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.
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.