Trump’s Trans Military Ban is Bullshit

On Wednesday afternoon, President Trump announced the reinstatement of a ban, via Twitter, preventing transgender people from serving in any and all branches of the military “in any capacity.” The ban would not only prohibit transgender people from joining military but would force military personnel already serving to give up their positions. This decision seems to have been made very abruptly considering that, during both his campaign and his presidency thus far, he has never voiced his interest or concern about whether or not he thinks trans people should be able to serve their country. In fact, senators from both major parties were quite shocked by this decision and immediately took to Twitter to advocate for trans involvement in the military, thanking them for their service and assuring them that who they are is not a “burden”, a word Trump used to describe the medical expenses of trans people in the armed forces. Even Republican Senator John McCain, who is notoriously socially conservative, voiced his outrage over Trump’s news, saying that the tweets Trump posted announcing the ban were “unclear” and that “There is no reason to force any service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military.” While Trump claims the ban is due to the cost of hormone replacement therapy and/or reassignment surgery that transgender military personnel may need, these expenses are a fraction of the cost of the Department of Defense’s healthcare expenditures, totaling to only around $8.4 million, at most, out of a 49 billion dollar budget. In other words, attempting to justify this ban as a way to decrease costs is simply untrue. In addition, banning an entire demographic of people from the military is not only discriminatory, and echoes not so distant moments in American history when black or gay people couldn’t serve, but it decreases the number of willing and able citizens who want to fight to protect their country. All the while, this regressive and discriminatory announcement of the ban falls on the 69th anniversary of the day President Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces.

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Deconstructing “7 Harsh Realities of Life Millennials Need to Understand”

I recently came across this article entitled “7 Harsh Realities of Life Millennials Need to Understand”, written by Tyler Durden and published on the website Zero Hedge. In the article, Durden lists seven ways, in which he thinks millennials, as an entire generation presumably, are lacking in intelligence and hard work ethic, in addition to being too soft and too politically correct. While his tone, throughout the entirety of the article, is unquestionably demeaning and mocking, I, however, am going to provide an adult analysis and counter argument to the content he has provided thus far.

  1. YOUR FEELINGS ARE LARGELY IRRELEVANT.

In his first point, he claims that millennials insist that others tip-toe around their feelings and are much too fragile when it comes to receiving insults or negative criticisms from those with either different perspectives or backgrounds. One example he provides is the concept of mis-gendering someone, which could involve using the wrong pronouns when referring to an individual in the third person. This, however, is not a matter of feelings or an inability to accept criticism, but more about a denial of identity. Yes, you have the right to say whatever you want, and you will obviously continue to do that without fail, but maintaining a basic level of respect for those around you is not a radical idea or a ploy for millennials to be coddled. For example, if I insulted someone’s religion or Christian identity, they would likely get very upset and the majority response would not be that they insist upon be coddled or that they are playing the victim card, but rather, any uproar or objections would largely denounce this comment as disrespectful. While one is very much allowed to say it, doing so is not an effective way for someone to gain and maintain the basic amount of respect one should hope to receive in return.

2. YOU CANNOT BE WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BE.

For years parents have told their children that they are capable of anything they put their mind to or work hard enough at, but no one ever seriously believes them, especially in today’s economic and employment climates. Considering how difficult it is, currently, to get an entry-level job, many people do not waste away their days chasing pipe dreams. Obviously, there are a few, as there have been among many previous generations, but this is far from the norm. Despite the claim that they are much too entitled, many millennials do not have the luxury and certainly cannot afford to engage in a hobby or profession which does not guarantee a livable wage or substantial pay check. At my university, and at many others, there are students from various economic backgrounds, who not only dedicate themselves to their studies, but also work part-time jobs to help alleviate some of the students loans they will eventually have to pay off. In addition, many students choose to volunteer, teach inner-city youth, intern at various organizations and corporations, take on independent study projects, or even tutor each other; and there is nothing lazy or entitled about that.

3. GENDER STUDIES IS A WASTE OF MONEY.

While a degree in gender studies may not guarantee the same salary as a medical degree, it is not per se a waste of money. Firstly, there are a considerably small amount of students who choose to study gender to begin with, so it is not as if this is a rampant or widespread course of study, and neither is it new. Secondly, some of the greatest intellectuals and theorists have studied gender, such as Judith Butler and Michel Foucault. Based upon their many works of essays, books, analyses of theories, and their common occurrences and relation to a number of subjects, it is reasonable to claim that their successes have been largely sufficient. Whether a degree is or is not a waste of money is largely subjective and depends upon what one chooses to do with it. There are various other degrees that people have often deemed to be useless like history or psychology, yet there are many successful and brilliant people who have attained those degrees and based on the outcome of their lives would argue that it was not, in fact, a waste of money.

