Transcending the Trans Ban

By William Gleed

Donald Trump has said he will ban transgendered people in the Military on the advice of “his generals” and other military experts. I don’t know who his generals are, but our generals already decided that issue, and trans people already serve proudly in all branches. But maybe the president has another agenda.

“That’s straight out of Machiavelli,” said Warren Blumenfeld, a University of Massachusetts professor, author, founding member of ACT UP, as well as the Gay Liberation Front and Queer Nation, an activist and pioneer in the fight for LGBTQ rights since the early 1960’s when he was a member of SDS. He founded the first LGBTQ national organization, the National Gay Student Center, which helped college and university groups organize Gay Straight Alliances on their campuses.

“It’s the internal enemy,” he said.

Trump seems to think there’s something to exploit with a segment of society by attacking and marginalizing a vulnerable population to make him seem “stronger” than he actually is to the population as a whole.

It’s a classic totalitarian ploy according to Blumenfeld.

“You have to demand an accurate description of who you are,” he said.

“Each time we rewrite the scripts so as to give an honest and true performance of life, each time we work toward lifting the ban against our transcending the gender status quo by continually questioning and challenging standard conceptualization of gender, then will we begin as individuals and as a society to experience life to the fullest with our humanity and our integrity intact,” he said in his essay“Trans* People Murdered for Telling the Truth.”

“An essential element of Liberty is the freedom to define oneself,” he said.

“Sexual orientation is about who you like like,” said Chip James, a teacher, social worker and psychotherapist based in Nyack, NY. “Gender identity has to do with how people feel about their maleness, or their femaleness, or the mixture,” he said.

James works with children from grades K through 12 and their parents all up and down the Hudson River valley over their gender and sexual identity.

In the words of one 5th grader, when asked about why they liked girl stuff or boy stuff on a given day,

“It’s just my personal space bubble.”

A young girl cycles through her self-described identity as a girly girl and then a tomboy, and declares herself “Totally perfect.”

Since the president tweeted his confused position on transgender people serving in the military, James’ practice has seen an uptick in concern. The president’s words connected with the community he serves, he said.

Many parents are worried for their children, and many children and young people are actually scared by what the president said. These are children and adolescents trying to find themselves inside their own skin. Already they can feel alienated and marginalized. Many young people, who often have a family tradition of service, feel rejected by the nation they only want to serve because the “leader” of their country singles them out and uses stereotypes to exclude them.

James works to help young people understand that stereotypes don’t fit anyone.

“Kids bring it up themselves,” James said of the presidential tweet. Calls to the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention line have doubled since the president made his comments, he said.

James remains positive, though.

“This is not about what I stand against,” he said, “but it’s about who I stand for. This is a form of prejudice and we have to name it.”

“It makes me sad,” he said.

James said that the “Dignity for all Students Act,” (DOSA) which is the New York law to assure acceptance for all students, is working for all students, not just LGBTQ students. The law works to train educators to adopt inclusive practices.

Since 2012, the law provides for and requires, “civility, citizenship, and character education by… an awareness and sensitivity in the relations of people, including but not limited to, different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identity, and sexes.”

James, called with love and mutual respect both “Mr. Chip,” and “Mrs. Chip,” by his students, says,

“There’s just no such thing as boy stuff, and there’s no such thing as girl stuff. After all, there’s just ‘it’s a free country’ stuff.”

I felt a lot better hearing that, but then I turned on the TV to Charlottesville.

 

William Gleed has taught writing and literature at Southern New Hampshire University, Franklin Pierce University, Middlesex Community College, and Northern Essex Community College in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He’s been a correspondent for the Portsmouth, NH Herald and Seacoast Newspapers. He received a graduate degree in  poetry writing from the University of New Hampshire in 1995.

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