenderism might just be a step too far for China” The World of Chinese (November 23, 2013, accessed January 25, 2018) http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/11/crossing-the-gender-lines/.
  11. Zuo Chen. “The 20-year road of legalizing gender reassignment surgery.” Law and Life Magazine( August 28, 2009, accessed October 20, 2014) http://news.sina.com.cn/c/sd/2009-08-28/153618532895.shtml .
  12. Eugene K. Chow. The Diplomat.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Zhang Peichao, Chi Xinli et al. “Cognitive survey of homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals in universities.” China Public Health, Vol. 28, No. 7(2012): 921-923.
  15. Andrew R. Flores, Taylor N.T. Brown, and Andrew S. Park. “Public Support for Transgender Rights: A Twenty-three Country Survey” The Williams Institute (December 2016, accessed January 25, 2018) p. 7. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/23-Country-Survey.pdf.
  16. Ibid, pp. 11, 12.
  17. Ibid, p. 12.
  18. Xu Jingxi. “Qian Jinfan: The 84-year-old transgender person’s ‘best part of life has just begun.’“People’s Daily, (June 20, 2012, accessed October 1, 2014. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/dfpd/shehui/2012-06/20/content_15515350.htm .
  19. Asia Catalyst, p. 53.
  20. Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. Article 3:”Workers seeking employment shall not be subject to discrimination based on factors such as ethnicity, race, gender, religious belief etc.” The Employment Promotion Law of the People’s Republic of China (August 30, 2007).
  21. Op. cit. p. 24.
  22. Ibid, pp. 65-67.
  23. Yifan Wang. “Chinese Regulator Calls Homosexuality ‘Abnormal’ and Bans Gay Content from the Internet” (June 30, 2017, accessed January 25, 2018) http://fortune.com/2017/06/30/china-homosexuality-internet-weibo-censorship/.
  24. Catherine Lai. “LGBT conference in China forced to cancel; organizers [sic] say they were detained for 8 hours” HKFP (May 31, 2017, accessed January 25, 2018) https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/05/31/lgbt-conference-china-forced-cancel-organisers-say-detained-8-hours/.
  25. Kylie Knott. “Transgender lecturer in Hong Kong on her fight to be accepted by a conservative society , and her fear of the police” South China Morning Post (updated January 20, 2018, accessed January 24, 2018) http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/2129524/transgender-lecturer-hong-kong-her-fight-be-accepted-conservative-society.
  26. Laurie Chen. “How a Hong Kong ‘genderqueer’ bodybuilder is fighting discrimination – with compassion” South China Morning Post (updated  January 22, 2018, accessed January 24, 2018) http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/community/article/2129530/how-hong-kong-transgender-bodybuilder-fighting.
  27. Op. cit.
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An LGBT Medical Rating System: A response to Washington’s latest decision

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

It’s like another bowl of the seven last plagues, but instead of being poured out by God, it’s poured out by a double-tongued White House.  This week’s executive decision to create a “Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom” within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reads like a carte blanche license to refuse medical services to LGBT peoples and to women who either seek or have ever had an abortion.

It reeks of a world without grace or forgiveness, a green light for religionists to pass medical judgments against demographics with whom they may not happen to like or agree.  It’s not just a problematic decision in terms of the well being for all Americans.  It’s problematic for religion and spiritualities as well, whether Evangelical, Catholic, or any other tradition, Abrahamic or non-Abrahamic.

It forces an issue regarding conscience.  While there is precedent in New York that one who opposes abortion on religious and ethical grounds should not be compelled to provide the service and allow another employee to be assigned without disciplinary action,1 it’s clearly a step backwards for many who must decide whether medical ministry should only be provided to those whom they can consider to be potentially acceptable church converts.  In other words, will one’s medical ministry coincide with the words of Y’shua, “Freely ye have received; freely give?” 2 Or will that coincide with a contemporary consensus that says, “Repent according to the decisions of our denomination and ye shall receive a flu shot, else ye shall die?”

The onus is now upon the religious more than ever.  For us who may or may not be members of anti-transgender religious bodies, perhaps we need a system by which we can rate medical practitioners as to whether they are willing to help transpeople or not and to what degree.

