Conservative Disgrace: Old Innuendos in Trump’s Transgender Ban

By Lynnea Urania Stuart

This “President” offered no new arguments.  Congress knows it.  So does much of the United States.  What a significant number of Americans don’t realize is how old and disproven those arguments really are pertaining to transgender military service and their medical coverage.  In fact they had been visited in government over 15 years ago and even then its champions defied national ridicule.

The details of Trump’s surprise tweets announcing his ban on transgender troops serving “in any capacity” have yet to be worked out, much the same way as Conservative religionists often posit their conclusion first and work out the premises later.  But like many issues involving religio-political positions, facts have not been on their side, nor are they now.

 

THE DRAMA

Let’s look at exactly what @RealDonaldTrump tweeted that caused his latest uproar:

(5:55 am on July 26, 2017) “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……”

(6:04 am) “….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..”

(6:08am) “….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”1

Trump reportedly took more than 13 minutes to announce a “policy” in a set of 3 tweets.  He might have saved time to simply have his aides to type up an executive order.  But no other written directive has yet been issued from the White House let alone a signature upon legislation.

Pentagon Spokesperson Jeff Davis appeared dutiful in its doublespeak, but scarcely concealing non-commitment to immediate enforcement when he said, “We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the commander-in-chief on transgender individuals serving in the military. 2

 The White House tweets followed another significant action pertaining to transpeople in the military including an amendment titled, Prohibition of Department of Defense Medical Treatment Related to Gender Transition which failed in the House of Representatives 209-214 after Defense Secretary James Mattis lobbied against it.3

Former Governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and father of the newly installed White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, blasted Republicans who voted against the amendment.5 Governor Huckabee had previously distinguished himself as an anti-transgender force in politics with this vile Red Herring designed to impugn the entire demographic, couched in what he disingenuously claimed to be a “joke” in 2016:

“Your seven-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom, cannot be offended and you can’t be offended if she’s greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man.  Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE.  I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today’.”4

Huckabee’s voice joined with those of Congressional anti-transgender politicians, especially the staunchly anti-LGBT Representative Vicki Harzler [R] MO who was the strongest proponent of the failed amendment.  Politico reported that Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, from the “Alt-Right” publication Breitbart, weighed in as well:

“‘Conservatives were telling [the] White House they didn’t want money in a spending bill to go to transgender health services,’ said one senior administration official, noting that it accelerated Trump’s decision.  Their argument fell on sympathetic ears, White House sources said. Chief strategist [sic] Steve Bannon encouraged Trump to deal with the matter now.  Hartzler and her supporters were elated.”5

The new White House Press Secretary defended Trump’s decision, calling transgender inclusion a “very expensive and disruptive policy” and claimed the “National Security Team” had concluded that “it erodes military readiness and unit cohesion.”6

After Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ announcement we might question who’s included in Trump’s “National Security Team” now.  Where was the Secretary of Defense in all of this, especially after going through all that trouble to lobby against Harzler’s amendment?  He seemed to be a cipher in this decision, a non-entity.  We didn’t hear explicitly from the Secretary of Defense till the following day when his chief spokeswoman Dana White relayed that “detailed guidance” will be implemented “in the future” and the Defense Department will continue to “focus on our mission of defending our nation and ongoing operations against our foes, while ensuring all service members are treated with respect.”7

 Marine Gen. Joe Dunford wrote in an internal memo that there will be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”  In other words, he cannot accept a set of tweets as a basis for policy changes.8

It’s difficult to ascertain at this juncture what “treating all service members with respect” is supposed to mean.  It’s also impossible to say whether existing trans service members will be removed with less than honorable discharges.  The level of discharge matters when it comes to receipt of future pensions, allowances, or medical coverage.  In the past servicemembers determined to be LGBT had often been given “undesirable” or even “dishonorable” discharges which rendered them virtually without any hope for future help from the Veterans Administration or any special consideration for hiring in general employment.  The practice of expelling “undesirables” with less than honorable or general discharges have condemned such people to a lifetime of virtually guaranteed ostracism.

 

DECISION UPON INNUENDO

The reasons stated by Trump’s tweets this week revealed much of the same kind of appeal that people like Representative Harzler indicated and they were nothing new.  The tweets themselves represented three:

  1. Transgender servicemembers detract from the focus of the mission of the armed forces.
  2. Transgender servicemembers represent a personal distraction to all servicemembers, destroying morale and readiness.
  3. Transgender servicemembers result in massive medical costs.

