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 LGBT BELLWETHER: The world watches trans and LGBT rights in Russia and Amerika

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

I have a confession to make.  I love Russians.  Really I do.  I even lived with Russians for a month in the former Soviet Union when a group of mine were speaking in public theaters and Russian schools and my time with Russian friends remains some of my fondest memories.  I’ve met people who were more than good.  I met genuinely generous people, even if they mostly lived in grim poverty.

Of course, I entertain no illusion that all Russians are good and many who invited us to speak had ulterior motives or only had interest in the novelty of seeing an American.  After all, an American in a city where the majority consists of ethnic Russians are as much a novelty for Russians as a Russian citizen might be a novelty in places like Cleveland or Salt Lake City.  But, just as certainly, not all Americans are good either.  Some of us have ulterior motives and if we care to meet a Russian it may be for the novelty of meeting a Russian.

Russian-American relations have long been a roller coaster, not only for our respective societies, but for the world. Nations see a continuing clash of 2 societies bristling with enough nuclear weapons to blast all humanity into oblivion many times over.  Russians and Americans don’t always see eye-to-eye.  Then again, must we always?  Not really.  But human rights issues, often made a political issue on both sides, are in fact moral issues.  Both Russians and Americans have proven to be derelict in this regard too many times.  When it comes to the rights of transpeople, we’re seeing something relatively new:  entry of trans issues in the press and corresponding propaganda concerning them.

 

RUSSIAN BIGOTRIES AND RESPONSES

On New Years Eve, the Russian online propaganda magazine Sputnik International flashed the following headline:  “Tranny Troops: US Military to Accept Transgender Recruits Beginning 2018.” In a recent search, it was evident that Sputnik International changed the headline to read “Trans Troops,” possibly as a result of an international outcry led by the British LGBT news service PinkNews.  But the article wasn’t just disturbing for using an anti-transgender slur, it was disturbing because the article presented the presence of openly transgender people in military service should be laughable, as if the entire U.S. military has become infected with an incurable strain of  bimboism.  Nor was the headline the only slur.  Nick Duffy of PinkNews reported one person in that article referring to U.S. troops as “fags”.  Another said mockingly, “Tranny academy is coming to a cinema near you.”1

Of course, transgender troops have always existed in militaries, whether American or Russian.  We simply haven’t done so openly in the past and the real difference is our demanding human respect with full knowledge that many of us exist who can.  Likewise, Russian military society has smiled upon forcible same-sex rape, especially in subjugation of new conscripts, a legacy from Czarist practices.  Have American forces been immune from this?  We need not be so arrogant as to think so.  Of course, this kind of rape isn’t about homosexual affections.  The passive party is treated as inferior to the active one and the idea of calling another a “fag” isn’t about decrying a perceived violation of a divine command.  It’s about subjugating others.  It’s the same kind of subjugation that has been a theme of abuses associated with patriarchy and ethnic/racial dominance.2

You’d think that decades of Soviet oppression might have resolved such issues in a worker’s paradise of Communism.  You’d think men and women would have been equal.  They haven’t.  You’d think that Russians and other ethnic groups would look upon one another with the same level of respect.  They haven’t.  You’d think that Russians would accept other races who join forces with them.  In your dreams.

When I spoke to a class of Russian students in Daugavpils, Latvia, an instructor asked, “How do you Americans deal with racism?  I know I wouldn’t want to live next door to a Latvian!”  The question was admittedly shocking.  Most Americans speak of races in terms of perceived skin color.  It’s nonsense, of course.  Whites sometimes have darker skin than some Blacks and vice versa.  Asians may look more Native American than Native Americans and vice versa.  But Latvians are Teutons.  Russians are Slavs.  In the Russian mind, the 2 are different races even if the typical American couldn’t tell the difference.  Race is a social construct.

An African friend confirmed in my mind this attitude of Russian Dominionism who will remain unnamed in consideration of his political status.  He had been an instructor in the University of Moscow.  He noted the case of a Black exchange student who had remarked about the beauty of a Russian woman.  Are Russian women beautiful?  Incredibly so, and I’m sure Russian men would agree.

But word of this student’s compliments didn’t set well with local Russians, a group of which took him to the roof of a high building.  He was given a choice.  Either he could jump or he could be sent back to his home country with an official statement that he was homosexual.  That student chose to live with shame.  But when my African friend learned of it, he was reminded of a stark truth.  In his home country, being labeled “homosexual”, true or not, would be the most horrid thing that could happen.  Such could never obtain work.  Such would be rejected by family and prosecuted for any crime imaginable.  His life would be a living hell.  80% of people in my friend’s home country would prefer to jump.3

Such impositions of moral dilemmas aren’t new in Russia or elsewhere in Europe.  They’ve long been used from time to time to control whole demographics.  In Czarist Russia, they often took the form of pogroms.  We usually hear of such pogroms perpetrated upon Jews in the “Pale of Settlement.”  But they’ve occurred against other people as well including those LGBT.4

 

THE THIRD ROME

The Czars operated on one fundamental principle:  to control as much of the world’s population as possible.  It’s an echo of the Roman Empire and “Czar” is merely a Russian version of “Caesar”, ruling what Russians have long believed to be the “3rd Rome” after the empires of Rome and Constantinople.  This idea of the need to dominate to survive is ingrained in Russian society, with a prime directive of church and state united, symbolized by the double-headed eagle.5

Under the leadership of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev Russians began to seriously confront their history of oppression.  As a reformer he sought a purer, more open society characterized by perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness).5 But that meant full democratization and he became a victim of his own movement when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics broke up into the Commonwealth of Independent States.  Russians suffered horribly amid economic collapse and a weak President Boris Yeltsin.  The population of the Russian Federation entered a serious decline.  Russia was literally dying.6

In the United States many, especially those of Evangelical persuasion, many arrogantly insist that those changes came about because the United States “won the Cold War.”  This isn’t true.  The Cold War was never won by anyone.  Soviets made changes they knew they had to make.  They did so as a matter of their own interests, and ultimately they came back stronger because of it.8

But rising again meant many shifting to the Right.  Free elections ceased to be genuinely free amid electioneering.  Roving gangs equivalent to Neo-Nazis in the United States began to terrorize minorities, especially LGBT peoples.9

 

REVIVAL MADE IN AMERIKA

The collapse of the Soviet Union translated into a bonanza for Western religionists.  An evangelist could target a Russian city and often hundreds lined up to enter the waters of baptism.10 It also meant revival for something else: the traditional Russian Orthodox Church who for centuries had been the guardian of the Russian soul.

During the Soviet era, religion was deeply restricted.  Churches had to be officially registered in order for their existence to be recognized and none were permitted to proselytize.  Of course, some religious bodies proselytized anyway, holding meetings in homes.  By time American evangelists engaged Russian evangelical drives, plenty of Russians already existed who could debate issues of exegesis with the finesse of any Baptist or Pentecostal minister in Texas.

But this heady period of evangelism would not last.  The Russian Orthodox Church enjoyed its own revival, and then, thanks to the Yaroslav Law, became the dominant force in Russian religious society again with President Vladimir Putin as its most prominent member.  Minorities like Jehovah’s Witnesses once more became outlaws.11

Another law emerged in 2012 in Saint Petersburg prohibiting “gay propaganda,” resulting in Pride events being forced off the street and transpeople being forced back into the closet.  Later that law would be expanded to the entirety of the Russian Federation.12

None of this happened, however, without the work of religionists.  If one must oppress his neighbor, there has to be “moral justification” to do so, whether real or imagined.  By 2010, the principle voice for morality in most of the Russian Federation lay in the hands of the ruling Russian Orthodox Church.