4. IF YOU LIVE IN AMERICA, YOU’RE ALREADY IN THE 1%.

The one percent refers to people in the United States who are the top earners within the country and contain the most wealth overall. It is not a worldly concept, but is rather particular to one nation. In addition, no one has ever looked at Uganda and thought that the people who lived there are better off than even the poorest of Americans. That is quite a fabricated notion. So yes, the U.S. is far better off than other countries, both developed and undeveloped, but the concept of the 1% is not applicable because it is based on a measurement of wealth owned by individuals or corporations within a specific country, and is not a comparison of one country’s wealth and privileges versus all the others.

5. YOU DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO IT JUST BECAUSE YOU EXIST.

In this section, Durden says that one’s existence does not mean that one is entitled to healthcare, shelter, etc. And while this seems reasonable, his argument claims that individuals need to work hard to acquire the money to pay for things like health insurance and a home, implying that that is currently not the case, that people are just sitting around, not making an effort to get a job even though they are quite capable and able. However, an overwhelming majority of those who are near or below the poverty line or can barely get by, work more than one job and still cannot afford healthcare. Working hard does not guarantee economic success. It should, but currently that is not the case. So it is difficult to attribute a lack of healthcare or wealth to laziness when there are single parents, most often mothers, working up to four jobs, trying to keep their families afloat, by providing an income to pay for food, clothing, and shelter, whose jobs either lack health benefits or simply do not have enough money to purchase healthcare after all of their bills are paid.

6. YOU DO HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE AS YOU PLEASE—BUT NOT TO DEMAND PEOPLE ACCEPT IT.

Durden claims that living one’s life does not require the acceptance of others, to which he refers to cross-dressing as one of those possible options. Assuming this is referring to transgender individuals, it is not cross dressing if they are wearing clothes that they feel represent their gender, but that’s besides the point. Once again, he misunderstands the difference between respect and rights. Any given person can freely insult someone else, but even free speech has its restrictions. For example, if someone says something that presents “a clear and present danger”, that essentially threatens to harm the well-being of others, it is no longer protected by law. With this is in mind, I can criticize someone for their ethnicity or gender identity, and I would be protected by the law. But, I would also be an asshole, and usually people try to avoid that. Furthermore, it is not as if individuals being attacked or criticized for certain aspects of their lives immediately burst into tears every time someone is rude to them. Chances are they have experienced this backlash time and time again, and while they should certainly not have to, this constant exposure has most likely prepared them to face whatever insubstantial insult any given person decides to hurl their way. And being open about who you are as a person, is certainly not an invitation to be targeted by others.

7. THE ONLY SAFE SPACE IS YOUR HOME.

The concept of a safe space is not some room with padded walls in which people are coddled and protected from hurtful words like being called fat, or stupid, or ugly, but rather a place (an office, classroom, etc.) in which someone can confide in others without facing violent backlash that they might otherwise receive elsewhere. Many educational institutions have done this for years. I remember even in high school, some of our classrooms had little stickers on the doors consisting of some sort of rainbow pattern and the words “safe space” written on it. If anything, it was more of a way to let students know that it’s okay to be gay, or trans, or bi without having to specifically verbalize it. It was a very tiny symbol of acceptance and some may have found comfort in that. However, it is understandable why some people do not understand or are vehemently opposed to an environment that attempts to maintain a peaceful atmosphere . If someone has never been marginalized for a fixed aspect of their identity, it might be difficult to relate to or understand why some people might want a place to go to help them feel accepted. For many students, universities are a much more accepting environment than their own homes and families, and depending on their circumstances, they may no longer be considered a part of the family they were born into.

If anything can be generalized about an entire generation of people, it is that millennials tend to be more accepting of people who don’t look, or think, or love exactly like them. This, however, is not an indicator of entitlement. It is simply a natural progression of social change.