None of these claims have been supported by anything but the stigma imposed by Evangelical Dominionists who refuse to tolerate anyone their religion declares “evil”, something which has shifted over generations.  But the issue of mission as pertaining to focus and distraction are the same arguments presented against other minorities at various times, each which over time have been disproven.  Overall morale and combat readiness continued irrespective of minority inclusion.

In fact Trump’s decision came on the 69th anniversary of an order by President Harry Truman order to integrate Blacks into the armed forces.  Objections to Black servicemembers often followed a claim by Senator Lister Hill of Alabama who said that integration of Blacks would “seriously impair the morale of the Army at a time when our armed forces should be at their strongest and most efficient.”9

It certainly represented gross displacement.  The only “morale” that might be “impaired” might be that of the bigoted who were unwilling to welcome Blacks as fellow human beings.  Time proved through decades of honorable Black service histories that they did their work well.  The bigoted, on the other hand, proved themselves unworthy of military service having represented the worst of America to the world, acting as ambassadors of arrogance, prejudice, and social slime.

The case of women and gays has entirely been colored by attitudes regarding sex and the insistence of military and governmental leaders to impose sexual stereotypes, even in more recent years.  Women would be considered prone to “use their sexuality to garner special favors” to use the words of Chaplain Colonel Vincent J. Inghilterra of Fort Leonard Wood in 1997 as reported in the Washington PostDavid Marlowe, Chief of Military Psychology at Walter Reed Hospital was quoted to say concerning homosexuals, “Introduction of sexual attraction destroys cohesion.”10

In retrospect such comments sound like wishful thinking.  Integration of women and gays never categorically represented any introduction of “sexual attraction.”  Women and homosexuals aren’t categorically about imposing sexual guile upon everyone else and this has been evidenced again and again by those of both demographics who have honorably served.

 

MONEY MONEY MONEY

The third issue, the “tremendous medical costs” to use Trump’s words, isn’t about budgets.  It’s the iron-fisted unwillingness of Evangelical Dominionists to benefit any transperson in any manner whatsoever.  How much money was at stake?  Consider this from William Padula of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

“U.S. policymakers generally deem medical services to be cost-effective if the price falls below $100,000 per year of quality of life. The Hopkins research team found that in the first five years of care for transgender people, associated medical care costs between $34,000 and $43,000 per year of quality of life. After 10 years, the costs drop to $7,000 to $10,000 per year.  To put these numbers into context… cystic fibrosis affects just 30,000 people in the U.S. but can be treated as a chronic condition with new medications for $300,000 a year.  While this is neither cost-effective nor individually affordable, society has decided to cover treatment out of compassion. The same philosophy can apply to medical care for transgender people.”11

Of course that “compassionate philosophy” pertains to insurance companies and the federal government is self-insured.  Government must consider costs for such coverage in its appropriations.  A 2016 study by the RAND Corporation commissioned by the Defense Department estimated transitions for active transgender servicemembers to cost between $2.4 million and $8.4 million per year.  In other words, even in the most extreme scenario they could identify, the costs amount no more than .13% of the military health spending budget.12

Not a few critics, like Beth Skwarecki of LifeHacker were quick to point out that the military spends $42 million annually for Viagra and $84 million on erectile dysfunction drugs generally.  The “President” with his entourage, having spent many a weekend on golf trips during his first months in office, leaves the taxpayer a bill for $3.6 million per pop.  Each trip exceeds the low estimate by the RAND Corporation and 3 trips exceed the high estimate.13

 

HISTORICAL PRECEDENT

Claims that transitions drain government treasuries are nothing new.  They existed from the first time a government entity examined transition benefits for its employees.  For that we turn to the first such endeavor.  In the City and County of San Francisco in 2001 the issue had been raised by certain members of the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force by the end of 2000.  Transition benefits were championed by then Supervisor Mark Leno who also convened that task force in the summer of that year.  News of this hit national media like a firestorm in January 2001, inciting criticism and ridicule by editorial commentators and late night pundits.14

Dr. Jamison Green made an important observation in 2001 when transition benefits were being debated by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  He noted that the arguments for not considering medical coverage for trans employees in any system, public or private boiled down to 2:

  1. Not enough transition people exist to warrant any consideration of coverage.
  2. If we provide coverage we’ll be overrun with people who want to transition.