 

A REALITY CHECK

Americans have no cause to waggle heads in condescending disbelief.  What’s happening in the Russian Federation has essentially had its counterpart in the United States, though with different steps than what Russians have taken:

  • Russians have their secretive but deadly Right wing gangs. So do Americans.13
  • Russians have their religious bodies condemning transpeople. So do Americans.14
  • Russians have sought to legislate against transpeople. So have Americans.15
  • Russians have made life difficult, even impossible to live for transpeople. So have Americans.16
  • Russians have exhibited ethnic and racial hatreds and these hatreds have often defined their history. Ditto for Americans.17
  • Russians wage covert wars upon other peoples in the world including cyber attacks. So do Americans.18
  • Russians have long orchestrated dezinformatsya (disinformation, what has been called “fake news”). So have Americans and this has accelerated in the age of Trump.19
  • Russians have had their internment camps. America has its detention centers.20
  • Russians have long practiced torture. So have Americans, and neither Americans nor Russians want to admit it, though Donald Trump has declared his support of torture in the presidential debates of 2016.21

In light of these things, can Americans claim any greater morality than Russians?  Hardly.  America may have taken in transgender asylum seekers from the Russian Federation, but once here, they continue to live in the shadows.22  What has been claimed as moral authority on the basis of divine command has on both sides been determined by theocratic declarations by clergy.  Everything else consists of what’s mutually regarded as useful and expedient and what results from that scarcely resembles the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

So do Americans make anti-transgender slurs?  Sure, lots of us do.  Much of America holds the same attitude toward transpeople as many Russians do.  Do all Russians hold this?  Nope.  This writer has known many open-minded Russian people and continues to correspond with Russian friends who know I happen to be trans.

Likewise, the surge of Evangelical Dominionism in American politics parallels the resurgence of Russian Dominionism.  Both have boosted the current occupant of the White House.

Given the right conditions, we could just as easily see widespread oppression of minorities in the United States as we have seen in the Russian Federation.  Transpeople can as easily be rounded up into detention centers as Russians round us up in their prison system and believe you me, Russian prisons sport a palpable aura of creepiness when approached from the outside.  But whether American or Russian, once incarcerated, there’s no guarantee of being able to communicate with a prisoner, or at least a prisoner by his/her/eir rightful name.  The disposition of such prisoners may depend upon presidential decree, commonly called an “executive order.”

Even so, this state of affairs sows the seeds of its own undoing.  It’s true whether Dominionism is the Orthodox Russian style or the American Evangelical style.  Once their enemies are thought to have been “vanquished”, they will inevitably turn upon one another.  When that happens between Russians and Americans, the world has much to fear.

Clearly, both Russians and Americans have yet to completely come to grips with Dominionist attitudes and the world will not be fully at peace till they do.  When America and Russia regard one another and their populations with suspicion, the world trembles.  When they commit to peace, the world lives securely.

In which case, the status of LGBT rights on both sides of the Arctic Ocean is a bellwether for the world, precisely because we’re so particularly vulnerable to pogroms.  When the press speaks of the impending struggle of the trans demographic, finally recognizing that we are a demographic, hope remains.  When those stories become suppressed, profound danger is afoot for other demographics of the world.

It’s kind of like working around sulphur dioxide.  As long as you smell rotten eggs, you won’t die.  If you can smell it no longer, watch out.

But the fact that Russians have published anything at all about transpeople, and adjust their stories for their world readership lends to that hope, even when done disparagingly against Americans and transpeople.  For every time a disparaging story is published, thinking people question.  They should question.  Those questionings make the difference between a population that from time to time rises up to demand liberty and one whose members passively accept what they are told.

__________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  St. Basil’s Cathedral at night, the most beautiful expression of Russian piety and genius (Wikimedia Commons), the headline from Sputnik spoken of in the article, and the colors of the flag of the Russian Federation.

  1. Nick Duffy. “Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik mocks US ‘Tranny troops’” PinkNews (January 2, 2018, accessed January 3, 2018) http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/01/02/russian-propaganda-outlet-sputnik-mocks-us-tranny-troops/ .  The article from Sputnik International as it stands now can be accessed at:      https://sputniknews.com/military/201712311060452294-us-to-include-transgender-troops/.
  2. Stephanie Papas “Why Russia Is So Anti-Gay” Live Science (February 11, 2014, accessed January 4, 2018) https://www.livescience.com/43273-why-russia-is-anti-gay.html.
  3. The African friend mentioned in this article has been granted assylum in the U.S.
  4. Andrew E. Kramer. “’They Starve You.  They Shock You’: Inside the Anti-Gay Pogrom in Chechnya” New York Times (April 21, 2017, accessed January 4, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/world/europe/chechnya-russia-attacks-gays.html.  An earlier online petition addressing Putin himself appears on Change.org (accessed January 4, 2018) https://www.change.org/p/nbc-news-cover-putin-s-anti-gay-laws-and-pogrom-against-gays-in-russia.
  5. Anatoly Krasikov. “State, Church, and Religious Freedom” Stetson.edu (accessed January 4, 2017) http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/krasikoveng0910.html.
  6. Sasha Gitomierski. “Glasnost and Perestroika” The Cold War Museum (accessed January 4, 2017) http://www.coldwar.org/articles/80s/glasnostandperestroika.asp.
  7. Drake Baer. “A ‘perfect demographic storm’ is crippling Russia” Business Insider (September 2, 2015, accessed January 4, 2018) http://www.businessinsider.com/a-perfect-demographic-storm-is-crippling-russia-2015-9.
  8. Josh Clark. “Who won the Cold War?” How Stuff Works (accessed January 4, 2017) https://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/who-won-cold-war1.htm.
  9. Mansur Mirovalev. “White supremacist gathering underscores Russia’s nationalist trend” Los Angeles Times (August 22, 2015, accessed January 4, 2018) http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-russia-neonazi-20150822-story.html.
  10. Witnessed by the author who had participated as a missionary speaker.
  11. (n.a.) Russia court outlaws ‘extremist’ Jehovah’s Witnesses” BBC (April 20, 2017, accessed January 4, 2017) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39661339.
  12. Sewell Chan. “Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Laws Are Illegal, European Court Rules” New York times (June 30, 2017, accessed January 4, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/world/europe/russia-gay-propaganda.html.
  13. Mirovalev article. http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-russia-neonazi-20150822-story.html.
  14. Mark Hodges. “Russian Patriarch: LGBT agenda poses ‘significant threat for the existence of the human race’” Life Site News (November 23, 2016, accessed January 4, 2018) https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/russian-orthodox-leader-gay-marriage-transgenderism-pose-a-significant-thre.
  15. Stephen Ennis. “Russia’s mixed messages on LGBT” BBC (April 29, 2016, accessed January 3, 2018) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36132060.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Explored in the current article. But in America, one only need look at disparities regarding race and ethnicity including that of police practice to see it.  The riots in Ferguson MO in 2016 demonstrate this rift.
  18. Nicole Perlroth, Mark Scott, and Sheera Frenkel. “Cyberattack Hits Ukraine, Then spreads Internationally” New York Times (June 27, 2017, accessed January 3, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/technology/ransomware-hackers.html.
  19. Neil MacFarquhar. “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories” New York Times (August 28, 2016, accessed January 3, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/29/world/europe/russia-sweden-disinformation.html.
  20. Raul A. Reyes. “America’s shameful ‘prison camps’” CNN (updated July 23, 2015, accessed January 3, 2018) http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/23/opinions/reyes-immigration-detention/index.html.
  21. Anastasia Zotova. “How to hide evidence of torture inside Russia’s prison system” Open Democracy (October 17, 2017, accessed January 3, 2018) https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anastasia-zotova/stop-torture-in-russian-prisons; (n.a.) “Torture in U.S. prisons” American Friends Service Committee (report 2011, accessed January 3, 2018) https://www.afsc.org/document/torture-us-prisons.
  22. Adam Taylor. “How a transgender Chechen escaped Russia and found asylum in the United States” Washington Post (September 1, 2017, accessed September 3, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/a-transgender-chechen-woman-and-her-plea-for-asylum-in-america/2017/09/01/0edc5bd6-8916-11e7-96a7-d178cf3524eb_story.html?utm_term=.46e4224e7ca0 .
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Paranoia and Red Herrings: a Look at Anti-Transgender Conspiracy Theory

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

It’s the stuff of great radio.  In fact it’s so great it has done more damage than Orson Well’s Mercury Theater that inflicted national panic in its version of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds.  It has done more damage because it has contributed to societal divisiveness through sensationalism and confirmation bias.  It’s the belief that change that occurs in our lives as the result of discovery must result from a grand conspiracy centering upon a central cabal.  It has led to mass suspicion of fellow citizens.  It has also fueled presumed justification for discrimination, ostracism, and attempted extermination of transpeople.

 

POPULARIZING A CONSPIRACY OF ILLUMINATI

Some say conspiracy humanly begins in “The Illuminati,” allegedly a conspiratorial cabal determined to dominate the world.  Adam Weishaupt organized the original Illuminati in Bavaria May 1, 1776.  But the Bavarian government learned of Weishaupt’s nefarious doings and destroyed the organization.  Freemasons, a society from which Weishaupt recruited, also suffered suspicion.