 

THE DECISION FROM THE WHITE HOUSE

On January 16, 2018, Politico warned that a new “division” within the office in charge of civil rights at HHS charged with oversight and enforcement of “religious freedom” protections for health care workers.  How extreme would this enforcement be?  HHS would have the ability to punish health care organizations who won’t allow employees to deny medical treatment based on “moral objections” to anyone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or may have made a medical choice that disagrees with that employee.3

What remains to be seen in terms of how draconian this may turn out to be is whether any employee, however low in rank, could force an entire organization into refusal to treat.

Thursday, January 18,  Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS declared, “Never forget that religious freedom is a primary freedom, that it is a civil right that deserves enforcement and respect,” 4

But, we must ask, does this apply to “religious freedom” pertaining to all religions, or only those who are deemed “acceptable” to the Evangelical-Catholic Alliance and ruled by Dominionists?  Would this require enforcement of a Hindu choosing to deny treatment to those who eat beef?  Would this require enforcement of a Jehovah’s Witness choosing to deny treatment that involves blood transfusions?

Certainly not.  The parachurch organizations that pushed for this rule don’t care for those outside their alliance.  They only care about forcing people into their churches.  This rule is clearly an establishment of a certain genre of religions by government intervention.

It’s easy to see how this approach to “discrimination” as defined by judgmental religionists can lead to the kind of religious warfare early American colonists had desired to leave behind in Europe.  It’s also easy to see how the American Civil Liberties Union would be very interested in test cases.  In fact the ACLU reportedly tweeted:

Religious liberty doesn’t include a right to be exempt from laws protecting our health or barring discrimination.  It doesn’t mean a right to refuse to transport a patient in need because she had an abortion.  It doesn’t mean refusing care to a patient because she is transgender.”5

Severino’s idea of a “primary freedom” being a civil right deserving of “enforcement” is far different from allowing an employee to simply not take part in a treatment the employee considers in conflict with his religious practice or moral sense.

It makes sense that Roger Severino would take such a radical position.  Donald Trump appointed him in 2017 from the Evangelical parachurch organization, The Heritage FoundationIn 2016, he had written a report critical of the transgender protections of the Obama administration.6

Not all medical practitioners are on board.  In fact, there is ample belief that the new rule would impose a destructive effect upon  medical ethics and practice.  Ben Brown, a Doctor of Gynecology and Obstetrics and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health referred to oaths taken by medical professionals including the Hippocratic Oath.  He reportedly said, “Imposing their values on a patient is not in consort with our professional job as doctors.”7

It’s clear that, apart from those who have had an abortion, transpeople specifically are in the crosshairs.  Organizations like The Heritage Foundation that ostensibly oppose transpeople already understand that transpeople require elevated levels of medical treatment.  Their clear objective is to deny any prospect of transition, and if one has transitioned or is transitioning, deny life-sustaining care.  In plain terms, Dominionists really do want us to die one way or another.  Imposing upon medical practitioners in this way amounts to an attempt at mass murder of all who do not enter so-called “conversion therapy,” which for us would be a fate worse than death.

An Alt-Right publication presented the move as “open season on faggots,” and expressed “hope” that this is a “prelude to much greater things to come.” 8 What are these “greater things” specifically, concentration camps?  Do these “greater things” include a license to kill in the manner of the “Shoot the Gays Initiative,” also known as the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” that then California Attorney General Kamala Harris succeeded in keeping off the ballot?9

 

REVERSION AND REFORM

Our own response would necessarily require change to what we had done all along prior to the Affordable Care Act upon which many transpeople have relied for treatment.  Many of us, especially younger people, have not known a time in which transition was done entirely in secret and how facing rejection in families and at work had been events even more dangerous than they have been in recent years in which transgenderism had gained greater acceptance.

In many cases, that greater acceptance will not have changed.  While we used to label medical and psychiatric practitioners as well as other businesses as “gender friendly” or “not gender friendly,” we need to look at how institutions thought of as “gender friendly” might have crusaders in their ranks attempting to enforce denial of medical treatment.  We also need to consider whether a medical office or hospital may have had litigation brought against them, the outcomes, and whether they continue to resist.

Such a system might look something like this for institutions in the future:

  1. Gender friendly institutions
  2. Institutions who are not gender friendly
  3. Gender friendly institutions constrained by individuals not gender friendly
  4. Gender friendly institutions constrained by government action or litigation
  5. Gender friendly institutions who are gender friendly and are resisting government action or litigation
  6. Gender friendly institutions who have succeeded in their resistance.