Dr. Green called both extremes “very bad jokes,” and noted that virtually all procedures required for transition are available for those not transgender and these are routinely covered by insurance.  But only when we’re identified as trans do these entities deny the same benefits.  In other words, if not enough people exist to warrant coverage, why do insurers cover them for everyone else outside our minority of minorities?  If there was any concern about being overrun, why have transgender support organizations never amounted to millions of members?15

Transition benefits passed on April 30, 2001 with 9 of 11 votes in favor. Several trans activists gathered for the decision including, Dr. Joan Roughgarden, Gwendolyhn Ann Smith, Ayme Kantz of The Channel, Theresa Sparks, and several other members of the Executive Committee of Transgender San Francisco (TGSF).  The gathering included the San Francisco Chronicle, and KPIX, as reported by TGSF member Janis Ryan who also died in October of the same year, herself having faced starvation despite being a paralegal.16

But the issue would be revisited when a new mayor, Gavin Newsom, took office.  San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission produced this letter in 2006 and included some of Dr. Green’s observations (For a full size view, please follow this link):

With an initial premium amount of $1.70 per month bringing in $4.3 million dollars, only 7 claims for surgery came in with a payout of only $156,000.  The fear that transgender would overrun and bankrupt the system never happened.  In fact it proved to be so profitable; the insurers eliminated the added premium entirely.17

This was an immensely successful insurance program instituted over 15 years ago.  The fears about “immense costs” and people rushing into service so they could milk transition amounted to fear-mongering.  The transgender benefit continues today for employees of the City and County of San Francisco and this has been a model for other such programs ever since.  When it comes to long term effects upon treasuries, this program proved the following:

  1. Transgender employees never drained the treasuries of any insurance company.
  2. Transgender employees never proved “too insignificant” to consider coverage.
  3. Claims that one or the other must be the case are a Red Herring.
  4. The unproven nature of such a Red Herring reveals a cultivated social animus unrelated to transpeople.

Seeing that was the case for San Francisco where the highest incidence of transgender life can be expected, there’s no reason anything different should be expected for transgender servicemembers in the military, or anywhere in federal, state, county, or municipal governments.

 

AT THE CENTER

What it ultimately comes down to these disproven innuendos is that widespread animus fostered against transpeople for generations as against other minorities; rooted in a false religiosity that arrogantly finds every excuse it can to exalt one’s self and chosen communion over others.  It’s that same false religiosity to which the current regime panders that exalts itself above more genuine values that count for goodness and greatness that grow from the rule to love one’s neighbor.  It’s a false religiosity that threatens science and minority faiths, seeking a dominion upon Earth that won’t be satisfied till it can subjugates everyone irrespective of conscience under their own rod of iron in the image of a Roman fasces.

It’s an animus whose constitutionality may be challenged in the courts for as long as Dominionists have not succeeded in subverting the independence of the judiciary.  It’s an animus that demonstrates their genuinely compassionless character that prefers to impose the blarney of innuendo over fact while declaring reports of facts “fake” if they don’t suit preconceived conclusions.  But for us who are trans and whose proclivities to the spiritual represent a more direct and vibrant walk than the continued mummery of liturgy and dogma will have a special role in the future:  the assertion of liberty as liberty really is, reflecting the ethos of a lowly man from Galilee who seeks to heal and free others while having no place of His own to lay his head.

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REFERENCES:

Featured Image:  The tweets in question on July 26, 2017 alongside a detail of the official public portrait of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and a modified detail of a public domain image of servicemembers in action.  The difference in size and incidence between the Defense Secretary and the Tweeter in Chief is more than incidental.