Of course, that wouldn’t be the full end of Illuminati because others have held to some basic tenets that Weishaupt did. “Illuminati” is actually the proper expression when speaking of them collectively, being the Latin nominative and genitive plural form.  The nominative singular is “Illuminatus” if an individual is male or “Illuminata” if female, a name that designates a member as “illuminated”. 1

Back in the 1970’s, an individual named John Todd claimed not only to be a former member of “The Illuminati” but  a member of its alleged central government, a “Council of Thirteen” that has allegedly included a representative of Rothchild, Rockefeller, and Kennedy families according to various sources.  Todd claimed conversion to Christianity and had taken upon himself the “ministry” of warning believers everywhere about the dangers of this organization. He considered it so “wicked” it surpasses witchcraft and dictatorship while being the ultimate administrator of both.2

In fact Todd was featured in Chick Publications’ Evangelical comics for many years.  But even as they circulated, John Todd was discredited, and evangelists themselves denounced him for his baseless sensationalism.3

A core of Evangelicals, however, weren’t about to accept that John Todd was the liar he was made out to be.  The popular sensational current about “The Illuminati” continued in various publications from Lyndon LaRouche4 to YouTube videographers “exposing” various pop artists as either Illuminati members or puppets of “The Illuminati.”5  Not a few, including Lady Gaga, accepted the hype and made the buzz part of her own advertisement through a dream of hers and Little Monsters ate it up6Rhianna has been depicted as an “Illuminati Princess.”7

Of course there’s a difference between “The Illuminati” as popularly depicted, genuine Illuminati who started out in various societies, and certain occultists who have taken the title of Illuminati on their own.  They aren’t necessarily as secretive as may be expected either.   Back in 2009 when the online forum Temple Illuminatus was still young they even produced a widget that said, “I’m an Illuminati at Temple Illuminatus” without any consideration of the fact that the widget was grammatically incorrect, and hopefully they’ve changed their widget since then.8

Today various Illuminati groups proliferate in one form or another, to which virtually anyone can gain membership through an online application.9 But when pressing an Evangelical concerning which Illuminati he’s talking about, the typical response consists of heated and flustered embarrassment. “I’m talking about ’The Illuminati.’  Everyone knows what ‘The Illuminati’ is.  How dare you be so wicked to think I don’t know what I’m talking about?”

 

CONSPIRACY FROM COAST TO COAST

Enter Art Bell and his syndicated radio show Coast to Coast AM.10  The program caters to anyone with a good story regardless how untenable and ridiculous it may be.  What matters is that it holds an audience.  Coast to Coast advanced plenty of unproven ideas including Zecaria Sitchin’s determination that the planet Nibiru is returning to destroy civilization based upon Mesopotamian tablets he claimed to decipher.11  It promoted proponents that claimed the world would end in 2012 on the basis of the Mayan calendar.12  It helped propel NASA to send a follow-up space mission to Mars to settle mass suspicions that the “Face on Mars” represented a past or present Martian civilization, a mission that found nothing but a mountain with shadows that could be read as a face if the sun hit at a different angle. 13 It no more proved to be fashioned by humanoids than the feature of the Old Man in the Mountain on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  It even promoted John Titor, who allegedly time traveled from the future to obtain microprocessors for his post-nuclear time period.  He even showed pictures of his time travel vehicle that reminds us of the film Back to the Future, leaving many of us to wonder why he would waste his personal time talking to mass media about his exploits with such a critical mission at stake.14

The show has included some bonifide scientists too, because they could generate plenty of sexy facts of their own concerning the universe.  Enough provable facts went on the program over the years to sustain a cultlike belief and, true to the nature of cults, many refuse to consider that some of what’s presented as “fact” eventually proves to be hoax instead.  In radio, however, none of this matters.  What matters is holding an audience and keeping listeners and sponsors happy and hopping.

Art Bell retired to the Philippines in 2007 and George Noory took over.  The latter expanded Coast to Coast AM to include television broadcasts.  He succeeded not only in advancing Coast to Coast AM to stellar heights, but also advanced various conspiracy theorists in the popular culture, including those that fuel some popular versions of Evangelical Christianity.

The Conspiratorial version of history proposes the following, at least in the context of the United States, and variations of this exist for other countries, especially in Europe:

  1. God established everything good in the world including classic 20th Century American Evangelical culture before the crises of the 1960’s.
  2. Everything that differs from that “wholesome” American Evangelical cultural tradition including traditional families is categorically evil.
  3. Evil cannot embody truth, therefore, whatever is counter to American Evangelical cultural tradition must be against truth itself.
  4. Dark, evil, and hidden forces are at work at the very center of this evil.
  5. Dark, evil, and hidden forces are at work through secret societies.
  6. Secret societies control the reins of government through some form of shadow government.
  7. We must counter all secret societies and restore traditional American Evangelical culture.
  8. Attempts to restore traditional Evangelical American culture cannot be guaranteed success, therefore, opposing them demands special urgency.

This view has widely appealed to Evangelicals ever since the Vietnam War split American society.  The Evangelical Dominionist we know today, responsible for the rash of anti-transgender legislation, typically holds to the Conspiratorial version of history and incorporates this view as eisogesis of the Apocalypse of John.  The goodness of the American Evangelical cultural tradition isn’t just believed in.  It’s presumed to be patently correct in every respect, one upon which heaven itself can look upon with full approbation.  No other idea is entertained.  Conspiracy theorists discount scientifically established facts if they don’t stroke their confirmation bias.  However, the Conspiratorial version of history is typically colored according to each denomination that claims nobody comes to the Father but by means of Christ and nobody comes to Christ but by means of the denomination.

 

CONSPIRACY, RELIGION, AND TRANSPHOBIA

Various people over the years have considered transpeople to be suspect as puppets of this grand conspiracy.  After all, we appear in the United States in the last half of the 20th Century about the same time as other crises do.  Certain religionists and some non-religious political fanatics have opposed us including psychiatrist Paul McHugh, MD of Johns Hopkins, a self-described “Orthodox Roman Catholic” who served on the Review Board for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  He also claimed that the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal was not about pedophilia but about “homosexual predation on American Catholic youth.”15  He also worked to end the transition program at Johns Hopkins in the 1970’s, an action that the hospital has recently reversed.16

His work may have influenced the Vatican itself or vice versa.  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the watchdog entity The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Prefect  beginning with his appointment by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and as Dean in 2002.  Under his leadership in 2003 they directed the superiors of religious orders worldwide that transsexuals be barred as priests, nuns, friars, nuns, and brothers in religious orders or expelled if found afterwards to be transsexual.  A document reported by the liberal Catholic news agency Adista and confirmed by a Vatican official states in these directives:

 

“In the case that there is a serious and irreversible pathology of transsexuality, (the candidate) cannot be validly admitted into the institute or the society, while in cases of doubt, it is forbidden to allow admission since the candidate is missing a clear and full eligibility.”17

 

While not a few Evangelicals consider Catholicism to be part of a worldwide conspiracy (and vice versa), many Evangelicals still accept Ratzinger’s decision and rhetoric.  Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

But his successor Pope Francis expanded Benedict’s condemnation to presenting a corporate and political conspiracy in 2016 on World Youth Day:

 

“… We have countries that for years have done a good job of integrating migrants. They have integrated them well. In others, unfortunately, certain ghettos have formed. A whole reform has to take place, on a worldwide level, with regard to this commitment and acceptance. But that is something relative: what is absolute is a welcoming heart. That is absolute! With prayer and intercession, by doing what I can. What is relative is the way I am able to do it. Not everyone can do it the same way. The problem is worldwide! The exploitation of creation, and the exploitation of persons. We are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God.

“I would like to conclude with this aspect, since behind all this there are ideologies. In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] “gender”. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!

In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator”. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a “raw” state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the “raw” state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. “This is the age of sin against God the Creator”. That will help us.

