It’s easy to get excited about the House Of Representatives becoming majority Democrat, but what does that really mean?
For transgender people, the last two years have exposed us to a steady onslaught of relentless attacks. From fear-mongering televised advertisements that posture us as inevitable sex predators to rile of the evangelical voters, to the attempted ban on transgender people serving in the military, the ban of the word “Transgender” or “Vulnerable people” in any missives between the CDC and the White House, the redactions of protections for transgender students in public schools and college campuses. Then came the establishment of the United States Department of Health and Human Services founding a new branch called The New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division intended to allow medical caregivers the right to refuse treatment to LGBT individuals citing their religious convictions.
Most recently, we’ve seen the proposal to remove us of from inclusions beneath the 1964 Civil Rights Act which will, consequentially, expose to to further acts of violence, discrimination and harassment. In a memo that was leaked to the Washington Post which had been drafted and amended by four judicial branches, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor since early 2018, it stated that the Obama Administration, by force “…wrongfully extend(ed) civil rights to people who should not have had them.”
Within days, Trump appointed renowned anti-LGBT attorney Eric Dreiband to the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division who immediately sent a directive to the United States Supreme Court saying trans identifying people can now be fired without legal recourse.
The latest series of attacks came from all sides, fast and furious. In true Trump fashion, so many other stories dominated the headlines that the conversation, the outrage, the backlash disappeared within days, buried. This is truly the era where it seems impossible to keep up or even stay proactive when something new arises every day, provoking more shock, more fear and more cultural division.
But, transgender Americans were watching this election from the edge of their seats. We knew that the unfolding results had direct implications on our lives, our safety, our security and our future ability to thrive in this nation as an equal. There were throngs of cheers as Democrats swept the House of Representatives, but that alone cannot protect us from the political missiles ready to launch in our direction.
The House of Representatives has several powers assigned to it, including financial oversight, introducing or reforming revenue bills and even the ability to impeach a federal official- yes, they can move to impeach the President. However, what passes through the House must also pass through Senate… and if you, like millions of others, watched the election results come in on November 6th, you know that Republicans not only maintained control of the Senate, but picked up two seats.
The Senate can block every effort that the House of Representatives makes. This is the dark reality of having two branches each run by opposing factions. They don’t care about the issues as much as they care about keeping score. They vote with each other, not against each other. They are more like National Sports teams than a body intended to represent everyday folks like you and me. We must accept there is no bipartisan effort in government.
Even before all the votes had been counted, the future for transgender Americans began to look more bleak when Trump demanded the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions- who was, himself, notoriously anti-LGBT- and appointed a younger, more bigoted version of Sessions in the form of Matt Whitaker. A Man who has historically weaponized his political power against LGBT people. A man who insists that Federal Judges must rule by Biblical Law.
We trans folks and our allies can fight these immeasurably damaging lawmakers all the way to the Supreme Court, but Trump has been ahead of the ball, stacking the bench with Conservative Judges- and one specifically, Justice Kavanaugh, is very eager to please the President who defended him against multiple sexual assault claims to ensure his confirmation- a decision made by Senators who, unsurprisingly, voted along party lines to put him there for the duration of his lifetime despite evidence he may have perjured himself during his testimony.
It’s been hard for the nation to stay on course, however, with so many minorities coming under fire by Trump Administration and the venomous candidates he has devoted the last two years campaigning across the country for. Amidst blatant voter suppression, bombs sent to leaders of the Democratic Party by a Trump loyalist, more devastating gun violence, the latest at a Country and Western Bar in Thousand Oaks, California marking the 307th mass shooting since the beginning of the year, it’s easy for us to get lost in the chaos.
And it is chaos. The entire Nation is reeling.
As a Transgender person, I get a lot of critical feedback. Some are polite and some are violent threats. The argument most often posed to me is this:
Many people say; “There are just too few of you to matter.”
They can’t even agree on how many of us there are. All our detractors care about is there being more of “Them” than there are of “Us.” Those are the politics this administration relies on. Them vs. Us.
Trumpists vs. Immigrants.
Trumpists vs. Muslims
Trumpists vs. Transgender people
Trumpists vs. Women
Trumpists vs. People of Color
Everywhere you look, the Trump administration is starting a war on people. Their goal is to keep everyone scattered. Like a pride of Lions attacking a herd of wild buffalo, they keep the attacks coming with a rapid intensity, thus there is no time to organize against or even react to the last. They go for who they perceives as the weakest first. It is not unnatural, if you are a member of any of the disenfranchised communities that have suffered as a result of this cancerous presidency, to be concerned for your own fate or be hyper-focused on issues that explicitly target you. It’s hard to be angry with others for having already moved on from the discussion of my civil rights. That only happened two weeks ago, although it feels like years by now. As a social activist, or, more accurately, a humanist, it’s a challenge to determine where my own efforts are best served. Every day it feels like a new crisis and another marginalized community in need of our collective acknowledgment and more importantly, our compassion as acts of hate are emboldened and then escalated by Presidential rhetoric. He winds up his base with lies and fuels their white, cisgender, heterosexual anxieties over sharing spaces with people unlike themselves. He gives them a show, they give him unwavering loyalty. It isn’t entirely dissimilar to the time he was a mainstay on the World Wrestling Entertainment Stage. That was a gig Trump maintained for awhile, appealing mostly to those who enjoy watching others being kicked, punched and body slammed, but in a ring rather than at a rally. Although not a wrestler, he was combative sidebar; A character of antagonism and the audience loved him… and he loved the attention. Great entertainment for denizens of a sports bar, a tragedy for a country under his unqualified leadership.
For several years there has been talk about developing an Equalities Act, one akin to that already adopted by the United Kingdom in 2010. Again, for that to ever see the light of day, it would have to pass Senate. It does not, sadly, rely solely on the House of Representatives. In Senate, transgender Americans have absolutely no representation. While several trans candidates were elected to local and state offices, Vermont’s Christine Hallquist is the first trans person to win a Gubernatorial primary, but lost in the race Tuesday night. She immediately expressed her concerns for the future of transgender Americans and their potential loss of more rights.
The Department of Health and Human Services has already moved to replace references to “Gender” with “Sex” as they have decided- behind closed doors as the world spun off its axis and we were all distracted- that sex is binary and gender identity that contradicts genital does not exist, nor will it be acknowledged by government agencies despite scientific evidence that anatomy does not determine gender. This reformation of policies, not just from the Obama era, but as far back as 1964, will have far reaching implications, including limiting or removing our right to vote given that some are arguing the constitution directly references sex, not gender, and some have had their government documents amended to reflect their gender identity, not their birth assigned gender. If Republicans succeed in their efforts to remove insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, that will undoubtedly include those diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Suddenly, transgender people could find themselves without affordable access to medications vital to their health and emotional well being. Those in the House of Representatives claim they will prevent this when they assume office in January, 2019.