Lyons: Trans Rights Are Under Attack (Again)

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(Photo by Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

The Trump Administration recently released a memo detailing a proposal that would greatly limit transgender peoples’ rights, safety, and freedom of expression. A new definition of sex that does not include gender identity is up for debate. According to The New York Times, the memo from the Administration states “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

This redefinition is defended by the Department of Health and Human Services as an attempt to specify the definition of sex under Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education programs and any other federally funded activities. The new definition impacts two policies currently under debate.

One concerns gender discrimination in colleges that receive federal financial aid, and the other involves federally funded health programs. If passed, this new regulation will affect the approximately 1.4 million transgender people in the United States, who, coincidentally, would also like to be protected from gender discrimination in educational spaces. This decision would drastically decrease the Obama-era policies that allowed for a wider and more fluid definition of gender that expanded legal protections for gender nonconforming individuals.

LGBTQ+ groups and activists took to the streets of New York on Sunday to protest this discriminatory policy. Additional demonstrations were planned for the White House on Monday. On Twitter, the hashtag #WontBeErased is trending as trans* people and allies alike assert the civil rights of transgender people. Trans twitter users are sharing pictures of themselves with this affirmation of visibility. Leaders of the Women’s March tweeted: “Trans and gender non-conforming people cannot be written, beaten, imprisoned, or shut out of existence. Protect trans rights. Protect trans lives,” while GLAAD simply but powerfully repeated “Trans people #WontBeErased.

If you want to support trans* people and fight back against discriminatory policies, here are some ideas to get you started.

To trans readers: you are valid. We will fight for you and beside you.

 (Sources from The New York Times here and hereTime, and the general Twitter.)

New U.S. Visa Policy Draws Ire from LGBTQ Groups

On October 1st, a new policy went into effect banning visas for unmarried partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations officials. This new regulation will also impact U.N. ambassadors, U.S. embassy staff, employees of international organizations working in the U.S., and foreign military members stationed in the United States. Partners under these categories will need to provide proof of marriage to enter the country. Unmarried couples have until the end of 2018 to submit proof of marriage or leave the country within 30 days.

In July, the U.S. mission informed relevant U.N. members, “Same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses,” and therefore “partners accompanying members of permanent missions or seeking to join the same must generally be married in order to be eligible.” The changes began in October, giving a three-month window for unmarried couples to act. This decision, it has been said, will further the equal treatment of same-sex and straight relationships. According to a statement on the State Department website, the new visas “are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.”

Many critics, however, were quick to point out that this policy may, in fact, cause hardships for same-sex couples. Samantha Power, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., noted that only 12% of U.N. member states actually allow same-sex marriage— and only 26 countries worldwide. This decision reverses then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s 2009 policy that granted visas to partners of U.S. and foreign diplomats, on the understanding that marriage equality was still a work in progress.  Akshaya Kumar, Deputy U.N. Director at Human Rights Watch, explained that this may “[force] those living in countries without marriage equality to choose between a posting at UN headquarters or family separation.” If couples are married in the U.S., they may face discrimination in home countries where same-sex marriage is illegal.

Foreign Policy reports that “limited exceptions” will be offered to diplomats from countries where same-sex marriage is not legal but “that government would have to provide documentation proving that same-sex marriage was illegal and commit to accepting same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats.”

The new policy will affect approximately 105 families from the United States. It is unclear how many foreign couples will be affected by this change. This decision comes as a blow to the LGBTQ+ community, after the legal recognition of marriage equality in the U.S. in 2015, and advocacy groups worldwide. Many LGBTQ+ organizations and human rights groups have expressed concern that this policy will be far more discriminatory than equalizing.

Cover image from Yahoo! News.

School Gathers to Support LGBTQ+ Students

Juniors Jenna and Haley Lyons at the LGBTQ+ Day of Visibility. (Photo Courtesy of David Banach)

Homosexual, lesbian, queer, transgender, asexual, gay; these are just a few of the identities present within the Saint Anselm community. While these are identities, they are not definitions.

Last week, the Anselmian community took time for education surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. One event was a panel where five Saint Anselm students discussed their experiences of being identifying, which was followed by 75 minutes of questioning from the audience.

The panel was put on by the True Equality and Dignity Alliance (TEDA) and strived to abolish ignorance and facilitate healthy conversation. Within this panel, many misconceptions, stereotypes, and homophobic ideas where discussed and challenged. When asked about their experiences on this campus, many answers pointed to similar problems faced by identifying students.

While not specific to the Saint Anselm campus, there is a culture that can enable ignorance within students and the community as a whole. Some people on the panel pointed to words students use that have the ability to make a person feel small. The problem often goes overlooked, and that is why identifying students made an effort to convey the damage poorly-chosen words can do.

Some in the Saint Anselm community throw around terms that are derogatory and offensive without any thought for how they might affect a person who they are communicating with, or even just someone who overhears a conversation. Many students agreed that they have been hurt by words that fellow students and other members of the community have said, and they called on all students to do their best to change the culture.

An eye-opening discussion centered around allying with the LGBTQ+ community. Various speakers on the panel conveyed the importance of allies in speaking up when they feel uncomfortable with the words someone is using. They explained it is the responsibility of a good ally to step in and have an educational discussion surrounding the language used and the severe effects that it has.

An ally is not just someone who is an outsider that supports identifiers, but an ally can also be someone within the community; lesbian identifiers supporting asexual identifiers, for example, or transgender persons supporting gay identifiers. The feeling of support, as discussed in the panel, is important. It is important for the community to feel accepted, but those on the panel stressed the importance of avoiding a “savior complex.” Allies should remember that their role is to support, not to save.

This is why events such as Visibility Day, which took place on Thursday, April 26, are so important. Matt Soloman ’20 came up with the idea of Visibility Day on the Alumni Quad as a way to show identifiers and those who may not be comfortable coming out in the community that there are members of the Saint Anselm community that are there as a support.

Sophomore Matt Solomon addresses the crowd at the LGBTQ+ Visibility Day he organized. (Photo courtesy of David Banach)

When asked about why this day was important to Matt, he replied, “LGBTQ+ Visibility Day was an effort on my part to showcase the support for the community on campus Unfortunately, we usually only hear about those on campus who wish to de-legitimize our existence, because they are given platforms to do so.” He continued, “This event was an attempt to give all allies an extremely visible platform (right in front of Alumni) to show their support and let the community know they have an important place on the Hilltop.”

Sharing his own story, Matt continued by acknowledging the difficulties that he personally faced prior to coming out. “There are a lot of temptations to stay hidden and not accept who you are” he revealed. “I personally was in the closet for seven years until I finally decided to come out. Being stuck in a place like that is incredibly debilitating to mental health and is a degrading thing for any human to feel.” He used his experience to be of support to others who have gone, are going, or will go through a similar experience. The community support, like the support displayed at Visibility Day, is essential and is something that the Saint Anselm College community must come together around.

Matt called on the school and community to continue on this path and go even further, “It is the school’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all Anselmians. While my event showcased great progress, there is still much more work to be done.”

Featured image courtesy of Haley Lyons ’20.