“But you will say to me: “What does this have to do with migrants?” It has to do with the overall situation, no?18

 

TRANSPHOBIA POPULARIZED

Some Protestants and others likewise decry what Pope Francis calls “gender ideology.”  For example, this past week, on December 23, conspiracy theorist David Icke spoke against transpeople in much the same way as the Pope on Coast to Coast AM on a night in which Jimmy Church substituted for George Noory.  His message about transpeople on Coast to Coast AM made the following conspicuous claims:

  1. David Icke is “on board” with the idea of “not discriminating” against transpeople.
  2. “Transgender” isn’t about discrimination but about a campaign to confuse children.
  3. This campaign of confusion is part of the conspiracy that infests other areas of life as well.
  4. The web of conspiracy goes far beyond what can be visible.
  5. Illuminati and other secret societies are only intermediaries of the conspiracy which begins in the spiritual realm.19

It’s essentially the same approach as the mixed message of Pope Francis who on one hand wants to reach out to transpeople and yet condemns them under the pretext of condemning “gender ideology”.  It’s a smokescreen, of course.  Neither Pope Francis nor the website for David Icke stop at ideology.  Both would prefer that transpeople disappear, though we’ve occupied the planet at least since the Pleistocene Epoch.  But nobody who takes that kind of position can be genuinely “on board” for non-discrimination, and a closer look at that website will demonstrate how it attacks the existential aspects of transpeople.

Andrew Cheetham, who writes for that website, claimed that if medical professionals dare to question the “unscientific party line” supporting transition, then they will be ostracized from employment.20

No doubt this reaction resulted from the British National Health Service (NHS) expanding transgender care for youth, something we didn’t see before the work of Jazz Jennings broadly raised awareness about trans youth.  Cheetham cites the anti-transgender campaign group Transgender Trend who decries children being referred to “gender clinics” and claims that these cases have surged to an astonishing 50 per week to the horror of what’s thought to be every parent throughout the United Kingdom.21

50 per week, if true, should arouse examination of how the NHS is actually operating on this matter.  We aren’t told whether 50 per week is an average or a maximum.  We don’t oppose critical review so long as it begins with and utilizes medical and psychological standards instead of religious dogma.  It’s vital and continuing.  It’s part of the process of science and transgender medicine is only a recently recognized practice.  We also consider that the sharp rise in cases may have happened because generations of oppression have prevented youth from coming forward in the first place.

But even this isn’t the extent of criticisms from the David Icke website.  The same writer quoted Peter Hitchins to say that accusations of “cruelty” against those opposing transition therapies is only a “pretext” for a deeper conspiratorial purpose:  destruction of the entire traditional moral and social system, the very idea of male and female after “destruction” of traditional heterosexual marriage.  He stated that this sexual revolution is like all revolutions since the French Revolution of the late 1770’s: built upon the fallacy that humans and human nature are changeable, making it out as destruction of truth itself.22

This, of course, presumes an organized conspiracy to that end is happening in the first place.  However, traditional heterosexual marriage wasn’t destroyed.  Neither some cabal nor anyone else ever told heterosexual couples they couldn’t marry anymore or that their marriages shouldn’t be respected.  Heterosexual couples continue to marry as they always have.  The only thing destroyed to any extent is the presumption that only heterosexual couples could possibly marry because churches have the exclusive right to dictate who may do so whether or not a couple has church membership.

But the claim about revolution and changeability is far more disruptive with respect to human cooperation. The idea that “humans and human nature are changeable,” is a “false idea” (fallacy) attacks the practices of Christianity in its purest form.  Without human changeability, repentance isn’t possible.  People can’t decide to make better lives if they can’t change.

It’s the same trait of changeability that makes transition happen.  It’s no evil thing to recognize something inside that failed to change regardless of how many times you tried to pray it away, something that persisted that caused everyone else around you to think you’re strange, out of kilter, and some unacceptable creature they hate because of your “strangeness”.  It makes sense to make changes that can get yourself into better sync with the world and to demand the world respect you for doing so.  It’s true for the one who converts to Christianity (or any religion) and it’s true for anyone who transitions.

Think about it.  To say this is a “fallacy” demands something else:  that once we mark somebody as “unacceptable” because they seem strange, that person can never be anything but the incorrigible reprobate we presume that person to be.  It literally feeds into the belief that “nobody is going to heaven except me and thee” however a conspiracy theorist happens to define that “me and thee.”

This belief and treatment of fellow humans as “unchangeable” and “irreconcilable” is what stoked the purges of the French Revolution where rivers of blood flowed from guillotines.  That belief helped Hitler fuel tumultuous purges like Germany’s Night of the Long Knives23 and Krystallnacht.24  It’s what sent undesirables to Nazi death camps and Stalin’s gulags.  Both the Nazi and Communist parties have made ample use of conspiracy theories to enflame their populations and LGBT peoples have long been the victims, not the perpetrators of these revolutions.  So have people of various ethnicities like Jews and Gypsies as well as people with disabilities.

 

A SOCIETAL PATHOLOGY OF PARANOIA

The dogmatic presumption that everything seemingly new must represent some evil conspiracy does more than resist growth and development.  It’s a societal pathology of paranoia based upon xenophobia.  Transpeople are only a sideshow in this overall xenophobia.  Conspiracy theorists push for societal regimentation, a return to a stasis as if it were an oasis in an ocean of evil flowing from hell to hell while the people of their choosing take the reins of power with an iron fist necessary to set a society back to that stasis.

Strangely enough, the Christian nations ended up becoming the most regimented and pugnacious people on the planet and most strayed from the early ideal the believers in Y’shua espoused.  Regimentation demands clear boundaries and efficient pigeonholing.  When those boundaries lose those clear definitions, crisis may loom.  The boundaries between traditions and realities discovered in modernity may overlap and even seem alarmingly skewed.  But these intrusions don’t equal conspiracy.  Real conspiracy, however, could arise on the insistence of presumption that, if one’s neighbor accepts change, the same represents evil and therefore must be a conspirator.

It’s a vicious displacement generating red herrings.  The red herring that declares a long disempowered transgender demographic to be part of a mass conspiracy against morality enables another set of social brokers to rise in influence and wealth: the ones who perpetuate that red herring.  That’s the nature of the business and sooner or later those who religiously subscribe to these theories could be led to commit anything at all, even wholesale pogroms not unlike what took place on Krystallnacht.

But Occam’s Razor has good application here: the test that determines the simplest explanation most likely to be the correct one.  Transpeople seek respect because we’ve been oppressed for centuries, often falsely in the name of God.  Our histories have been suppressed in attempted erasure to rob us of our heritage.  Our chances at livelihoods have been viciously curtailed.  Whether young or old, these facts remain.  They’re true and simple.  But conspiracy theories remain not only convoluted but unproven and unprovable, relying as “evidence” of conspiracy the fact that societies change with time as a natural course of events.  There’s a name for that natural course that makes conspiracy theorists squirm and want to scream.  It’s called, “evolution”.

__________________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  A pixilated detail of the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, long and erroneously touted as the emblem  of “The Illuminati.”  The symbol of Illuminati, however, has traditionally been an owl. (from the author’s image archive).  It overlaps a detail of The Scream, painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1893 (from the author’s image archive).

