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Home » Columns » Trans-Atlantic

Trans-Atlantic

Publishing Date : 01 August, 2017

Stuart White
The World in Black-N-White


It was announced by the UK government this week that transgender people will be able to choose their sex more easily as part of equalities reforms.


The changes, which will go out for consultation later this year, will make it easier for transgender people to choose their sex legally by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and basically get rid of all the red tape which gets in the way of this group of people’s right to self-determination. It’s a step forward for a minority group which has for so long been misunderstood, laughed at and ridiculed. What has driven thousands to depression, feelings of alienation, confusion and even suicide is slowly being unraveled and managed – with compassion and care.


At the same time 4000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean the opposite trans-message story is unfolding.  Stephen Colbot host of Tonight’s late show said “I began my day today as I often begin my days, by checking Donald Trump’s twitter feed, to see how far the crazy has spread, and today I really think he’s off his meds:  Because today he went from crazy to cruel.” The tweet he is referring to which caught everyone off guard and many up in arms, (but equally, many who may not be up in arms) was this:

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow...... transgender service members

Thus in one brief Tweeted announcement he has basically committed to reversing the policy begun by the Obama administration last year. It all comes out of the blue as this has never been on Trump’s agenda as far as I can remember. In fact during his campaign, Trump tweeted: “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten our freedoms and beliefs.” I guess he was either unaware of what the ‘T’  stands for or perhaps he has that all-too-common politician’s flaw of saying what people want to hear in order to get elected.


“One can’t help wonder about those 15,000 trans troops who volunteered to serve their country who were “minding their own business, protecting our freedoms, when they all got fired, by Tweet – by a rich guy who, during Vietnam, sidestepped the draft with four deferments and a medical disqualification for bone spurs in his foot,” the late-night host reminded. Here is my Transgender for Dummies summary to get you up to speed. They come from all walks of life. They are dads (Bruce Jenner) and moms (Kal Ross) , brothers (Jazz Jennings) and sisters (Chaz Bono) , sons and daughters. They are your co-workers, and your neighbours. There are 7-year-old children and 70-year-old grandparents – it is a diverse community, representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as faith backgrounds.


The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Although the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history. Despite the increased visibility of transgender celebrities like actress Laverne Cox (Orange is the new black) or writer Janet Mock (Marie Claire), many people still don’t personally know anyone who is transgender – but the number who do is growing rapidly.


According to a 2016 survey, 35 percent of likely voters in the United States “know or work with someone who is transgender.” That's more than double the 17 percent who answered yes when asked the same question in 2014.  Other research suggests that there are at least 700,000 transgender people in the United States, about 3 percent of the total population and about 3.5 percent of the LGBTQ community; but these estimates are likely conservative because of the limited amount of studies that have attempted to measure the transgender population.


Denmark, Argentina, Malta even Iran are just some of the countries which have made progress accepting this reality and now the UK is coming along too. Trump’s tweet has essentially called for a step backward in time that goes counter to all the slow but necessary progress the United States and many countries in the western world has made in recent years in its treatment of transgender people.


This is the danger with Trump - he is so divisive…Mexicans, Muslims and now those who are Transgender. He has more cognitive distortions than  I can count but the one that sticks out is polarized thinking. Watch him talk of anyone and they are either good or bad, on his side or the other - either black or white. His thinking is irrational and extreme, hurtful and intolerant.


Michel Gerson summed this creature up in the Washington Post earlier this year when he said “Trump seems to take pleasure in throwing acid into the face of convention. In his calls to lock up his electoral opponent; in his wink and a nod toward violence at his rallies; in his groundless accusations of being spied upon by his predecessor; in his Twitter taunting of Congressional leaders; in his bold and obvious lies; in his dehumanization of migrants and refugees. Grace, dignity, empathy, integrity and kindness are stripped away, leaving the emperor naked but incapable of shame. Trump is the spendthrift of our public character, squandering an inheritance he does not understand or value.


There was a time when transgender people were considered freaks and perhaps this is Trump’s reasoning when he considers the concept of wanting to change a body  you were born in that doesn’t feel right or is authentic to who you are?  This is not a crime or a shame - the shame lies with him and in my book, he is the freak. The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Although the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history.

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