S. E. Williams
According to recent surveys, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide; in addition, the murders of transgendered individuals in America nearly doubled in 2015 over the previous year.
Now, the recent and explosive debate of a trans person’s right to use the restroom of his or her choice has only served to fan the flames of vitriolic hatred toward this group of Americans, young and old, who just want the freedom to live their lives with dignity. The demonstrated disregard for the rights of these people severely tarnishes the image of America as a land of justice and equality and instead casts it in the same dark shadow as homophobic nations like Russia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, Indonesia and 72 other countries.
These are some of the reasons the transgendered community and the Americans who support them were encouraged when President Barack Obama and the nation’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch took public stands against the bigoted efforts to deny trans children and adults the right to use a restroom that aligns with their gender identity. On Friday, the President issued guidance that sought to clarify the treatment of transgender students and established new rules for non-discrimination in healthcare.
The directive provided educators the information they need to ensure that all students are free from discrimination based on sexual identity. It also made it blatantly clear that treating transgender students in any way that is contrary to their gender identity is considered a violation of Title IX.
Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The President’s action was historic in that it was the first time the federal government has ever acknowledged the long-standing and systemic exclusion of trans Americans.
However, it was U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch who threw down the gauntlet in support of the transgender community last week when she responded to North Carolina’s decision to sue the federal government rather than repeal the state’s H.B. 2 legislation even after the Justice Department warned that the new legislation was unlawful and could result in sanctions. H.B.2 eliminated discrimination protections for North Carolina’s LGBTQ community and prevents trans citizens in the state from using public restrooms based on their sexual identity.
On Thursday, Lynch announced the Justice Department’s intent to file a counter suit against North Carolina and stated directly to members of the transgender community, “Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”
On one hand, there is something wrong in America when even the sensibility of children is no longer sacred; but on the other hand, maybe the actions of North Carolina are not so surprising after all. The same old trite arguments are used again and again in this country to justify hatred and nurture discrimination. Whether it’s leveraging biblical anecdotes against gays and lesbians or using the media to plant seeds of fear of a boogie-man sexual predator, the themes are worn and familiar—whether it’s a black or brown man; a gay man, lesbian or transgender person, young black males, Muslims or Hispanics—groups that are different are labeled and stigmatized. For centuries the bible was used to justify slavery; since slavery black men have been labeled sexual predators; today, brown men are called rapists and the list of bigoted slights against so called “others” goes on—but data shows they are far from the majority who commit such crimes; just as gay, lesbian and transgender individuals are called aberrations of nature—even though science has proved otherwise.
Something is amiss in a country that professes freedom and justice for all and yet continues to scapegoat groups of people among its own citizenry to demonize and treat with discriminatory disregard purely for the sake of gaining some despicable political advantage.
In order for America to continue its never-ending journey toward what remains the mythical—more perfect union, Americans must forego their proclivity for the unjust demonization of their fellow citizens.