  1. Joseph Castro. “What Is the Illuminati?” Live Science (September 30, 2013, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.livescience.com/40048-what-is-the-illuminati.html.
  2. John Todd. “The Illuminati and Witchcraft” Scribd (from a tape recorded lecture in Elkton MD, 1978, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.scribd.com/document/33023806/The-Illuminati-and-Witchcraft-by-John-Todd
  3. (n.a.) John Todd Overview” Monsterwax (n.d., accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.monsterwax.com/todd.html
  4. Steven Hager. “Inside the Wilderness of Mirrors” (Blog, May 29, 2017, accessed December 26, 2017) https://stevenhager420.wordpress.com/tag/lyndon-larouche/.
  5. com. “Top 10 Celebrities That are Supposedly in the Illuiminati” YouTube (July 7, 2017, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5TcPEzWgg0
  6. (n.a.) “Lady Gaga Shares Illuminati Dream” Rap-Up (June 24, 2010, accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.rap-up.com/2010/06/24/lady-gaga-shares-illuminati-dream/
  7. (n.a.) “7 Celebrities Supposedly in the Illuminati” BeliefNet (n.d., accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/galleries/7-celebrities-supposedly-in-the-illuminati.aspx?p=7
  8. Lux Phoenix Amare Blake. “Part of Why I am Illuminati” Temple Illuminatus (October 26, 2016, accessed ) https://www.templeilluminatus.com/profiles/blogs/part-of-why-i-am-illuminati . Though the widget does not appear in this article, the use of “Illuminati” is questionable, since its form can only be justified in the genitive.
  9. Best demonstrated with a search: https://www.google.com/search?q=Online+Application+for+Illuminati&source=lnms&tbm=vid&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj4t8r22a3YAhXqj1QKHZslDPcQ_AUICygC&biw=1920&bih=974
  10. (n.a.) “Art Bell” Coast to Coast (Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.coasttocoastam.com/pages/art-bell
  11. “Zecaria Sitchin” https://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/sitchin-zecharia/6026
  12. “Ian Xel Lungold 2012 Maya Prophecy End Times Predictions, Secrets the Mayan Calendar Unveiled” YouTube (Coast to Coast video uploaded June 22, 2013, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQoxspalmg8&list=PLYluK2rqkrfXivUOLZqS2fVfwrXoi29FQ&index=8 .
  13. “’The Face on Mars’ Turns Forty” (July 25, 2016, Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.coasttocoastam.com/article/the-face-on-mars-turns-forty
  14. Nick Morris. “John Titor – Art Bell Coast to Coast AM 3/12/2002 Time Travel” (August 31, 2017, Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNUGkIlHGog
  15. Brynn Tannehill. “Debunking the New Atlantis Article On Sexuality And Gender” Huffington Post (March 24, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/debunking-the-new-atlantis-article_us_58d5242ee4b0f633072b36a4.
  16. Amy Ellis Nutt. “Long shadow cast by psychiatrist on transgender issues finally recedes at Johns Hopkins” Washington Post (April 5, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/long-shadow-cast-by-psychiatrist-on-transgender-issues-finally-recedes-at-johns-hopkins/2017/04/05/e851e56e-0d85-11e7-ab07-07d9f521f6b5_story.html?utm_term=.29ab0ee47caa.
  17. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Francis’ Mixed Message” Transpire (August 11, 2016, accessed December 27, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/francis-mixed-message/. The denunciation itself can also be found from Winfield, Nicole. “Vatican Denounces Transsexuals” Free Republic, Associated Press (January 31, 2003, accessed August 9, 2016).  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/833752/post
  18. “Dialogo del Santo Padre con i Vescovi della Polonia (Krakow, 27 Iuglio 2016), 02.08.2016” (Papal Bulletin, Vatican Press [English translation within the bulletin] August 2, 2016, accessed August 9, 2016) http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2016/08/02/0568/01265.html#en .
  19. David Icke https://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/icke-david/6147 Show on 12/23/2017
  20. Andrew Cheetham. “Pediatrician: How Transgender Ideology is Producing Large-Scale Child Abuse” (Website, dated July 20, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/420223/pediatrician-transgender-ideology-producing-large-scale-child-abuse
  21. Andrew Cheetham. “NHS pressured our kids to change sex: Transgender backlash as desperate parents accuse overzealous therapists of ‘blindly accepting’ children’s claims to have been born in wrong body” (Website, dated October 29, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/434409/nhs-pressured-kids-change-sex-transgender-backlash-desperate-parents-accuse-overzealous-therapists-blindly-accepting-childrens-claims-born-wrong-body
  22. Andrew Cheetham. “Peter Hitchens: The transgender zealots are destroying truth itself” (Website, dated November 19, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/439152/peter-hitchens-transgender-zealots-destroying-truth.
  23. N. Trueman. “The Night of the Long Knives” History Learning Site (March 9, 2015, accessed December 17, 2017) http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazi-germany/the-night-of-the-long-knives/.
  24. (n.a.) “Kristallnacht” Holocaust Encyclopedia (accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005201
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A Tale of 2 Nations: Does the Prime Minister’s apology to LGBT people represent a true trend?

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

We had long desired to hear words like this.  For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at least, they seem demonstrably heart-felt, not just because he said them but because he also took action on behalf of LGBT peoples.  But it will take more than Trudeau to make real change happen in Canada. 

Consider the United States and its longstanding parallel actions with Canada.  The Obama Administration likewise put its best foot forward on behalf of transpeople in its second term.  But with the election of Donald Trump, Evangelical Dominionists have established a clear agenda to reverse all civil rights advances transpeople have secured and return to a policy of ostracism, extermination, and erasure.1

Could we find a similar pattern upcoming in Canada in which apologies and laws become reversed in a similar wave of conservatism?  We may.  The moment we savor now may fade in a reversal of policy in the name of religion much the same way as we found in the Evangelical ascendency in the United States.

 

TRUDEAU ADDRESSES THE POGROMS

Prime Minister Trudeau began his speech to the Canadian Parliament:

 

“One of the greatest choices a person can make in their life is the choice to serve their fellow citizens. Maybe it’s in government, in the military, or in a police force. In whatever capacity one serves, dedicating your life to making Canada—and indeed, the world—a better place is a calling of the highest order.

Now imagine, if you will, being told that the very country you would willingly lay down your life to defend doesn’t want you. Doesn’t accept you. Sees you as defective. Sees you as a threat to our national security. Not because you can’t do the job, or because you lack patriotism or courage—no, because of who you are as a person, and because of who your sexual partners are.

Now imagine, Mr. Speaker, being subjected to laws, policies, and hiring practices that label you as different—as “less than.”

Imagine having to fight for the basic rights that your peers enjoy, over and over again. And imagine being criminalized for being who you are.

This is the truth for many of the Canadians present in the gallery today, and those listening across the country.

This is the devastating story of people who were branded criminals by the government. People who lost their livelihoods, and in some cases, their lives.

These aren’t distant practices of governments long forgotten. This happened systematically, in Canada, with a timeline more recent than any of us would like to admit.

Mr. Speaker, today we acknowledge an often-overlooked part of Canada’s history. Today, we finally talk about Canada’s role in the systemic oppression, criminalization, and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities.”2

 

These pogroms filled Canadian records during the Cold War era much like they did in the United States for many years.  It began in the 1950’s, a time in which the United States was having enough of the hearing conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy.  According to Gary Kinsman, a retired Professor of Sociology, a clerk at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow was discovered in 1958 to be homosexual.  He was sent home under the expectation that LGBT peoples would be vulnerable to Soviet blackmail.3

Then the murder of a gay sailor led the Canadian government, with encouragement by U.S. officials, to begin a “gay purge” that continued through the 1960’s and well into the 1990’s, decades after Canada repealed its anti-homosexual laws in 1969.  This was the year of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City, the flash point of the “gay rights” movement.  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Military Police conducted surveillance of gay bars in cities throughout Canada and pressured LGBT peoples to identify individual gays and lesbians.  An estimated 9,000 people so identified lost their jobs and security clearances.  Enabling this practice, the RCMP commissioned a psychologist to build what they called a “fruit machine” as a test of sexual orientation.4

 

BROADER SCOPE

When Stonewall hit, another Trudeau served as Prime Minister:  Pierre Elliott Trudeau.  The elder Trudeau hailed from the liberal wing and so acted.  But his service did nothing to reverse Canadian police practices.  In reality, Canadian oppression of LGBT peoples went far beyond the “gay purge” to include racial oppression.

That includes street violence against LGBT peoples, especially transwomen and transpeople “of color.”  Transpeople, most specifically, have been barred from leadership roles.  These arose from attitudes fostered by colonialist policies that also fostered pogroms against indigenous peoples.  The First Nations often held different views with respect to sex and gender than did those more closely associated with the ruling British.  This all fell under a continuing campaign of heteronormativity that never entirely went out of existence.5

Prime Minister Trudeau attempted to address this broader picture:

 

“The very thing Canadian officials feared—blackmail of LGBTQ2 employees—was happening. But it wasn’t at the hands of our adversaries; it was at the hands of our own government.

Mr. Speaker, the number one job of any government is to keep its citizens safe. And on this, we have failed LGBTQ2 people, time and time again.

It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong. We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry.

For state-sponsored, systemic oppression and rejection, we are sorry.

For suppressing two-spirit Indigenous values and beliefs, we are sorry.

For abusing the power of the law, and making criminals of citizens, we are sorry…

To all the LGBTQ2 people across this country who we have harmed in countless ways, we are sorry.

To those who were left broken by a prejudiced system; And to those who took their own lives—we failed you. For stripping you of your dignity; For robbing you of your potential; For treating you like you were dangerous, indecent, and flawed;

We are sorry.