 

  1. Donald Trump. (Tweets July 26, 2017). https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump. Timeline of the tweets from Abby Phillip, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, and Dan Lamothe. “Trump announces ban on transgender people in the U.S. military” Washington Post (July 26, 2017, accessed July 26, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/07/26/trump-announces-ban-on-transgender-people-in-u-s-military/?utm_term=.d5455dc7ee39 .
  2. Vera Bergengruen. “Pentagon caught off guard by Trump’s ban on transgender troops” McClatchy DC (July 26, 2016, accessed July 26, 2016) http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article163704513.html .
  3. Stuart, Lynnea Urania. “July, the Federal Roller Coaster” Transpire (July 25, 2016, accessed July 26, 2016) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/july-the-federal-roller-coaster/
  4. Nick Duffy. “Mike Huckabee hits out at Republicans who voted down anti-trans law (July 18, 2017, accessed July 26, 2017) http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/07/18/mike-huckabee-hits-out-at-republicans-who-voted-down-anti-trans-law/ .
  5. Ibid.
  6. Alex Horton. “Trump called transgender troops a costly disruption.  An expert who studied it says he’s wrong” Washington Post (July 26, 2017, accessed July 27, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/07/26/trump-called-transgender-troops-a-costly-disruption-an-expert-who-studied-it-says-hes-wrong/?utm_term=.1696f237bcd8
  7. Bryan Bender and Jacqueline Klimas. “Joint Chiefs: ‘No modifications’ to transgender policy from Trump Tweet”. Politico (July 27, 2017, accessed July 27, 2017) http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/27/trump-transgender-military-ban-no-modification-241029?cmpid=sf
  8. Philip Bump. “Trump’s argument against transgender soldiers echoes one used against gays, women, and blacks” Washington Post (July 26, 2017, accessed July 27, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/07/26/trumps-argument-against-transgender-soldiers-echoes-one-used-against-gays-women-and-blacks/?tid=pm_politics_pop&utm_term=.a985811a6099 .
  9. HUB Staff, Johns Hopkins University. “Study: Covering transgender health care would be cost-effective for insurance companies” HUB, Johns Hopkins (December 3, 2015, accessed July 26, 2017) https://hub.jhu.edu/2015/12/03/transgender-health-insurance-cost-effective/ .
  10. Christopher Ingraham. “The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops’ medical care.” Washington Post (July 26, 2017, retrieved July 26, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/26/the-military-spends-five-times-as-much-on-viagra-as-it-would-on-transgender-troops-medical-care/ .
  11. Beth Skwarecki. “The Military Spends More on Viagra Than on Transgender Soldiers’ Medical Expenses. Life Hacker (July 26, 2016, accessed July 26, 2017) http://lifehacker.com/the-military-spends-more-on-viagra-than-on-transgender1797266371?utm_medium=sharefromsite&utm_source=Lifehacker_twitter
  12. These facts are personally known to the author who served as Employment Committee Secretary for the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force in 2000 and followed the progress of these developments in various media. Then Supervisor Mark Leno is now State Senator Mark Leno.
  13. Green, Jamison “An End to Exclusions” Visible Man (February 2001, out of print but distributed online at the time. Copy in the author’s collection.  Visible Man is different from the volume, Becoming a Visible Man, available through various online services.)
  14. Ryan, Janis. “Transgender History Made in San Francisco” The Channel, Volume 20, Issue 6 (June 2001) Transgender San Francisco. Lynnea Urania Stuart, as a member of TGSF during this time, personally knew Janis and remembers relaying the news of her untimely death in Berkeley.  Janis never transitioned, but she was notably proud to be transgender.
  15. Human Rights Commission (memo 2006 revisiting the issue of transition benefits) available also through Transgender At Work Project. http://www.tgender.net/taw/SanFranciscoTGBenefitUpdateMar3106.pdf .

 

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The Dominionist Collapse: When Transpeople Face Theocracy

Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

It’s reactive and reductive, embraced by braggart and bigot; and it’s running away with the standard of Conservatism.  Its survival depends upon innuendo more than logic despite the fact that some highly educated people work from the heart of the movement.  Dominionism burst upon Congress in the likes of people like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee.  But the movement that’s Dominionism cannot last, threatening an intellectual collapse that could drag America and the world into a new Dark Age, attacking transpeople every step along the way.  It will collapse because logic will eventually overrule innuendo and propaganda while the masses turn against Dominionism in growing disgust and the environmental collapse of the planet awakens them to the folly of its religio-political policies.