A similar approach might apply to individual practitioners:

  1. Gender friendly practitioners who are gender friendly
  2. Practitioners who are not gender friendly
  3. Gender friendly practitioners constrained by others in their office not gender friendly
  4. Gender friendly practitioners facing government action , litigation, or institutional discipline for allowing treatment
  5. Gender friendly practitioners resisting government action, litigation, or institutional discipline for allowing treatment
  6. Gender friendly practitioners who have succeeded in their resistance.

Such a rating system would also have to be kept off the open Web for the protection of individual practitioners and institutions given a decaying climate of religio-political intolerance.  This would have to be kept strictly a word-of-mouth designation under advisement of local transpeople.

Please understand.  These are only measures to consider as a possibility for the future.  We haven’t yet come to the point of litigation or government interference.  We haven’t come to the point in which a practitioner may be prosecuted ex post facto for having ever treated a transperson, though there are some who would desire exactly that.

It also means that the often schismatic trans community will have to stand together in cooperation like it has failed to do for decades.  It means a demand of greater respect for one another than what has been the norm among business entities and transgender organizations that rule over their clientele in a cultlike manner.  Internal infighting could become deadly for others, figuratively speaking at first, literally if certain factions in American society have their way.

It also means that religionists must come to terms with the damage they often do in their practice.  No greater damage has been sustained by religion and no greater damage has been imposed upon religionists than the exploitation of religion to inflict harm upon others.  The very entities that seek to withhold life-sustaining care upon transpeople destroy their own ethic of mercy.  While they may speak to the damage a woman may have sustained in herself due to abortion, the same do very little to nurture children brought to term, replacing an awe of innocence with an imposition of guilt through a doctrine of “original sin,” and teaching those children to become twice the children of hell as themselves.  We may well praise the unborn more than the living.

In like manner, whether they realize it or not, the pogroms sought by religionists against LGBT peoples do much the same damage to themselves.  One cannot claim “unconditional love” while nurturing and teaching hatreds tantamount to murder.  The greater damage isn’t to transpeople, a minority of minorities.  The greater damage is to themselves.

And here is where reform really happens.  We who transitioned, on the most part, have already made our peace with our consciences concerning who we are.  Religionists, however, often remain more conflicted than us.  Our people will survive one way or another just like we have since prehistory, simply because we can do nothing else as a people.  In the meantime we must protect one another and those who help us as well.

______________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  The logo for the Department of Health and Human Services superimposed upon a Protestant church whose aura has been diminished.  (Wikimedia Commons)

 

  1. Tom Callahan. “Backing the Right of Nurses Not to Assist in Abortions” New York Times (January 4, 1988, accessed January 18, 2018) http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/04/nyregion/backing-the-right-of-nurses-not-to-assist-in-abortions.html.
  2. Matthew 10:8
  3. Dan Diamond and Jennifer Habercorn. “Trump to overhaul HHS office, shield health workers with moral objections” Politico (January 16, 2018, accessed January 18, 2018) https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/16/conscience-abortion-transgender-patients-health-care-289542.
  4. Alison Kodjak. “Trump Admin Will Protect Health Workers Who Refuse Services On Religious Grounds” NPR (January 18, 2018, accessed January 18, 2018) https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/18/578811426/trump-will-protect-health-workers-who-reject-patients-on-religious-grounds?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180118.
  5. Twitter (7:58 AM – Jan 17, 2018, accessed January 18, 2018) https://twitter.com/ACLU/status/953657698700156928.
  6. Zack Ford. “Trump administration’s new ‘religious freedom’ rule will encourage discrimination in health care” Think Progress (updated January 18, 2018, accessed January 18, 2018) https://thinkprogress.org/hhs-religious-freedom-rule-5a7ab6052dab/.
  7. Juliet Eilperinand Ariana Eunjung Cha . “New HHS civil rights division to shield health workers with moral or religious objections” Washington Post (January 17, 2018, accessed January 18, 2018) https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-administration-creating-civil-rights-division-to-shield-health-workers-with-moral-or-religious-objections/2018/01/17/5663d1c0-fbe2-11e7-8f66-2df0b94bb98a_story.html?utm_term=.b075cdde5699.
  8. Nick Duffy. “Nazis are thrilled that Trump has ‘declared open season on faggots’” Pink News (January 17, 2018, accessed January 18, 2018) http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/01/17/nazis-are-thrilled-that-trump-has-declared-open-season-on-faggots/.
  9. Anita Chabria. “California ‘Kill the Gays’ ballot blocked” The Guardian (June 23, 2015, accessed January 18, 2018) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/24/california-court-blocks-kill-the-gays-bill.
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The Coffins: the struggle for human rights amid consolidation of power