To the victims of the purge, who were surveilled, interrogated, and abused; Who were forced to turn on their friends and colleagues; Who lost wages, lost health, and lost loved ones;

We betrayed you. And we are so sorry.

To those who were fired, to those who resigned, and to those who stayed at a great personal and professional cost; To those who wanted to serve, but never got the chance to because of who you are—you should have been permitted to serve your country, and you were stripped of that option.

We are sorry. We were wrong.”6

 

The Prime Minister didn’t just speak to the recent oppression, but to issues running for centuries before there was ever a Canadian government:

 

Discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities is not a moment in time, but an ongoing, centuries-old campaign.

We want to be a partner and ally to LGBTQ2 Canadians in the years going forward. There are still real struggles facing these communities, including for those who are intersex, queer people of colour, and others who suffer from intersectional discrimination.

Transgender Canadians are subjected to discrimination, violence, and aggression at alarming rates. In fact, trans people didn’t even have explicit protection under federal human rights legislation until this year…

And, Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that earlier today in this House we tabled the Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act. This will mean that Canadians previously convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners will have their criminal records permanently destroyed.

Further, I am pleased to announce that over the course of the weekend, we reached an agreement in principle with those involved in the class action lawsuit for actions related to “the purge.”

Never again will our government be the source of so much pain for members of the LGBTQ2 communities.

We promise to consult and work with individuals and communities to right these wrongs and begin to rebuild trust. We will ensure that there are systems in place so that these kinds of hateful practices are a thing of the past. Discrimination and oppression of LGBTQ2 Canadians will not be tolerated anymore.7

 

Prime Minister Trudeau speaks of some genuinely substantial measures.  The Canadian government earmarked 100 million Canadian dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by victims of the “gay purge.”  The Prime Minister also seeks to push through a bill to expunge the records of those criminalized in this pogrom.8

 

THE UNITED STATES BACKTRACKS

Prime Minister Trudeau’s actions are certainly more consistent with those of the latter part of the Obama years.  But the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 brought about a major outcry in the Evangelical ranks, most specifically those political parachurch entities seeking establishment of allied Evangelicals as a theocracy. The 2016 drive in anti-transgender legislation arose from this outrage.

About the same time that Prime Minister Trudeau delivered his apology, what did the United States do?  The Senate confirmed Gregory Katsas, legal advisor to Donald Trump, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit with a vote along party lines, 50-48.  The National Center for Transgender Equality blasted this move:

 

 “As deputy white house counsel, Katsas helped draft the White House memo formalizing President Trump’s transgender military ban as well as the president’s Muslim travel ban. Katsas has confirmed that he also advised on numerous administration attacks on LGBTQ people, including the February withdrawal of lifesaving guidance supporting transgender students, an aggressive Justice Department brief arguing federal civil rights laws do not protect LGBTQ people, and a brief in the Supreme Court arguing for a constitutional right to discriminate.”9

 

We can look at these trends in 2 different ways.

One the one hand we may look at Canada in terms of homo-nationalism, positing that this apology demonstrates that Canada is more advanced and civilized than the United States.  But ask the indigenous peoples whether this apology gains their trust any more.  After all, attacks upon 2 Spirit people has long been an attack upon native cultures and complaints of indigenous peoples disappearing and sometimes being found murdered in Canada have not gone away.10

On the other hand, we may look at Canada in terms of the continuing ebb and flow of liberalism in politics.  It’s the same ebb and flow we have experienced in the United States, with sharp differences noted since the last presidential election.  The confirmation of Gregory Katsas isn’t just an issue for the Court of Appeals.  The appointment sets him up to be appointed to the Supreme Court as well.

What that means for Canada is that religious inclinations of Canadian Evangelicals may easily echo those of the U.S. Midwest and South, and their anti-transgender disposition as displayed at local levels, most particularly schools, has yet to rise in its full force at the federal level.11

 

READYING THE NEXT CYCLE

The United States may experience some serious shifts in the electorate, possibly as a result of Trump’s tax plan in which property taxes and mortgages no longer may be deducted.  That’s largely directed against the large states, most notably New York and California.12 We may ask who are more likely to be harmed by such a move.  Will it be the GOP that backs the big corporations or the Democrats who have relied upon union ranks over the years?  More likely it’s the latter.  We may easily see population shifts over the next decade in which left-leaning voters move to what are now largely red states, simply because they must in order  to survive.

Another aspect enters the picture:  those mom and pop small businesses that have heavily supported the GOP since the Reagan era.  If these entrepreneurs find themselves disaffected by the GOP, many will probably not remain Republican.  Some may turn Democrat, many more will probably declare themselves Independent.  If the Democrats gain appeal to this segment, we may see a full reversal of many states from red to blue. 

With such a trend should come another wave of liberal thought, most specifically toward civil rights. The Democrats should sponsor a “Civil Rights Restoration Act” or something to that effect in future years, specifically to reverse the civil rights policies of Donald Trump that facilitate human rights abuses.

Should the United States find itself in that zone, where will we find Canada?  It largely depends upon whether religionist Canadians desire to repeat the U.S. experience.  Some undoubtedly will.  But will most?  That remains to be seen.  But we would be naïve to think that Canadians are altogether as nice as depicted in the satirical film Canadian Bacon.13

If Canada finds itself in a reversal comparable to that of the United States, Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology will be deemed a hollow one.  For indigenous peoples and those LGBT, it may seem like déjà vu.  There may have been a settlement.  Records may have been expunged.  But a new wave of pogroms could easily take hold again despite the Prime Minister’s wishes, simply because Dominionists demand to rule the Dominion of Canada like they demand to rule the United States.

______________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, official portrait (Wikimedia Commons).

  1. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “The Collapse of Dominionism” Trans Muse Planet (July 22, 2017) https://thetmplanet.com/the-dominionist-collapse-when-transpeople-face-theocracy/.
  2. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, (text of speech delivered to the Canadian Parliament November 28, 2017)
  3. Ian Austen. “Victims of Canada’s ‘Gay Purge’ to Get Apology from Trudeau” New York Times (November 21, 2017, accessed December 2, 2017) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/world/canada/gays-trudeau-apology.html?_r=0.
  4. Ibid.
  5. John Paul Catungal. “Justin Trudeau’s Apology to LGBTQ People Isn’t Enough” US News and World Report (November 28, 2017, accessed December 2, 2017) https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-11-28/justin-trudeaus-apology-to-lgbtq-people-isnt-enough
  6. Trudeau (text of speech to the Canadian Parliament November 28, 2017).
  7. Ibid.
  8. “Trudeau apologises for discrimination against LGBT people” BBC (November 28, 2017, accessed December 2, 2017) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42157806
  9. Mara Kiesling. “Legal Architect of Anti-Trans Attacks Confirmed to nations Second-Highest Court” NCTE (Press Release November 28, 2017, accessed December 3, 2017) https://transequality.org/press/releases/legal-architect-of-anti-trans-attacks-confirmed-to-nation-s-second-highest-court.
  10. Alan Freeman. “The mystery of 1.000 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada” Washington Post (August 4, 2017, accessed December 3, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/08/04/the-mystery-of-1000-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-in-canada/?utm_term=.c2bb1ebc99b2.
  11. Anna Mehler Paperny. “Transgender people still not counted in Canada’s hate crimes data” Global News ( April 13, 2016, accessed December 3, 2017) https://globalnews.ca/news/2634576/trans-people-still-not-counted-in-canadas-hate-crimes-data/.
  12. Ed Kilgore. “Trump Tax Bill Hammers New York and California” New York Magazine (November 2, 2017, accessed December 3, 2017) http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/11/trump-tax-bill-hammers-new-york-and-california.html.
  13. “Canadian Bacon (1995) Plot” IMDb (accessed December 3, 2017) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109370/plotsummary.
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Preserving Our Stories: Today and the Future of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

Of all transgender events, none has brought us together more and none has been more commonly held sacred than this one.  It’s easy to see how the International Transgender Day of Remembrance has made such an impact:  an appeal to conscience, a sense that each of us could be next to be murdered, and now in the age of Trump, a furthering of resolve to survive against a social order that calls for our erasure.