 

ABOUT DOMINIONISM

Christianity brought Dominionism to the world through the likes of Constantine and Theodosius, the latter of whom cosigned the Edict of Rome on August 6, 390 CE which declared “male effeminacy” a capital crime punishable by burning.  The Edict became part of the Corpus Juris Civilis while driving underground transpeople who had previously enjoyed a respected, even priestly status for centuries.  Dominionist rulers opened the floodgates of what would become a more generalized Abrahamic Oppression of transpeople against which we struggle today.1

Dominionism may be defined as the political doctrine that religion, most particularly the most prominent denomination or alliance in a region, must control the reins of political power and government control in order to assure the goodness of society.  This means integration of church and state.  In this respect Dominionism follows the Post-Millennialism of Augustine in The City of God despite the fact that most of today’s Dominionists are Pre-Millennial instead, some of which make informal tests of fellowship out of Pre-Tribulation and Post-Tribulation in eschatological teachings.2

In the United States, Dominionism has largely taken the form of the Evangelical Alliance that has included Conservative branches of Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Campbellists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and other denominations in cooperation with Roman Catholics, and to some extent, Messianic, Conservative and Orthodox Jews.  This alliance has established the popular stigma of the “cult”, most particularly against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists, the now defunct Worldwide Church of God of Herbert W. Armstrong, and to some extent, the Seventh-Day Adventists.  However, they have not clearly defined what a cult should be outside their own accepted concept of orthodoxy.  In terms of an actual modus operandi, the Evangelical Alliance often displays much of the cultic abhorrence they criticize, carrying the traits of exclusiveness and enforcement to the political arena.  Beginning with the work of Rev. Jerry Fallwell and the Moral Majority in the 1980 presidential election, Dominionists have worked to seize control of the Republican Party, and consequently, the United States.3

 

HR 2796

Republicans produced a decidedly anti-transgender platform in its 2016 Platform.  It reads:

 

“We emphatically support the original, authentic meaning of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It affirmed that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” That language opened up for girls and women a world of opportunities that had too often been denied to them. That same provision of law is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories. Their [sic] agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They [sic] are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their [sic] edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.4

 

After the GOP won continued control of both houses of Congress and the White House, the GOP now seeks to execute this platform in legislation.  On June 7, 2017, the GOP introduced HR 2796, also titled the Civil Rights Uniformity Act.  The act explicitly seeks to strip a broad spectrum of civil rights protections for transpeople:

 

SEC. 3. Prohibition of policies redefining sex to mean gender identity.

(a) Rule of Construction.—In determining the meaning of any Federal civil rights law, and of any related ruling, regulation, guidance, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the words “sex” and “gender” and their equivalents shall not be interpreted to mean “gender identity” or its equivalent, and the words “man” and “woman” and their equivalents shall refer exclusively to a person’s genetic sex.

(b) Rule of Interpretation.—No Federal civil rights law shall be interpreted to treat gender identity or transgender status as a protected class, unless such law expressly designates “gender identity” or “transgender status” as a protected class.

(c) Definition of “Federal civil rights law”.—For purposes of this Act, the term “Federal civil rights law” means any Federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, including title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000a et seq.), the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.), the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111–148), and any other Federal law or provision thereof prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.5

 

The bill, problematic enough in its definition of sex and gender on the basis of “genetic sex,” went to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on July 12.  Whether the subcommittee thinks through the illogic of presumptive “genetic sex” remains to be seen.  But the bill opens up an entirely new discussion between legalities and ethics.

 

ETHICAL REALITIES AND LEGALITY

Anyone who has taken a college class on Ethics has probably faced a common faux pas: one cannot generally debate ethical points using legal precedents.   What’s ethical often differs from what’s legal.  That can include medical decisions directly affecting transpeople.

We as transpeople typically assert a fundamental right to transition, detransition, and even to re-transition provided that actions do not inflict harm or otherwise violate the rights of others.  Medical ethics, however, are necessarily more guarded than this precisely because they follow a Consequentialist, but not Utilitarian approach.6 Consequentialism proposes that favorable outcomes determine right action.  But Consequentialism faces a fundamental challenge in terms of the Remote Effects Problem: that we cannot know a priori that immediate results will translate into good results on the long term.7 When it comes to the willingness of practitioners to treat transpeople with a therapy involving transition, we’re often perceived with a large question mark amid a general nervousness about malpractice claims.  Not all who transition do so successfully and long term studies concerning outcomes continue today to address Remote Effects.  These studies continue as sources for vigorous debate.

