Hey, I know, let’s hobble one of our nation’s most important research centers so that we can have zero idea which policies to promote moving forward!
I spent a chunk of November at a scholarly communication conference. You can read my recap post here, but the short version is that everyone should care about scholarly communication, no matter what field or discipline it takes place in. And scholarly communication happens at all levels of society, which is why it’s important for it to be unfettered.
That’s not what’s happening at the CDC (or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), thanks to a new Trump policy.
Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
What this actually means remains yet to be seen, but I think it’s fairly clear that it’s an anti-science and an anti-LGBT move.
As reported at PBS, CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald states that there are no banned words at the CDC, which gives me some hope for resistance at a local level. And there’s speculation that removing those words will help secure Republican funding for a new budget (but goodness why we have to appease a political party that purports to serve roughly half the nation by pretending that science is not a thing is totally infuriating).
However, there’s no denying that there have been distinct changes made to policies already, changes which will negatively impact certain Americans. Science Alert reported that HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services) has removed information about LGBT families from its website and dropped questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from surveys of elderly people.
But here’s the thing: if the National Parks Service has resisted Trump’s insane policies already, I don’t see why the CDC can’t also.
In some cases, the administration has reportedly provided alternative phrasing, such as “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes” instead of science- or evidence-based. Guess what? There are ways to do that with the other banned words, too. Instead of vulnerable, maybe they could use at-risk; instead of transgender, gender-nonconforming.
Let’s recall that binary gender is a fiction; science doesn’t support the existence of only two genders or sexes. So there should be plenty of evidence-based (whoops, there I go with banned words again!) ways to refer to these folks. (if you need to ask cultural scholars for ideas, just reach out, we’re happy to help!)
See also: Academics: Educate and #Resist
By rolling back LGBT rights and protections, loading the judiciary with unqualified candidates who will enforce their harmful policies already solidly in place, the exclusion of these words is representative of systematic erasure of whole groups of people.
Language is powerful. Statistics are powerful. If groups are excluded from data because there is no language to include them, we risk losing the funds and services available for those who need them most.
As a scholar, I want to see my fellow researchers doing better than this. I want to see data-driven science that is also humanitarian, aware of the potential for research to draw attention to and alleviate the suffering of the downtrodden. I want to see resistance to oppressive if not outright fascist policies.
CDC? Let’s do this. #Resist.