Those who want us to not be remembered regard our blood as cheap.  After all, we’re stereotypically hypersexualized fiends, profligate sinners, and every one a filthy prostitute (despite the fact that only 19%, fewer than 1 out of 5 of us, have had any part in the sex industry whether for money, food, or shelter,1 and most transpeople really do hold positions of responsibility).  It’s a cheapening in the public mind on the basis of stigma, fueling panic defenses in the courts, and leading to reduced sentences upon those who kill us.  But our blood must not be cheapened.  We need the truth to be told.  The Day of Remembrance, for all of what it has lacked, has brought out more of that truth than has been available to previous generations.  Now, we need to take new steps to advance its message.

 

A VOICE AT UNITED NATIONS SQUARE

This writer, in response to an invitation received through correspondence from the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force and Transgender San Francisco, stood at United Nations Square near San Francisco City Hall on a cold and windy night, November 20, 2000.  This event wasn’t the first Day of Remembrance.  One had been held previously at the Castro District on a drippy night.  That Day of Remembrance was much like any street protest.2

This one at United Nations Square offered the same outrage, but with added dimensions.

Rita Hester and those for whom she stood vicariously in 1999 weren’t the focus of this Day of Remembrance.3 We had a list for a reading of the names and a bell to ring in a public memorial, months before similar traditions of remembrance after the Attacks of 9-11.  That evening we had barely a dozen names to remember.  Today’s global networking for the collection of victims to be remembered didn’t exist then.  Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the event Founder, told that evening’s that the Day of Remembrance will be held every year for as long as our people continue to be murdered in hate crimes.

With those words, we knew something special was happening.  The wind blew fiercely through the urban canyons, blowing out candles, but everyone was eager to offer a relight.  The cold wind threatened our lights like the societal winds of hate threaten us.  Defiance was in our hearts even while we shivered.  We could hear those laughing in mockery as they passed by.  But we didn’t care.  We were witnessing history and affirmed the goodness of the message.

Those of us who went to our homes that night took the event with us.  The Transgender Day of Remembrance spread throughout the country the following year, and thereafter, the world.

 

THE CURRENT YEAR OF BLOOD

This year we’ve seen various news sources speak of 2017 as the deadliest year on record for transpeople.  However, news sources in the United States don’t usually offer the worldwide picture.  They specifically focus upon the United States.  Yes. We have 25 murdered in the United States in 2017 including some you may have known yourself on Facebook or your local support group.

The advantage the U.S. media offers consists of a greater interest in how the victims lived.  The real legacies of the victims emerge in those stories.  Some great societal contributors have been killed including Alejandro Polanco Botero of, Risaralda, Colombia, a known attorney, shot 4 times by a hit man.  Most of us haven’t risen to his status.4

Have we seen sex workers murdered?  Certainly.  But others had higher level jobs.  Sex workers typically have higher aspirations than sex work too.  We include them because they shouldn’t have had to live as sex workers.

Have we seen drug addicts and alcoholics murdered?  Certainly.  But most weren’t addicts.  Most addicts would prefer a better life too.  We include them because they deserved help and often found exploitation and rejection instead.

Have we seen transgender homeless murdered?  Certainly.  But most weren’t homeless.  Those who were didn’t necessarily have addictions or were mentally ill.  More and more of today’s homeless have degrees, even Masters degrees.  This writer has seen evidence of this who also suffered 2 years of homelessness.  More of us have fitfully slept on cold concrete in the presence of rats and vermin than admit.  Anyone, trans or not, who thinks he’s immune from this may well experience a rude awakening.

Too many of us feel compelled to work in the underground economy because of rampant and now legally sanctioned discrimination, often in the name of religion.  Sometimes the same kinds of religionists are clients.  That compulsion doesn’t cheapen their blood, even if others self-righteously think that their non-involvement in the underground economy somehow makes their blood better.  It doesn’t.  Given similar conditions, most of us would probably find ourselves in similar occupations.

What we demand of society instead is to change the status quo that excludes us from opportunities to live in peace, a status quo that heaves us down again and again and again.  It’s a status quo that delights to impose an impenetrable stigma, relying upon lies such as “they’re sick and self-destructive because they’re transgender, therefore they can’t be trusted but should be summarily incarcerated or otherwise destroyed.”

How many have we seen murdered worldwide this year?  Transgender Europe (TGEU) has for many years now compiled lists through the Trans Murder Monitoring Project (TMM) and earlier this week released its list for the 2017 Day of Remembrance.  The number murdered this time:  325, up from 295 in the 2015-2016 cycle.5

Some of the murders are especially outrageous, even gruesome.  Some, including some whose identities remain concealed, had faces ripped off their heads or otherwise disfigured.  Others, like Amna and Meena were tortured in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, “packed in sacks and thrashed with sticks” after police arrested them.  Some like Sherlyn Montoya of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, went missing.  Sherlyn’s body was found in a sack with signs of torture.  Vanessa Valenzuela of Nina del Mar, Chile was attacked by 5 people with hammers and sticks while yelling, “kill the fag!”  Kenneth Bostick of New York City was living in a homeless shelter when beaten into a coma with a metal pipe, dying more than a week later at Bellevue Hospital.  Some, like J.R.P. Mangalili of Bulacan, Philippines were disrespected in death, buried in a manner inconsistent with their gender identities.  The body of Rubi Guerrero of La Altagracia, Dominican Republic was found dismembered.   Gwenevere River Song of Waxahachie, Iowa, was non-binary, but shot and killed by their own father.  Others were shot, stabbed, stoned, burned, beaten, decapitated, or some combination thereof.6

 

FILLING IN THE GAPS

325 is an astonishing number.  The number includes those killed from October 1, 2016 to September 20, 2017.  For the official list from TMM, click here.

TGEU has been unexcelled in this kind of service and to them we owe a great debt of gratitude.  Of course, there are some natural limitations to its lists, even apart from reports arriving with little information, sometimes not even a name.  TGEU has in the past published a list a couple of weeks in advance of the Day of Remembrance followed by an update a few days before observances.  More recently they simply published a list.  We’re entering the Day of Remembrance with a month and a half gap which would have to be filled the following year and with little for event organizers to assimilate in barely a week’s time.

Likewise we haven’t regular updates of those being remembered in the International Transgender Day of Remembrance website like we’ve seen in previous years, though it was recently updated for the 2017 event.7  Nor can we reasonably expect it.  It may be that these and other sites dedicated to remembering our dead need a broader base of support and we haven’t given them these sites the support they really need.  That need goes beyond site maintenance.  If you can contribute to site maintenance, by all means, contact the owners.

But with regard to reporting and distribution of information, we should look at what has worked and what still needs to be done.

Transgender Europe doesn’t do the Trans Murder Monitoring Project on its own. It partners with other networking organizations, most notably in Latin America.  Among these are:

  • APTN, Covering Southeast Asia, most specifically the Philippines
  • Centro de Apoyo a las Identidades Trans, covering Latin America, primarily Spanish-speaking regions
  • Rede Trans Brasil, covering the Portugese-speaking regions of the Americas
  • Wajood covering the Subcontinent8

Though these networks have provided excellent service year after year, we obviously show gaps with respect to coverage.  We have nothing from the Russian Federation, Central Asia, China and Mongolia, the Middle East, or Africa except meager press reports.  We can expect that the 325 would be a much higher number if we had better, sympathetic coverage.  The Day of Remembrance website has relied upon the press, and so naturally has produced a smaller number to be remembered than what has come through TGEU and its partner organizations.

We need more regional partnerships like them to fill in these gaps, whether connected to TGEU or some other organization with similar service.  Up till 2015 we had a U.S. based site for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) doing work parallel to that of TGEU and purported to open case numbers for follow-up.  When it ran, any subscriber could obtain an update only days old.  However, that site has closed and nothing in the United States has replaced it.

We need to expand the role of support organizations in a way that might not have previously been considered.  They can provide its members a repository for their stories available to others, even if they must be embodied by alternate names in those parts of the world particularly known for religious and political oppression and whose identities must be guarded carefully. By doing so they would gain greater incentive for people to take memberships.  Every officer of a support group could potentially become a liaison to a larger network who could not only report cases of murders, but also tell us how those people lived, what they can teach the rest of us, and possibly to draw patterns as to how to prevent murders in the future.

It is, in a way, a repository of souls.

 

HOW IT MAY WORK

For that matter, murders committed as hate crimes only represent part of the general milieu of calamity that can befall transpeople, each of whose stories could be easily overlooked or expunged. Some of us go missing.  Some become exploited in the underground economy.  Some face incarceration in which a person may or may not be able to communicate with the outside world.  Some cases should become known to law enforcement providing those authorities will not be inclined to inflict harm upon transpeople in the first place.