 The ethics of Dominionism, however, decidedly follows the Divine Command Theory of MoralityDivine Command asserts that right action follows what God has ordained in holy writ.  But what holy writ means calls upon the interpretations of religious leaders despite the biblical claim that scripture (or at lease prophecy) is not a matter of private human interpretation.8  It’s inevitable that interpretation falls back onto religious leaders because only prophets claim to have direct communications from God and no prophet has full acceptance in every communion.  We see disagreements in interpretation through every religious debate in which both sides in an argument refuse to budge from preconceived doctrines and dogma.  We see those disagreements manifest in the massive schisms in Christianity since before the Reformation.  When addressing trans acceptance, Christians are divided.  Some read the Bible and find a basis for acceptance.  Others read the Bible and reject us as an “abomination”, often couching their rejection with the disingenuous claim of “loving the sinner but not the sin.”  No real position exists concerning transpeople apart from these factions because those who “don’t know” have taken no position at all.  But the broad disparities in the positions of scholars among the denominations automatically render legislation on the basis of Divine Command necessarily imprecise, divisive and consequently unstable.

They’re unstable because Law demands a formulation of decisions upon precise definitions and relations as to what may be permitted through codification and enforcement.  When pertaining to transpeople and their collective diversity, definitions often fail.  Nobody has ever defined “transgender” once and for all.  That definition has shifted widely since first appearing in the 1970’s.  For that matter, our presence has opened up vigorous debate in terms of defining maleness or femaleness.  It’s confusing to many because America has relied upon religious tradition, not medical realities, to define a rigid gender dichotomy while excluding all others possibilities.  Consequently, Dominionists perceive transpeople as disrupters of the social order.

 

GENDER DYSPHORIA AND LEGAL RECOGNITION

Some transpeople who oppose medical gatekeeping have vigorously challenged the authority of medical and psychiatric practitioners.  Instead, transition’s sometimes regarded as something automatically owed by right.  Some have gone as far to say that gender dysphoria is “self-diagnosed.”  There’s a reason that view of “self-diagnosis” is wrong.

It’s wrong because a diagnosis is a medical or psychiatric determination based upon collectively established criteria, carrying legal ramifications.  Only a medical or psychiatric professional can diagnose.  “Self diagnosis” is nothing more than a suspicion till supported by a qualified third party.

For example, this past winter I suspected retinal damage after a fall because I persistently saw flashing arcs of light that consistently followed specific eye movements.  My suspicion proved to be correct when an ophthalmologist diagnosed a horseshoe tear in my retina and immediately referred me to eye surgery.  The ophthalmologist diagnosed on the basis of observation and established medical criteria.  I didn’t make that diagnosis.  I only suspected something to be true.

The same applies to professionals who write letters recommending transition.  Anyone can sense gender dysphoria because of various experiences in one’s own mental, emotional, and sociological disposition.  But a diagnosis demands more than subjective belief.  Gender dysphoria, like other conditions, must be determined upon clinical criteria.  It’s why certain states require a treating physician to sign an affidavit for change of the gender marker on a driver’s license.  It’s why an endocrinologist writes a recommendation for gender confirmation surgery.  That physician’s signature has legal ramifications more relied upon than the patient’s.  I might believe that deep inside I’m one gender or another and my belief may be correct.  But legal criteria require confirmation by a third party deemed expert enough to testify to one’s condition as fact. While, morally speaking, one may have the right to transition, securing legal recognition also matters.

It’s one reason why the Standards of Care and the Guidelines for Psychological Practice are important, provided through the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and the American Psychological Association respectively.

 

RELIGIOUS BELIEF AND LEGAL RECOGNITION

What many religious people don’t realize is that a sincerely held religious belief can also lack legal recognition unless that belief is sanctioned by others, preferably by an established religious institution; much in the same way as a belief of having gender dysphoria needs verification through a professional diagnosis.

Think about that for a moment.