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

People called it the “sick man of Europe” before World War I when it was still an Ottoman Empire.1  Despite revival as a constitutional republic under Kamal Atatürk, and a trend toward secular Europeanism, Turkey now has become increasingly isolated from the West, its entry into the European Union in serious doubt, with realignment of interests with the Russian Federation and a conspicuous decline of human rights.  Part of that decline might be attributed to fears of Kurdish factions and the so-called “Islamic State.”  But others have been caught up in the political melee that sloshed like a pot boiling over when its President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) consolidated power.2

That includes others deemed undesirable and that’s more than minority ethnicities.  It includes transpeople branded as “sinners”, some of which have been incarcerated in what have been called “coffins” by Turkish activists.  Today, activists fear something more:  consolidation of LGBT prisoners into a dedicated prison near İzmir, modern day Smyrna, a city named after the healing resin myrrh.3  But when it comes to the coffins, the “healing” offered more resembles worse than the “conversion therapies” of the West.

 

IN WAKE OF THE COUP DE’ETAT

July 15, 2016 brought shocking developments and also stories of incredible herosism.  Turkish military leaders attempted to overthrow President Erdoğan.  A security detail even kidnapped Turkey’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hulusi Akar.  Social media had a major role to play in the failure of that coup d’état because it provided a means for President Erdoğan to communicate with his people and it helped to organize immediate widespread resistance against the coup.  Common people, some armed with kitchen utensils, stood with loyalist troops till the rebellion toppled in a few hours.  The last contingent of the rebellion surrendered on the Bosporus Bridge.4

The Erdoğan government blamed Fethulla Gulen of the religious movement Hizmet.  Gulen has been living in exile in the United States since 1999.  Gulenists, once allies of AKP, had staffed government positions with their own people, arousing suspicion with President Erdoğan.5

Then on July 22, the Erdoğan government declared a state of emergency to remove all elements of “terrorism” in the coup attempt.  The Turkish Justice Ministry demanded extradition of Gulen to Turkey.  But to date, U.S. authorities insist that evidence for arrest and extradition is insufficient, a position that seriously damaged Turkish-American relations.6

Recent organizations regarded as “terrorist” include Daesh (the self-proclaimed “Islamic State”),  the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front.  But civilians have also been targeted by Turkish forces who directly and indirectly blame groups such as these, and carry out suspicions with impunity.7

The level of impunity enjoyed by Turkish officials under such a political climate contributes to something else:  exacerbation of human rights violations against minorities including LGBT peoples.  It also means suppression of journalists.  Human Rights Watch reported that news websites and newspapers including the daily Zaman have been blocked and seized, journalists jailed, television stations removed from the state-owned satellite distribution system, and increased requests to Twitter to censor individual accounts.8

This trend in Turkey, of course, goes against the liberties that constitutional republics are supposed to facilitate as guardians of democracy.  However, President Erdoğan himself has been quoted to say, “Democracy is a vehicle, not a goal.”  The statement implies that his goal consisted of something other than that of a democratic reformer like Atatürk.9

In the crosshairs of many who brutally seek their own power amid this climate of elevated suspicion and oppression lurk transfolk who have long struggled for survival.

