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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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.”

A Brief History on the Rebel Flag

The Confederate flag has a long and complex history, much of which is not in its favor. The beloved “Southern Cross” is only one edition of the confederacy’s flags, but it is the most common and relevant to racism in America as a whole.

So here’s a little history:

It is true that the South illegally seceded from the rest of the United States and went to battle over states rights, but they were fighting for states rights to own slaves. In fact, the Corner-Stone of the Southern Confederacy states that the foundation of the Confederacy is based upon, “The great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.”

Slavery was obviously widespread throughout the nation prior to the Civil War, but the southern states of the Confederacy were endeavoring to maintain that “right” after the Union decided that it wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Fast forward to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and suddenly the Confederate flag is miraculously resurrected. African Americans were fighting for equal rights, which angered many racists so they brought back the Confederate flag to remind black people of their place in history and in the current society of that time. It was meant to be a symbol of white supremacy, a symbol of the inferiority of African Americans.

Aside from the obvious race issue, the confederate flag also represents treason. The Confederacy literally did not want to be part of the united States anymore and in an attempt to achieve this goal, they very illegally seceded from the rest of the nation. In other words, it is a very anti-American flag, and keeping it on state property is unnecessary, ironic, and offensive.

In light of recent events, the largest chapter of the KKK, the “Loyal White Knights” will be holding a rally to protest the potential removal of the flag. They have planned to gather outside the Statehouse in South Carolina on July 18. To many forward-thinking Americans, it remains evident that it’s probably not the best idea to be on the same side as the KKK.

Why Queer Representation is Actually Important

It comes as no surprise that the LGBTQ community is seldom portrayed in the media, and even when there is representation it is often negative or inaccurate. Heterosexuality is portrayed as the norm, the default. I can watch any show or movie and there are definitely heterosexual characters. In fact, they’re everywhere. But I have to look very hard to find a LGBT character, and such a character is often a flamboyant, white gay man who is treated as more of a source of amusement than as a prominent, meaningful character. If I want to watch a movie with any gay people in it, I often have to sift through the “Gay and Lesbian” category on Netflix, as if these movies can only be identified by the sexuality of the characters and not the more common genres of comedy, drama, and action.

I grew up immersed in this culture, just as many other LGBT youth have, which makes coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation very difficult. I grew up thinking that boys like girls, and girls like boys, and that’s just the way it is. Every love song I listened to or romantic comedy I watched was exclusively heteronormative. It is the constant reenforcement of this male/female dynamic that is damaging for LGBT youth and the like. Growing up, I knew of gay people, but only of the stereotypes and celebrities who had come out. There was no form of media to inform me of any relationship other than a heterosexual one. So of course, I didn’t question my sexuality throughout my childhood, even though there were obvious signs. Culture heavily influences and impacts societal ideals and norms, behaviors, attitudes, and discrimination. And from what I had absorbed from my culture and the media, homosexuality was not a good thing. And while I was completely okay with other people being gay, I couldn’t accept it for myself.

I didn’t spend seventeen years of my life as a heterosexual kid, and then one day I decided to be gay. I thought I was supposed to like boys. I didn’t even know what being gay was until I entered middle school. There was no “agenda” preached at me like many fundamentalists love to believe. It was quite the opposite. I went to Catholic school for seven years, where I was taught that being a homo is a no-no. An abomination. An unnatural, devilish choice. Of course I never bought into it. I accepted anyone who wasn’t the living definition of a bigot. The priest who taught my religion class was as gay as the night is dark, yet he still condemned such a “lifestyle”. And whoever came up with the idea that being gay is a lifestyle? Being an avid skier is a lifestyle. Sexuality is not a lifestyle, it just is. And it is so sad that we have to somehow justify that in order to be respected and treated equally. Humans are born with their sexual orientation and gender identity regardless of what that may be. But, even if it was a choice, what gives someone else the right to tell you what to do with your life? Why? Because God says so? I have to prove my homosexuality is innate yet there is no empirical evidence that God even exists, let alone the ever evolving, rewritten bible that also claims we should stone adulterers. If you don’t have to justify or prove your religion, I certainly don’t have to justify my sexuality.