Consider, for example, the Vietnam War when 18-year old males were drafted for combat in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Some draftees were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists; conscientious objectors about killing for a human government (the former) and combat on Sabbath (the latter).  Adventist conscientious objectors were often admitted to a Medical Corps, though this provision was abandoned with the close of the Vietnam War.9

Of course, anyone could claim to be a conscientious objector in an attempt to get out of participation in maneuvers or out of cowardice.  Third party verification was required for accommodation.  Just making a statement would not suffice.  Military authorities look suspiciously upon anyone claiming in the middle of a term of service to have converted if it means getting out of an assignment.  Stories abound in Adventist circles about incarceration of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam Era who had been rescued by the church’s military liaison.10

Third party verification also is typically demanded by an employer who must make accommodations for religious practice whenever they come into conflict so long as accommodation does not pose an undue hardship upon the business.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines for this:

 

“When an employer requests additional information, employees should provide information that addresses the employer’s reasonable doubts.  That information need not, however, take any specific form.  For example, written materials or the employee’s own first-hand explanation may be sufficient to alleviate the employer’s doubts about the sincerity or religious nature of the employee’s professed belief such that third-party verification is unnecessary.  Further, since idiosyncratic beliefs can be sincerely held and religious, even when third-party verification is needed, it does not have to come from a church official or member, but rather could be provided by others who are aware of the employee’s religious practice or belief.[128]

“An employee who fails to cooperate with an employer’s reasonable request for verification of the sincerity or religious nature of a professed belief risks losing any subsequent claim that the employer improperly denied an accommodation.  By the same token, employers who unreasonably request unnecessary or excessive corroborating evidence risk being held liable for denying a reasonable accommodation request, and having their actions challenged as retaliatory or as part of a pattern of harassment.

“It also is important to remember that even if an employer concludes that an individual’s professed belief is sincerely held and religious, it is only required to grant those requests for accommodation that do not pose an undue hardship on the conduct of its business”11

 

THE TIDE OF LIMITATIONS

Religious liberty, however, isn’t absolute.  A parent in Christian Science would be prosecuted for denying his child medical care if it’s clear that treatment could have saved the child’s life.  Honor killings, today most common among Muslims aren’t exonerated in American courts.  Neither can any church carry out the kinds of pogroms against people of other faiths like what Orthodox Christians have perpetrated against Jews for centuries.  Forced conversions, a feature of Christianity throughout its bloody history, won’t be backed by law… yet.

In the case of employers, the issue of proselytizing in the workplace has been addressed by the EEOC in terms of hardship upon a business.  What’s lacking are the rights of employees to be free from being compelled to convert to a religion as a result of an employer sanctioning a campaign of proselytizing as in cases of religiously operated educational institutions that appear from time to time.  Neither have churches done much to make freedom from proselytizing a matter of accommodation because the churches prefer to fight proselytizing by equipping their own members for religious debate.  But internal conflicts resulting from proselytizing can force businesses to either forbid them through hardship claims, or to terminate employees on the basis of religion, the latter being preferred by many Conservative religious bodies.

Let’s say that the current trend for Dominionist control of government continues to the point in which no legal recourse for those outside the Evangelical Alliance can exist.  It’s a condition of American becoming a fully theocratic state.  Forced conversions often happen in such a milieu.  Some, like the Seventh-Day Adventists, have believed for over a century that this version of Christo-Fascism is inevitable, even established in prophecy.12

 

A LOGICAL CONUNDRUM

Transpeople, many of whom are either Atheist or representing religious minorities outside the Evangelical Alliance, can find a special role to play in such an unfolding drama.  The need for 3rd party verification for liberty claims by religionist and transperson should be more or less on par with each other as exists today.  But if religion demands forced conversions, these 3rd party verifications could be challenged for religious claimants in a way transgender claimants cannot.

A milieu of duress logically demands that we question the validity of claims of having freely made decisions.  Claims concerning liberty in conversion in such a milieu may be legally accepted but morally and logically they cannot.  However, nobody who has voluntarily gone through a process of transition needs anything beyond the documents supporting transition to evidence a past claim of gender dysphoria.  Given the hoops we jump through, it’s difficult for anyone to claim that a transsexual has had surgery under duress.  Simple existence as a post-operative transsexual speaks for the fact itself.  What remains in a totalitarian theocracy is its decision to either accept the resulting logical disparity that demands reform or destroy the transsexual who dares to challenge the religious claims of those having been converted under duress.  In the case of such a challenge, other minorities can take notice and rise up, each with issues of their own.