 

THE TRANSGENDER HERITAGE OF ASIA MINOR

The heritage of transpeople in Turkey has some of the most ancient roots anywhere.  The ruins of Pessinus, the center of the worship of Cybele and the Gallī (Gallae to our modern equivalents) can still be found there.  Cybele’s home at Mt. Ida overlooks the island of Lesbos in the northwest of Turkey as well as the ruins of the city of Troy who would also have known the ministration of the Gallae.  To the south at Ephesus, the worship of Artemis was attended by transgender Megabyzes.  Nobody really knows how far back into antiquity transgender priests have existed.10

Turkey has also been the home of the Temple and Spring of Hermaphroditus, its location now said to be isolated below sea level at a military installation near Bodrum.11

Of course, the fortunes of transpeople of antiquity reversed in the 4th Century CE with the “conversion” of Constantine and the Edict of Rome signed on August 6, 390 CE by Theodosius, with his son and co-Augustus Arcadius, and Valentinian IIThe Edict of Rome consigned “male effeminates” to death by burning, and this formed part of the Corpus Juris Civilis that set the standard for European law for centuries to come.12

While the Edict of Rome may have suppressed transpeople during the Byzantine period, transpeople did gain a measure of recovery under Ottoman rule.  Turkish culture did for many years honor the performances of köçek troupes, males who performed as women.  Homosexuality did exist among the Ottomans, though practices appear to have been covert.13

 

RECENT PROTESTS

During the time transpeople in North America and Europe have asserted their right to exist, Turkish LGBT peoples have taken notice.  For a time it even appeared that transpeople would gain greater status in an enlightened country with the work of Michelle Demishevich on IMC-TV, Istanbul.  However, Michelle was fired September 19, 2014 with charges of “violation of professional ethics,” specifically addressing her “attitude and conduct” while denying that her termination had anything to do with her gender identity.  Of course “attitude and conduct” would include how she presented herself as a journalist.  It’s a pattern we commonly find among employers, even in the United States, who terminate trans workers because of their “presentation and deportment” according to gender identity while falsely claiming another cause for termination, or stating reasons for termination in a nebulous, non-specific way.14

By no means was her termination the first in what would become a series of hits against LGBT peoples.  Authorities answered Istanbul’s 10th annual LGBT Pride event in 2013 with tear gas and water canons.  The protest, attended by an estimated 20,000 people, stood in the face of expressions that followed the World Values Survey in 2011.  According to that survey, 84% of Turkish people dislike gays or lesbians living as neighbors.  The reaction by authorities in Istanbul demonstrated that liberty had not been achieved, and that intolerance ruled Turkish hearts instead.  How did Turkish attitudes slide concerning transpeople?  Very likely, Turks learned those attitudes over recent generations through its adoption of Europeanism in the early to mid 20th Century 15

Authorities’ actions would go a step further in 2016, a year before the coup.  Istanbuls governor ordered a ban of LGBT Pride events and any parade associated with it, citing security concernsand referencing Daesh and Kurdish militants.  Indeed, militants of Daesh had also determined to shut down gay rights rallies with counter-protests.  When a group of activists gathered to read a statement denouncing the ban, police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, and detained 19 activists.16

But anger has continued to seethe over the brutal rape and murder of trans activist Hande Kader August 12, 2016.  Hande, of course, was not the first transperson to be brutally murdered in Turkey, nor was she the first activist to meet such a fate.  We’ve recounted murders of transpeople in Turkey virtually every year at the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Hande’s body was found in a forest.  She had been raped and burned to death.  The outrage sparked protest in Istanbul, demanding justice, hoping that her murder would mark a turning point.  But that didn’t happen.17

What did happen was Ankara banning all “gay functions.”  This happened on November 18, 2017, arguing that theater events, exhibitions, panels, colloquia, etc. would “provoke reactions within certain segments of society” and are at risk of being targeted by “terrorists”.18

 

WHERE TRANSPEOPLE WENT

Many LGBT peoples have simply disappeared through arrest and incarceration.  Nisan Su Aras of  Hürriyet Daily News reported a response from the Justice Ministry to Zafer Kıraç who questioned their disposition as the chair of the Civil Society in the Penal System Association (CİSST).  The Justice Ministry indicated that 79 LGBT people are being held in solitary confinement and that a “special type of institution” dedicated to housing LGBT peoples is being erected near İzmir.19

The Justice Ministry also described the detainees as “having LGBT” in a manner that suggests that Turkish authorities consider “LGBT” to be mental illness.20

“Pink prisons,” as they are often called, are those facilities which have separate housing for LGBT peoples.  Currently the only ones that exist are in Ankara, Istanbul, and Corum, though solitary confinement has also been practiced elsewhere.  You’d think that this might be a good thing in that LGBT peoples are housed separately from other malicious inmates.  In the case of Turkey, however, this has served to work in the other direction, further isolating inmates in concentrated conditions of abuse.  Reports have emerged of beatings, rape, sexually charged insults and other forms of sexual molestation by guards.21