Part of the responsibility of remembrance rests upon the individual.  Some of us already have written our stories and distributed them to trusted individuals.  Some of us even put them on personal websites and Facebook pages.  These same profiles can be registered with a member of a support organization entrusted with secretarial duties, either to a paper file or to a laptop that could be secured separate from personal computers, especially in politically hostile areas.

Larger support organizations typically register members with 2 naming criteria:  the name to be used for mail and the name the individual prefers to be known in that group.  The reason for this is a matter of security with respect to confidentiality and expediting mail service.  If we know a person as “Sarah” and the post office knows that person as “Thomas”, a post office may at times reject mail as undeliverable because mail to person under a different name would technically be considered a form of mail fraud.  If everyone knows what the deal really is, it hurts nobody and a local postmaster may be sympathetic.  Others demand an ID in the preferred name.  But no support organization can count on postmaster sympathy.  Neither will a support organization want to expose a transperson to a hostile household member unwittingly.  That would go against their mission and ethics.9

An individual needs to make such profiles a part of a system of notifications that can be updated periodically in the same way other vital notifications need periodic updating as part of emergency packages.  They include:

  1. A Last Will and Testament: This document does more than list executors and property to be dispensed. It also addresses the dispensation of other accounts.  Mine, for example, is set up in such a way that updating information is done with attachments clipped to the Will.  These attachments pertain to lists of people to be notified and how to notify them.  They include the most current information on intellectual property with  copyrights and other publishing codes including job numbers, organizations being used in publishing and marketing, usernames, passwords, and current representatives.  They also include Internet accounts with current usernames and passwords that change from time to time, changing frequently after a cyber attack.  By using attachments for this purpose with the Will referencing those attachments, there’s no need to change the Will itself.  That way I don’t have to go through the pain of rounding up a new set of witnesses every time I change a password or marketing service.10
  2. A Living Will: This document directs any medical facility concerning who can make medical decisions for the maker in case the maker becomes incapacitated but remains alive. It does this through a Durable Power of Attorney.  It also provides Advance Directives to that facility concerning life-sustaining treatment and other preferences for medical treatment.  It addresses extreme conditions like coma or extreme brain damage.  It addresses issues of feeding, hydration, experimental treatments, mental illness, transfusions, RFID implants, and harvesting of organs for transplant as well as how closely these directives must be followed.  These advance directives become part of the patient’s Chart and may be the only thing that stands between a decision for no heroic measures in medical treatment and possibly being kept alive for years against the patient’s wishes while draining the patient’s estate.  Some facilities want a notarized Living Will.  Others accept any signed Living Will with 2 witnesses.  Some, like medical centers run by the Veterans Administration, have a particular form for Living Wills.  But even a VA facility may regard a Living Will using a different format as authoritative so long as it addresses the same set of concerns.  Consult your local facility or facilities concerning their requirements, noting that the range of ambulance services for your area might not reach your preferred facility.11

Accompanying these documents I also propose adding a postcard notifying a support organization.  It would work best if the support organization uses a post office box with the card addressed to the “Post Office Box Holder” or “Occupant” if addressed to an office other than that of, say, a physician or attorney.  The card would be marked with a Profile Number connected to a profile previously registered with the secretary and may be the same as a Membership Number.  The card information would be titled, “Vital Notification” or something to that effect.  It might have a brief checklist that includes:

  1. “Deceased”
  2. “Missing”
  3. “Incarcerated”
  4. “Date Deceased, Missing, or Incarcerated”
  5. “Communications Allowed If Incarcerated?” (yes or no)
  6. “New Address of Incarcerated” to be filled in by household representative.
  7. “Does the personal or household representative wish to be contacted?”
  8. “Representative Contact Information (optional)”

A Profile Number not only would be indexed to a registered profile telling the story as a transperson, it would be indexed to other existing information of a member including a legal name and possibly other names used.  It would also be indexed to a document not all support organizations include in their membership rolls:  Advance Notification Directives, a statement on how further notifications may be carried out by that organization.  This would also need to be referenced in a group’s Privacy Statement that should accompany an Application.  In a sense, Advance Notification Directives function much like Advance Directives do to medical facilities to assure confidentiality and follow-up.  If a member is in trouble, how can the trans community help?  Who in the trans community needs to be notified?  Will a liaison need to work alongside law enforcement?  To what extent should information be released to the press?  Do pre-existing threats exist?

You can see how this elevates the purpose of a support organization.  It becomes more than just a group one attends once a month for psychological warm fuzzies.  It takes the proportion of genuinely contributing to the safety or its members, and potentially, society at large.

Specifics concerning these documents need to be addressed by the officers of the support organization in their meetings because they have practical and possibly legal ramifications.  There should also be a designated liaison to communicate with the household representative, law enforcement, or any other interested agency and who understands how to exercise discretion.  That may include investigating circumstances of incarceration, whether justly applied for a crime or unjustly due to abuse of psychiatry.   That may include investigating circumstances behind murder and cooperation with law enforcement helps in advancing good relations with cities and counties.

The information obtained at the local support group level should become linked to any existing report in the local press which may or may not actually identify a victim as transgender.  It may reveal that a transperson not being respected after death through internment as a member of an imposed sex inconsistent with gender identity.  The local liaison notifies a regional networking organization with monitoring of murders in its mission.  The regional network communicates with organizations including TGEU who compile worldwide lists of deceased transpeople.  This can also be expanded to include lists of those being exploited or unjustly incarcerated.  It may even be used to address issues behind suicide, most specifically bullying and doxxing.

 

WORKING AROUND LIMITATIONS

Of course, not all places in the world can operate like this.  While this may suffice for transpeople in more enlightened areas like Johannesburg, Beirut, Shanghai, or Ho Chi Minh City, it may be too dangerous a practice for places like Kampala, Tripoli, Basra, or Bishkek.  Personal information may be too sensitive to entrust to one person and profiles may not be linked to any address in any way at all.  They may not even contain images that can potentially identify an individual not yet deceased.  Wherever transpeople manage to form associations, they need to address how to best preserve safety for one another and exercise discretion; and nobody knows better how to do this in a particular locale than its own residents.

It’s part of what makes a community a community.  Remembering our dead and the lessons of their lives is part of our honoring one another.  When we remember on the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, we must also honor those intrepid gatherings of transpeople whose voices have been squelched by intolerance but still persist:  in counties like Egypt, Turkey, and the Russian Federation who continue to face state-sanctioned oppression.  Their resilience is a lesson to us all, and future networking partnerships may indeed arise from such groups.  We may yet find new ways to communicate instead of standard channels monitored by local or state officials and need to be watchful for networking opportunities with transpeople struggling in those countries and beyond.

It may test our patience, but patient we must be.  While we evolve in response to world conditions we realize afresh with the Day of Remembrance that there are some things that do not change for as long as humans exist:  people are born, they suffer, and they die.  For as long as our people die because of meanness, we remember, with faith in prospects to come of alleviating suffering, and giving greater meaning to the dead.

______________________________

REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  A month of a list of murdered transgender individuals in the current TDoR cycle, sourced from The TvT research project (2017), hereafter cited.

  1. James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality, p. 158.
  2. Theresa Sparks “1st Transgender Day of Remembrance” YouTube (November 8, 2008, accessed November 18, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-lTsu9SQXM.
  3. (n.a.) “About TDOR” International Transgender Day of Remembrance Website (accessed November 18, 2017) https://tdor.info/about-2/.
  4. TvT research project (2017) “Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) TDoR 2017 Update”, Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide. TvT project website: http://transrespect.org/en/trans-murder-monitoring/tmm-resources/
  5. The site also includes past lists.
  6. Ibid.
  7. International Transgender Day of Remembrance Website (accessed November 18, 2017) https://tdor.info/.
  8. Op. cit.
  9. The author relies upon her experience with the post office and firms that sell post office boxes. She also relies upon her experience with support organizations.
  10. The author speaks from experience. For specifics concerning a Last Will and Testament, plenty of examples can be found on Internet for simple Wills.  For Wills involving complicated estates and other issues, consult an attorney familiar with probate.
  11. The author speaks from experience.  For specifics concerning a Living Will, plenty of examples can be found in Internet.  For help, contact the social worker or chaplain at your local medical facility or an attorney
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