Biweekly Bigotry Review #2: June 16-30

Biweekly Bigotry Review #2: June 16-30 June 30, 2016

6/19 – Gay Actor Rupert Everett Warns Parents Not to Let Kids Have Gender Reassignment Surgery

at the Hugo by Hugo Boss Autumn/Winter 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin at Gemaldegalerie on January 19, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.
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Let’s open this edition of BBR with a glimpse of one of Earth’s rarest creatures: the cisgender gay man who for some reason feels he is qualified to speak on trans issues despite having done little to nothing to educate himself. And by “rare”, I mean, “as common as Zubat in Mt. Moon”.

According to PinkNews:

Everett, who currently appears in BBC1’s The Musketeers told the Sunday Times Magazine that he thought Caitlyn Jenner had made a mistake in going through transition and that she had “no clue” what it meant to be transgender.

Really, Everett? Because I’m pretty sure that as a cisgender man, YOU are the one who has no idea what it means to be transgender. Now, I’m actually going to throw in a bit of a caveat here and say that in a sense, he may actually be right on the second point. If what he meant to communicate is that she has little idea what the average transgender person goes through because of her incredible privilege, then I totally agree. (See the 5th entry on this list for more on that.) But that’s me reading into his intentions and trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. If we go strictly by his words, especially in the context of the first part of this statement where he called Caitlyn Jenner’s transition a “mistake”, we still have a gay man who for some reason thinks his opinion about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition is relevant. Yes, Rupert, I’m so sure that she risked her reputation, endured public ridicule and spent thousands of dollars and weeks of recovery time on invasive surgery on a lark.

But there may be more to this story than meets the eye; Everett claims that he himself experienced gender dysphoria as a child, but it didn’t last in his case.

Of his own experience, he said: “I really wanted to be a girl. Thank God the world of now wasn’t then, because I’d be on hormones and I’d be a woman. After I was 15 I never wanted to be a woman again.”

I don’t want to speculate on whether or not he really experienced dysphoria as a kid, or whether or not he might be a closeted trans woman experiencing some kind of internalized self-loathing. I believe in taking people at their word about their identities and experiences unless there is some kind of extenuating evidence, and being that I don’t know him at all, much less his innermost thoughts or feelings, I’m going to take at face value that he really did experience dysphoria as a child which simmered down as a teenager. Instead I’m going to focus on the broader context of this statement, that being his views on medical transition. He elucidates further:

Adding that he thinks it is wrong of parents to “get medical”, Everett added: “It’s nice to be allowed to express yourself, but the hormone thing, very young, is a big step. I think a lot of children have an ambivalence when they’re very young to what sex they are or what they feel about everyone. And there should be a way of embracing it.”

Again, I think there may be some small grain of truth to these statements, especially the last sentence. Trans children, especially those who may be non-binary, should be encouraged to explore their gender without feeling pressured to make medical decisions or “pick a gender” if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. If the child wants to exist somewhere between or outside the gender binary, they and those around them should, as Everett words it, embrace that. And it’s true that the majority of children are certainly not equipped, either intellectually or emotionally, to make permanent, risky medical decisions. They simply aren’t capable of understanding the possible consequences that may occur and may make an impulsive decision based on their current feelings, unaware that those feelings may change.

Fortunately for them and unfortunately for Everett’s argument, that almost never happens. In most countries, including the US, surgeons simply will not perform transgender-related surgeries on minors for fear of lawsuits should the patient later change their mind. Even in more progressive countries than the United States, this simply doesn’t happen. The youngest known person to ever have sex reassignment surgery is Kim Petras of Germany, who underwent the procedure when she was 16 – hardly the young child Everett seemed to suggest is having their bits scrambled.

Even hormone treatments that some adolescents receive are minimal and in most cases reversible. According to the current standards of care, transgender children who are about to begin or are in the early stages of puberty can be prescribed drugs which temporarily block the release of sex hormones – this, of course, after months or even years of extensive psychological testing and counseling in which professionals first try to find non-medical ways to alleviate the child’s dysphoria. These puberty blockers only work for as long as they are taken, and sex-typical puberty will immediately occur again should the child ever decide to stop taking the blockers. Most treatment providers will require that the child take these blockers without adding any cross-sex hormones as a trial period to be sure the child really needs hormone replacement and that they don’t “grow out of” their dysphoria or decide that hormone replacement is not for them. It can be months or years, depending on the child’s age, before treatment providers will add cross-sex hormones to the puberty blockers. Even once HRT is started, it can be stopped at any time with no ill effects and many of the changes that occur can and will revert back to their pre-treatment states after stopping. And almost needless to say, this is all done with the full knowledge and consent of the child’s parent(s) or legal guardian(s).