On January 6, 2015, 18 LGBT associations issued a joint statement against the İzmir prison, asserting that it would further isolate, stigmatize, and facilitate discrimination against LGBT individuals, involving also their families and social circles.  It also complained that many would have to travel great distances to visit detainees.22

 

THE EUROPEAN COURT RULING

An important ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) based in Strasbourg, Germany in 2012 has offered the best hope for activists in Turkey to ameliorate the suffering of detainees.  The case pertains to a prisoner at the İzmir-Buca Prison, not to be confused with the proposed “pink prison” in İzmir.

The text of the ruling, translated by Google, indicates the following:

  1. On 5 February 2009 the prison administration decided to place the applicant in a single cell. The minutes in this issue include the following statement:

“(…) the prisoner who has been arrested for homosexual illness has been placed in a single cell instead of a war where he is staying.”

  1. The Applicant has stated that the population of his/her residence is 7 m2, half of the living area. The applicant also stated that there is a single bed and toilet, but there is no sink. There are mice in the cell, the lighting is poor and the room is dirty.  The applicant stated that there were 10 more of the same types of detainees used for detention charges or for accusation of pedophilia or rape.  On 5 February 2009, the applicant, after being placed in a single person cell, was disconnected from all other detainees and subjected to all kinds of social activities.  He is prevented from going outdoors and allowed to leave his cell only to meet with his lawyer or to attend regular meetings that are held regularly every months. [sic]

  2. The Government not only refused to acknowledge these facts but also informed that there were furniture in the cell and that the means necessary for daily living such as lighting, toilets, beds, cupboards and chairs were available. The Government stated that the applicant was alone in his cell until the arrival of another homosexual prisoner in prison.

  3. On 21 April 2009 the applicant filed a request for the removal of the decisions taken by the İzmir Prosecutor’s Office. The applicant stated that the application form is homosexual, not transvestite or transsexual. According to the applicant, the sexual orientation led to being kept in a single cell without having any contact with other detainees and without participating in any social activity.  In addition, he stated that the above conditions have caused psychiatric problems in himself for about 3 months.  The applicant stated that in the Turkish penal execution system, only prisoners convicted of aggravated life imprisonment were held on similar terms.  The applicant therefore requested that he be treated equally with the other detainees.23

The decision of the court centered upon this issue:

“Article 14 of the Convention reads as follows:

‘The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be without discrimination of sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, membership of a national minority, wealth, birth or any other circumstance.”

  1. The Government opposes this claim and suggests that the purpose of the applicant’s self-appointed single-celled cellar is to protect itself, not discrimination.”24

The court sided with the Applicant:

  1. “In the circumstances of this case, the Court notes that the applicant complained that the inconsistency of the exclusion order from the prison community was in violation of Article 3 of the Convention (paragraph 51 above) [specifically speaking of the isolation as a ‘deep attack on his spiritual and physical suffering and also in the honor of humanity-Author]. The Court recalls that the above applicant assessed that if the standard coherence was concerned, the worries of bodily integrity being exposed to the attack were not entirely unfounded (paragraph 48).  However, as noted above, these concerns are not enough to justify the measure of total isolation from prison life, even if some security measures are required to protect the applicant.

  2. On the other hand, the Court disagrees with the argument that the Government’s secrecy measures were taken at the request of the applicant. The applicant or the deputy requested the prison administration to transfer the applicant to a ward where the homosexual prisoners were held or to another appropriate ward (paragraph 8 above).  The applicant’s deputy stated that his client had been imprisoned and harassed by other detainees to support this request.  As for the applicant, he reported that he had “problems”.  In short, requests were made to transfer authorities to a ward appropriate to the applicant’s situation.”25

The ruling included awarding partial damages to the Applicant.26

You’d think this ruling should have sent shock waves through the Turkish penal system concerning solitary confinement.  However, no appreciable change appears to have taken place.  But this ruling appears to have given further impetus in the Turkish mind to erect a dedicated prison for LGBT individuals “to assure their safety.”  Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag indicated in 2014 the “necessity” of the prison and that construction was continuing.27

 

CONTINUING CONDITIONS

Of course, based upon the aforementioned joint statement by 18 LGBT organizations, scarcely anyone in the Turkish LGBT Community believes the dedicated facility would mean improvement in living conditions, precisely because Turkish officials have demonstrated open hostility, stigmatizing LGBT peoples as “diseased” in the first place.