Black Lives Do Matter

Those who enforce the law should also be held accountable. It is outrageous how long we have allowed police brutality, particularly against African Americans, to go on. There needs to be a comprehensive and constructive conversation between leaders and politicians, police officers and activists about how to fix what has already completely shattered. Police officers should be respected and obeyed, but that does not mean that, for whatever reason, they are above the law and are excused from complying with it. Officers should be vigorously trained to stop unarmed people in a way that does not involve shooting them several times, especially when they are already being pinned down or only have minor traffic violations.

There is no victory in defeating the powerless. What is occurring is simply an abuse of power among police officers who have a strong sense of hatred and aggression towards the black community. And that is a fact every citizen needs to realize and come to terms with. Acknowledging that our country has a problem with racism and police brutality is not unpatriotic. Rather, it is unpatriotic to actively witness injustice and do nothing to change it.

This, of course, does not mean that all police officers are racist or abuse their power and authority. However, we should not ignore what keeps happening at a rather constant and rapid rate just because the majority of officers are just and good. Allowing this to continue will only further divide our country. Black lives do matter, and unless we start holding officers accountable for their actions, that will become less and less clear to black people across the nation.

Reflections on Ellen Page’s “Gaycation”

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a United States citizen, I am well acquainted with the various acts of oppression and attacks we face as an overall community in this country. It is never easy for any person to deal with any kind of oppression, regardless of the circumstances, but it is very evident that there are some demographics of people who face much more severe forms of oppression than others. There are various different countries and cultures that heavily demonize and oppress queer people, and in that respect I am considerably lucky.

Ellen Page and her best friend Ian Daniel, set out to investigate queer culture across the globe, visiting countries like Japan, Brazil, and Jamaica. In this documentary series, they explore how queerness is treated in each country, analyzing both the celebration of LGBT pride and the unfortunate discrimination many queer people face.

In their most recent episode, the duo travelled to Jamaica, a country that actively condemns homosexuality. On a daily basis, queer people are kicked out of their homes, shunned by their communities, verbally and physically attacked, and even killed. Ellen and Ian interviewed a small group of LGBT individuals who blatantly reveal the harsh reality of what it means to be a queer person in Jamaica. The group goes on to discuss how they were all abandoned by their families because of who they are and currently remain homeless, poor, and constantly aware of the threat of danger they face every day. It was heartbreaking to hear about the conditions in which LGBT Jamaicans live and how members of their own community continually attack and demonize them. However, the reasoning or justification of this aggressive homophobia seems to stem partly from religion.The episode examines the influence the church has on homophobia, and how scripture guides mainstream principles throughout the country. Various interviewees claimed that homosexuality is both a mental disorder and a sin. It is not accepted, or tolerated at any level. Gay Jamaicans do not have the same freedoms that many other LGBT individuals have across the globe. This is not to say that there is no hope. The queer people interviewed were very positive about the future, although the main goal of many is to simply stay alive.

Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is important for anyone to become aware of the various adversities LGBT people face all over the world. We are all humans, after all, and we should be informed of the injustices that many of our fellow humans face. Even simply being informed is a step in the right direction, and I encourage everyone to at least watch one episode. I have thoroughly enjoyed the show thus far and look forward to hearing about how queer culture is treated and maintained in the various other countries Ellen and Ian visit.

Stand with Planned Parenthood

Only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are comprised of abortions. Defunding them is more than just trying to end their facilitating of those abortions. You’re also taking away cancer screenings, std screenings, breast exams, etc that would potentially save many people’s lives. Denying women and men the right to this healthcare is certainly not “pro-life”.

Of course pro-life really means pro-birth. Those who wish to defund Planned Parenthood are advocating for pregnancies to come to term, having absolutely no interest in the child’s life afterwards. They are not at all concerned with the child’s access to education, health care, food, shelter, etc. The quality of the child’s life is completely unimportant to them as long as the baby is actually born. Many of these same pro-life advocates are against allowing same-sex couples to adopt, which is heavily ironic. How is it pro-life to intentionally leave children without loving families just because they would have two moms or two dads? The foster care system is terrible, and to prefer that over two loving parents is certainly not in the interest of “pro-life’.

As for the video that was recently released, it’s not what you think. It was created by an anti-abortion organization in an effort to shock people. However, the video is botched and entirely out of context. Planned Parenthood does not sell “baby parts”. They donate fetal tissue only with the consent of the woman in question. The only money involved is the cost for transportation. That’s it. And just in case you haven’t realized, Roe v. Wade was passed over forty years ago, so the fact that this is still happening is outrageous. Because before abortions were safe and legal, women used coat hangers or underwent unsterile procedures by people who were not doctors. Legal abortions ensure the health of the women in question, which is important if you claim to be pro-life. These women have already been born and their needs and wants should matter and come first. Making abortions illegal again will not stop them from happening. It will only increase the endangerment of the woman’s life, just as was the case forty years ago.

