Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trump, Transgenders, and Shameful Denial


Do you remember when then presidential candidate Donald Trump said last April that he supported the rights of transgender people to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” At the time, he said that Caitlyn Jenner, perhaps the most famous transgender person in the country, could use whichever bathroom at Trump Tower she wanted.

“North Carolina did something — it was very strong — and they’re paying a big price,” Trump said. “And there’s a lot of problems. And I heard — one of the best answers I heard was from a commentator yesterday saying, leave it the way it is, right now.” 

(Ashley Parker. “Donald Trump Says Transgender People should Use the Bathroom They Want.” The New York Times. April 21, 2016.) 

Evidently that was then and this is now.

Now, the Trump administration plans to roll back protections for transgender students and is preparing changes to federal guidance that required the nation’s public schools to allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identities.

This is different from President Obama administration’s position, which was that denying transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice violates federal prohibitions against sex discrimination

The Obama administration’s stand was based on the position that requiring students to use a restroom that clashes with their gender identity is a violation of Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination in public schools.

Gay rights groups condemned the move preemptively. This reversal by Trump would be a significant setback for the gay rights movement, which made enormous gains under Obama, winning the right to marry and gaining the ability to serve openly in the military.

“Such clear action directed at children would be a brazen and shameless attack on hundreds of thousands of young Americans who must already defend themselves against schoolyard bullies, but are ill-equipped to fight bullies on the floors of their state legislatures and in the White House,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

(Sandhya Somashekhar, Moriah Balingit, and Emma Brown. “Trump administration poised to change transgender student bathroom guidelines.” The Washington Post. February 21, 2017.)

Allow me to speak about gender. First, I would like you to read the American Psychological Association's definition of the word “gender” and explain how it differs from the definition of the word “sex” ...

Gender (n): “the condition of being male, female, or neuter. In a human context, the distinction between gender and SEX reflects the usage of these terms: Sex usually refers to the biological aspects of maleness or femaleness, whereas gender implies the psychological, behavioral, social, and cultural aspects of being male or female (i.e., masculinity or femininity.)”

Please understand that a person's gender identity (also defined by the APA) is that being's “deeply-felt, inherent sense of being a boy, a man, or male; a girl, a woman, or female; or an alternative gender (e.g., genderqueer, gender nonconforming, gender neutral) that may or may not correspond to a person’s sex assigned at birth or to a person’s primary or secondary sex characteristics.”

(APA Resources.

Thus, Gender Dysphoria occurs as discomfort or distress related to incongruence between a person’s gender identity, sex assigned at birth, gender identity, and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics (Knudson, DeCuypere, & Bockting. 2010).

In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition adopted the term Gender Dysphoria as a diagnosis characterized by “a marked incongruence between” a person’s gender assigned at birth and gender identity (American Psychiatric Association. 2013. p. 453).

Gender Dysphoria replaced the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in the previous version of the DSM (American Psychiatric Association. 2000).

Every day obstetricians, doctors and midwives commit the procedure of assigning an infant's gender without even asking for the parents' consent. When a doctor holds a child up in the delivery room and looks between its legs, that medical person declares the child to be a boy or a girl based on this hasty assessment of genitals.

Nothing in this examination is necessarily wrong or criminal or meant to harm the infant.

However …

This decision can be potentially critical to the welfare and well-being of a child. Christin Scarlett Milloy – activist, writer, journalist – explains the weight of this gender assignment in the following:

“With infant gender assignment, in a single moment your baby's life is instantly and brutally reduced from such infinite potentials down to one concrete set of expectations and stereotypes, and any behavioral deviation from that will be severely punished—both intentionally through bigotry, and unintentionally through ignorance.

“That doctor (and the power structure behind him) plays a pivotal role in imposing those limits on helpless infants, without their consent, and without your informed consent as a parent. This issue deserves serious consideration by every parent, because no matter what gender identity your child ultimately adopts, infant gender assignment has effects that will last through their whole life.” 

(Christin Scarlett Milloy. “Don’t Let the Doctor Do This to Your Newborn.” Slate. June 26, 2014.)

More and more, we see stories about transgender people in the news. They are a part of the LGBT minority. The National Health Interview Survey reported in July 2014 that 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual. In a Williams Institute review based on an June–September 2012 Gallup poll, approximately 3.4 percent of American adults identify themselves as being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender). According to the report from the Williams Institute, the transgender population represents about 0.3% of American adults.

We are finally understanding the truth about gender and all of its complexities. Every parent now understands there is a chance their child might be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and no parent wants a child to face what feels like a stacked deck against them.

Each child – no matter their orientation – deserves equal respect and human dignity, yet we are well aware that a child of any minority becomes subjected to harassment and mistreatment. Psychological abuse for gender nonconforming children is common – transgender people are far more likely to be depressed, and they have a devastating 41 percent rate of suicide attempts, nearly nine times the social average. It is imperative for all of us to understand this – people are not miserable because they're transgender; they're miserable as the result of being assigned the wrong gender at birth.

(Ann P. Hass et al. “Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults.” The Williams Institute, in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. January, 2014.)

The unconditional love of a parent is the utmost protection for any child. It is clear how important this concern must be for a transgender child. These parents must fight gender discrimination as they seek equality for their children. Even though Western culture has traditionally viewed gender as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options: male or female, modern science shows that biological gender occurs across a continuum of possibilities.

Until those who hold onto the binary concept of gender recognize the diversity of other gender identities, sexual discrimination will plague our nation. Until all people practice inclusion, transgender people will suffer as gender continues to be closely monitored and reinforced in beliefs so primitive they judge only genitalia, not who a person really is.


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