 LGBTI News Turkey has long boldly publicized incidents of hate against transpeople in Turkey including abuse by Turkish authorities.  This month, the site has told the world about 2 transwomen who had been incarcerated in Tekirdağ No 2.  One named “Diren” in the article was described as “subject to systematic torture inside an F-type prison cell coffin for 3 years longer.  F-type prisons are those facilities geared to solitary confinement.  The article also mentions a detainee called “Buse” who was sentenced to 37 years and convicted without a defense attorney.  She only revealed her gender identity during incarceration.28

“Diren” was accused of spreading “terrorist propaganda” without tangible evidence and convicted.  She is vegan, so has fed on boiled potatoes and tomatoes.  Her requests for female attire have been denied.  Doctors at the infirmary are described as “indifferent”.  Officers refer to her in the masculine.29

The case of “Buse” is being followed up by IHD (Human Rights Association) Co-Chair and attorney Eren Keskin, who has taken charge of the judicial process to clarify her demands for justice.  A statement concerning her case and “Diren’s” is expected next week.  Meantime, both prisoners are writing their histories and experience in their incarcerations.30

One thing that seems so compelling about the cases of these 2 transwomen is the liberal use of “terrorism” to justify incarceration, regardless of how quietly one may happen to live.  Exactly what is “terrorism”, especially in Turkey’s institutional paranoia after the failed coup d’état?

It’s an important question, not just for Turkey, but also for the United States whose “Alt-Right”, in close association with its Evangelical Dominionists, has infiltrated law enforcement throughout the country.31

It’s important because U.S. prisons also often place trans inmates in solitary confinement, doing so “for their protection” from abuse including rape.  Usually, solitary confinement simply consists of single cell residency, not necessarily places of extreme isolation and darkness, often referred to as “the hole.” But in our prisons, abuses have also been noted and publicized.32

What would solitary confinement mean in an American prison system dominated by Dominionists who may insist on “praying away the gay” while facilitating prison rape and beatings?  Would “conversion therapy” become the norm in penal institutions?  No doubt there are Dominionists who would prefer exactly that.  It would also contribute to international complicity with respect to LGBT detainees in prison systems like that in Turkey and other countries whose conditions are even more deplorable.

For Turkey, this mitigation is the fulcrum of what may come, especially where the Erdoğan agenda appears to have backtracked on the reforms set in motion by Kamal Atatürk in his program of Europeanization.  But it takes more than a new orthography to realize the vision of Atatürk.  His reforms should have set forth something momentous for Turkey and the world.  One cannot adopt Europeanism without becoming part of those trends in advance of human rights that has marked the European evolution. 

But some Turks actually do get what it means to rise above the miasma of bigotries and hatreds.  Continuing protests evidence the fact.  The work of attorneys in human rights organizations evidences it too.  There is hope for Turkish society, even in an age of paranoia where human rights are reversed in a period of de-democratization. The “norm” of brutality can eventually be understood as a pervasive evil.

It’s a historical “norm” that has characterized the status of human rights more often than not in systems entrusted to a lecherous species that too often has not been mitigated by deep philosophical thought, but the dogma of religiosity instead.  The status of LGBT prisoners in Turkey could easily be true for ours at any time.  Ultimately, only our vigilance and publication of facts to the world in appeal to conscience can mitigate it.

__________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image: A monument to Kemal Ataturk as educator of Turkey’s next generations stands against an image of LGBT protest. (Wikimedia Commons)

