What is Lurking in that Cabinet?
Seems these days no mater what topic is important to you, there is genuine uncertainty to what the future holds in the USA and beyond. Endless speculating is going into the cabinet selections made by President-elect Donald Trump and how these men (well mostly men) will shape policy regarding criminal justice, pollution, women’s rights, foreign affairs, and LGBTQ issues.
Virtually every news report I read highlights how a particular proposed cabinet member has historically stood opposed to the very agency he will likely head. Then perhaps looking for a silver lining in the forming storm clouds, the writer speculates on how that cabinet member might actually do something useful in his position. I’ve seen headlines about Rex Tillerson being a potential campion of LGBTQ rights globally.
This EXXON oil executive also dropped the news that he sees climate change as “just an engineering problem.” Climate advocates, who have grown more and more alarmed at a cabinet of men dismissive of climate change and its human causes, might possibly draw some hope from this statement. I mean Tillerson is suggesting that he sees climate change as a problem. That’s something. A tiny morsel. And in looking at it as one that requires engineering (geo-engineering?) will this lead to an open discussion about the cost analysis of jerry rigging the atmosphere compared to what it will cost and what we might gain when we reduce the pollution we have been pumping into it?
Possibly. But the only thing we can say is that we simply do not know.
Gay Time Travel to a simpler more oppressive time
As we look ahead to 2017, my gaze has been cast back to the past, nearly 20 years ago when I was still trapped in dream to become a masculine-presenting, fully-functioning heterosexual. It was a dream that rose out of the politically conservative and anti-gay world of the early 1980’s. I got trapped into a time capsule for nearly 20 years. When I finally emerged in 1999, like Kimmy Schmidt out of her bunker, the world had begun to shift towards a wider inclusion of LGBTQ people and a path to legal rights and protections.
People now worry if some of the gains will be lost. Will we have to fight the same battles over again? Will the world of conversion therapy raise its ugly head again? Possible, but the only thing we can say is that we simply do not know.
What we do know is that LGBTQ rights have already been challenged in the USA, particularly for transgender people. 2016 was the year of the bathroom bills. Even Elizabeth Jeremiah, that funky church lady with wild notions, chimed in.
The New Ex-Gay Movement is Global and Anti-Trans
And while gay conversion therapy in the USA has been greatly challenged and reduced, it has expanded globally with American exports of it in Eastern Europe, Southern Africa, throughout Latin America, and parts of Asia. In the USA one can still find ex-gay groups and praying away the gay still happens at lots of churches, gays and lesbians are far less the target of these treatments that they once were. There are even laws banning the practice for minors.
As I wrote this week in the Huffington Post though, these bans do not affect the type of conversion treatments people receive through churches and Christian counseling. And while there may be a decrease in this practice targeting gay and lesbians youth and adults, from what I have been hearing from transgender activists, it is a dangerous practice perpetuated against transgender and gender non-binary youth and adults.
My friend, Diana, a trans equality activist in New England, informed me of the 2015 US Transgender Survey. Professionals counseling a person away from being transgender is so common that the researchers included it in the survey. The respondents reveal the devastating effects.
Participants who had a professional try to stop them from being transgender were:
- Far more likely to currently be experiencing serious psychological distress (47%) than those who did not have the experience (34%).
- More likely to have attempted suicide (58%) than those who did not have the experience (39%).
- Nearly three times as likely to have run away from home (22%) than those who did not have the experience (8%).
- More likely to have ever experienced homelessness (46%) than those who did not have the experience (29%).
More likely to have ever done sex work (18%) than those who did not have the experience (11%).
How to care about everything without falling apart
I conclude the piece with some reflections about our work ahead, and need to embrace multiple issues at the same time while figuring out which ones we can regularly take on while supporting people and groups doing the work we cannot.
While I am concerned the conversion therapists might feel they have been given another chance to do their business on LGBTQ youth and adults, I am far more alarmed about the potential rolling back of legal rights and protections for LGBTQ people. State and local as well as federal efforts to undermine LGBTQ access to housing, employment, health care, marriage rights, adoption, and immigration need to be closely monitored and assertively rebuffed by lawmakers and citizens regardless of party affiliation.
Sadly these fights may well distract many of us from other areas where our attention in needed: prison reform, energy policy, eradicating homelessness and poverty, supporting for LGBTQ seniors, improving policing practices, and a host of other issues. These are days we need to be focused and disciplined, supportive of each other, willing to take on what we are able to do, asserting our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
One response from many LGBTQ orgs is to request more financial donations. No doubt justice work costs money as well as effort. As I did in 2016, I commit to monthly donations to the Transgender Justice Funding Project, “a community-led funding initiative founded in 2012 to support grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people.” While lots of people are on limited budgets, many Americans can make the necessary sacrifices to donate regularly to a cause that is essential in the days ahead.
Questions for You:
As we speculate about the road ahead for LGBTQ people, I am curious about your thoughts, your concerns, and your intentions for this new year. How can I be supportive to you and what messages do you hope to magnify in the coming months?
Happy 2017. May it be filled with greater freedoms, more opportunities, and closer knit communities.