The fact of the matter is that women should be in control of whether they choose to have an abortion or not. A significant majority of senators in the House who voted to defund PP for one year are men, who presumably do not have uteruses. Women are the ones who have to endure the pregnancy, yet men can just sit back and tell them what they should do. Oh yes, this is all very “pro-life”.

What Part of “Secular” Do You Not Understand?

Selling flowers or wedding cakes to a same-sex couple, or even issuing marriages licenses is not the same as being a part of a same-sex wedding ceremony. Usually no one invites their florist to their wedding anyway. However, you cannot simply disagree to do your job because of whatever religious beliefs you have. If a Muslim person worked at a grocery store but refused to handle any pork products because of their faith, they would be fired. So it is a wonder how some Christians can still have so much privilege and power and continue to ask for more.

There is no war on religion. Around 80% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian. And regardless of whatever conspiracy theories are floating around, Obama is a Christian as well. Maintaining the right to freedom of religion and trying to enforce your beliefs on others without consequence from the law are two very different things.

And while Kim Davis may be in prison momentarily, there are an alarming amount of people who support her. But the fact of the matter is that your religion does not give you a free pass to do whatever you want. When it comes to the government, it should have no power whatsoever. Everyone has their own individual beliefs and that’s great, but this persistent urge to involve Christianity in a secular government is ridiculous, especially when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Why these alleged straight people of God have such a profound obsession with homosexuality, I know not. But I am tired of hearing the same rhetoric over and over again. We get it. You think everyone is a sinner and you still “love” gay people, you just hate the sin. How heartwarming. The thing is though, I don’t care. A lot of people don’t care. You don’t have to marry someone of the same sex, and no one has the right to force you to attend a same-sex wedding. And you also might believe same-sex marriage is illegitimate compared to “traditional” marriage, but a lot of people are gay, or LGBT, or they know someone who is. And the difference between your personal religious beliefs and the lives of these LGBT individuals is that their plight is evident and factual, and using your religion to strip people of their rights is anything but “Christian.”

On Coming Out (again and again)

Coming out is an ongoing process. While there will most likely be a definitive point in one’s life in which they will decide to come out to many of their family and friends, it doesn’t just stop there. There is the ever-present assumption that any given person is straight until otherwise specified, and it is a very harmful ideology to LGB youth. Many kids realize their same-sex attraction or crushes on those of the same-sex at an early age, but they don’t come out right then and there because they are constantly spoon fed the rhetoric that boys like girls and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Growing up confined to these gender expectations can be quite a struggle for someone who is questioning their sexuality. I spent a majority of my childhood feeling like an outcast and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I slowly began to come to terms with my sexual orientation.

In one of my previous posts, Why Queer Representation Actually Matters, I explain how media has a huge influence on societal customs and expectations. When I was growing up, there were absolutely no same-sex couples on T.V. shows or movies. They always generally concluded with the guy getting the girl. Misogyny aside, this enforces how children form opinions about the world around them. If you tell a young kid that donuts are magical, they’ll most likely believe you because they don’t even think to question adults or authority figures. They can’t quite comprehend that there could be possible bias or untruth in what their parents tell them. They probably don’t even know what bias is. And many homosexual and bisexual(pansexual) children spend far too long attempting to unravel the societal norms that they have been forced to assume.

So when one finally comes out, it’s not like some major news announcement to the world. That may be the case for celebrities, but ordinary citizens find that coming out never really ends. Coworkers or new friends will ask you if you have a significant other of the opposite sex, and you’ll just want to say no and leave it at that, in fear that their response will be negative. However, it is also quite freeing to break down that barrier and to not feel like you have to completely avoid talking about that aspect of your life. It’s not about parading around town with a rainbow stamped on your forehead, (with the exception of Pride) but rather living as your authentic self. And in order to live authentically, you will most likely need to inform the people in your life of who you really are. It is certainly not easy, but one must hope for the best. And yes, it does get better.

 

 

*I am leaving out the T in LGBT simply because that has to do with gender identity rather than sexual orientation. I promise this was not meant to exclude anyone.