It’s a condition like what Tertullian described, saying, “semen est sanguis Christianorum” (The blood of Christians is seed).”13 But the blood of martyrs resulting in political and religious reforms isn’t limited to religionists.  For example, the persecution of Galileo Galilei by Catholic authorities spurred a rise of popular interest in science and added to scientific fervor.14 Just like Galileo brought an ascendancy of scientific interest and contributed to the decline of European religious tyranny, transpeople have the potential to spark such a reevaluation of religious liberty claims that can fuel a popular uprising of its own, leading ultimately to a crash of Dominionists’ theocratic grip.

 

A PHILOSOPHIC WARRANT

In which case, transpeople, especially those who transition, need to understand the logic of liberty claims:  their own as well as those of religionists.  For that matter, transpeople do well to understand philosophic ideas including ideas that demand religious literacy.  We should be able to teach them.  Such an understanding not only helps to refine one’s own thoughts about the self and the universe, but may bequeath a treasure for future generations that may arise in a more congenial age.  It may come in a time of environmental ruin and depopulation of the planet resulting from the madness of Dominionist policies rooted in the classic lust for gold, greed, and converts to what they claim is God.

Movements inevitably lead to political machines before becoming monuments to the “good old days.” But a more congenial age would be a time earned with an end to the Abrahamic Oppression that has gripped Europe and other parts of the world since Theodosius cosigned the Edict of RomeIt will also be a time earned for the meek who inherit the Earth, and not because they’re too timid to refuse it.

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REFERENCES:

Image: Modified details of 2 public domain images.  Left is a statue honoring the ideal of protecting the worshipper from the state, commissioned by the Jewish anti-defamation league B’nai Berith and sculpted by Moses Jacob Ezekiel.  It stands in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia; right is a detail from a protest for trans rights, Flikr.

  1. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Alas, the Charioteer” Transpire (November 25, 2016, accessed July 19, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/alas-the-charioteer/.
  2. Unless otherwise noted, the author relies upon her own experience with the Evangelical Alliance having participated in evangelism from 1974 before her exit from the Campbellists in 1978 and the Seventh-Day Adventists in 1995. Post-Millennialism claims that Christ returns after a 1000 year rule of the church on Earth.  Pre-Millenialism claims the 1000 rule happens after the return of Christ.  Pre-Tribulation and Post-Tribulation refers to whether a secret rapture, or taking up of “real Christians” into heaven, happens before or after a period of mass persecution of Christians.  Eschatology is a branch of theology pertaining to the end of the world.
  3. (n.a.) “Taking Over the Republican Party” Theocracy Watch (Updated February 2005, accessed July 19, 2017) http://www.theocracywatch.org/taking_over.htm.
  4. Republican National Platform Committee. “Republican Platform, 2016” (presented to the delegates of the GOP National Convention August 2016)
  5. HR 2796, Section 3 (bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Olson, Babin, Abraham, and Hartzler on June 7, 2017)
  6. Utilitarianism consists of 2 versions of Consequentialism that posit that right action must be determined upon the greatest number of sentient beings made happy (Jeremy Bentham) or determined upon a rule affecting the greatest number of people made happy (John Stuart Mill). The Consequentialism of medical ethics does not take statistics on societal happiness into account.
  7. “A priori” refers to what can be known ahead of time as opposed to “a posteriori” which refers to what can be known after the fact.
  8. 2 Peter 1:20.
  9. Gary R. Councell. “Adventists and Military Service” Spectrum (July 23, 2012, accessed July 19, 2017) http://spectrummagazine.org/article/gary-r-councell/2012/07/23/adventists-and-military-service .
  10. Related by Seventh-Day Adventist pastors to the author in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
  11. (na.a) “EEOC Compliance Manual, Section 12-4: Reasonable Accommodation” Directives Transmittal Number 915.003 (July 22, 2008, accessed July 19, 2017) https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/religion.html#_Toc203359518 .
  12. (n.a.) “The Image of the Beast” End Times Prophecy (n.d., accessed July 20, 2017) http://www.end-times-prophecy.org/image-of-the-beast.html.
  13. Tertullian. “Apologeticus Pro Christianis” 50:13
  14. Briggs, Kenneth A. “Scholars Are Still Embattled Over the Case of Galileo” New York Times (April 28m 1981, accessed July 20, 2017) http://www.nytimes.com/1981/04/28/science/scholars-are-still-embattled-over-the-case-of-galileo-madisonwisc.html?pagewanted=all.

 

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