  1. Cengiz Çandar. “No Longer ‘Sick Man,’ Turkey Is Lonely, Tired” Al Monitor (July 19, 2013, accessed January 10, 2018) https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/07/turkey-still-sick-man.html.
  2. Patrick Kingsley. “Turkey’s Erdogan Tries to Play Nice, After a Year of Bashing Europe” New York Times (December 28, 2017, accessed January 10, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/world/europe/erdogan-turkey.html.
  3. Moulton, Harold K., ed. The Analytical Greek Lexicon , Revised (Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids MI, 1981) ISBN: 0-310-20280-9, p. 371, entry: σμύρνα.
  4. (n.a.) “Turkey’s Failed Coup Attempt: All You Need to Know” Al Jazeera (accessed January 10, 2018) http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/turkey-failed-coup-attempt-161217032345594.html.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. (n.a) “Turkey 2016/2017” Amnesty International (accessed January 10, 2018) https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/.
  8. (n.a.) “Events of 2017: Turkey” Human Rights Watch (accessed January 10, 2018) https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/turkey.
  9. Steven A. Cook. “How Erdogan Made Turkey Authoritarian Again” The Atlantic (July 21, 2016, accessed January 10, 2018) https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/how-erdogan-made-turkey-authoritarian-again/492374/.
  10. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Ida’s Barren Summit” Transpire(April 14, 2017, accessed January 11, 2018) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/idas-barren-summit/.
  11. (na.a) “Hermaproditus” Revolvy (accessed January 11, 2018) https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Hermaphroditos&item_type=topic. The specificity of it being on a military base is a matter of belief as an oral tradition.
  12. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Alas the Charioteer” Transpire (November 25, 2016, accessed January 11, 2018) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/alas-the-charioteer/.
  13. Hanna, Judith Lynne. Dance, Sex, and Gender: signs of identity, dominance, defiance, and desire (University of Chicago Press, 1988), ISBN: 978-0226315515, p. 57.
  14. John DeLamar. “Turkey: Trans journalist fired from television station” Pink News (September 19, 2014, accessed January 22, 2018) http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/09/19/turkey-trans-journalist-fired-from-television-station/.
  15. John Beck. “Turkey’s Violent Homophobia” The Daily Beast (July 1, 2013, accessed January 11, 2018) https://www.thedailybeast.com/turkeys-violent-homophobia.
  16. Associated Press. “Turkey uses tear gas to break up gay pride gathering” Los Angeles Times (June 26, 2016, accessed January 11, 2018) http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-turkey-gay-pride-20160626-snap-story.html.
  17. Sarah A. Harvard. “Trans rights activist Hande Kader was raped and burned to death in Turkey” Mic (August 19, 2016, accessed January 11, 2018) https://mic.com/articles/152097/trans-rights-activist-hande-kader-was-raped-and-burned-to-death-in-turkey#.H6wvrjKD6.
  18. (n.a.) “Turkish capital Ankara bans all gay rights functions” BBC (November 19, 2017, accessed January 11, 2018) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42043910.
  19. Nisan Su Aras. “Majority of imprisoned LGBT’s kept in ‘solitary confinement’” Hürriyet Daily News (July 27, 2013, accessed January 11, 2018) http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/majority-of-imprisoned-lgbts-kept-in-solitary-confinement-51500.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Sibel Hurtas. “Turkey’s ‘pink prison’” Al Monitor (January 21, 2015, accessed January 11, 2018) http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/01/turkey-gay-lesbian-lgbt-special-prison.html#ixzz53dtZdVDN.
  22. Ibid.
  23. İkincidaire XV Turkey (B aşvur no. 24626/09) Karar, Strasbourg (ruling October 9, 2012, accessed January 11, 2018), sections 9-12. http://www.aihmiz.org.tr/?q=tr/node/251.
  24. Ibid, Sec. 52,53.
  25. Ibid, Sec. 58, 59.
  26. Ibid, Sec. 73-75.
  27. (n.a.) “Minister Bozdag: We Homemade Private Prison” Haberler.com (April 12, 2014, accessed January 11, 2018) https://www.haberler.com/bakan-bozdag-lgbt-bireyler-icin-mustakil-cezaevi-5901661-haberi/
  28. (n.a.) “Arat: 2 Trans Women or ‘Sinners’ in a Turkish Prison” LBTQI News Turkey (January 5, 2018, accessed January 10, 2018) https://lgbtinewsturkey.com/2018/01/05/arat-two-trans-women-or-sinners-in-a-turkish-prison/.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Alice Speri. “The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement” The Intercept (January 31, 2017, accessed January 11, 2018) https://theintercept.com/2017/01/31/the-fbi-has-quietly-investigated-white-supremacist-infiltration-of-law-enforcement/.
  32. (n.a.) “Issues: Police, Jails & Prisons” (National Center for Transgender Equality Website accessed January 11, 2018) https://transequality.org/issues/police-jails-prisons.
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