All that is to say, Everett’s argument is simply nonsensical. There are no doctors and parents handing out hormones and surgeries to trans children and teenagers like candy, and hormones aren’t some huge, life-altering decision that can never be undone. And what might be the consequences of withholding medical transition from kids who really need it? For some kids, especially teenagers dealing with puberty-related dysphoria, even the vague hope of being able to access transition-related care in the future is the only thing keeping them going. So keep your nose out of trans kids’ business and let them and their parents and doctors decide what’s best for them, okay, Rupert?

 

6/20 – Christian Worker Claims Orlando Pride Flag Memorial Creates ‘Hostile Work Environment’

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Hey queer people: Did you know that you can threaten a straight person by merely reminding them of your existence after a national tragedy in which people like you were targeted? One government worker in Hillsborough County, FL sure did!

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Republican Commissioner Stacy White warned officials: “My office recently received an anonymous phone call from a county employee stating that, because of her strong Christian beliefs, it will be nearly unbearable for her pass the ‘pride’ flag each morning as she enters the workplace… She clearly indicated that the display of that flag, for her, has created a hostile work environment.”

White warned that the issue may “expose the county [to] liability” on the issue, and added: “I request that it be taken down on the basis that the board’s action has violated the workplace rights of some of our employees.”

The Commissioner continued: “From an HR perspective, it is still – in my view – unconscionable that the county administrator didn’t express to the board that this divisive symbol might create an uncomfortable workplace environment for many of his employees.”

Oh noez!! Poor straight people having to walk past a piece of rainbow cloth on their way to work! How ever will they survive??

As you may have guessed, I have no sympathy for this brave, anonymous government worker on either an interpersonal or a legal level. I truly cannot fathom how merely walking past a symbol of a community that recently experienced a tragedy in any way constitutes an ethical violation or an attack on religious freedom. I imagine that her argument would be something like: as a government office, the County Center for which she works cannot endorse or denigrate any religious system or belief. I totally agree, Anonymous Person! I’m sure that every year, she’s at the front lines of the protest against exclusively Christian displays on government property during the winter holidays in Florida, like this champion of church-state separation. Oh wait? She’s not?? She thinks that religious displays from her particular faith on public property are perfectly legal, while all others are objectionable?? Why, that’s hard to believe!!

And of course, a memorial flag for the victims of the Orlando shooting has nothing to do with religion in the first place. Being pro-LGBTQ is not a synonym for being anti-Christian; there are plenty of Christians who are wonderful allies to the queer community, and plenty of queer people who themselves are Christian. This is nothing more than a classic case of a Christian persecution complex. Queer people have to live in fear for their health, family, employment, housing, and even their bodily safety, but the poor Christian woman who has to think about gay people existing for 5 seconds of her day is the real victim.

Conservatives often complain about liberals having a “victim mentality” and being too easily offended. “Quit complaining! You’re too sensitive! Grow a thicker skin and toughen up!” If something as simple as a piece of colored cloth which symbolizes the strength of a peaceful community facing continued adversity is enough to make a conservative Christian feel threatened at work, they may need to take a lot more of their own advice.

 

6/28 – Bryan Fischer: The Obergefell Ruling Was When ‘Moral Jihadists’ Committed 9/11 Against Christians

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June 26th marked a year since the Supreme Court struck down anti-equality marriage laws nationwide, and while most straight people have realized that this affects them in precisely no ways and gone on with their lives, Christian neo-cons are STILL crying the biggest, weepiest, boo-hoo-iest crocodile tears, as if whining and complaining about their preshus relijis freedumz can change the ruling of the highest court in the nation, whose sole purpose is to interpret the Constitution that the very same conservatives claim to love so very much until it guarantees equality under the law to a group they think is icky.

And those tears taste. So. NUMMY.

Well-known (among atheists and liberals, in an I-can’t-look-away-from-the-car-crash kind of way) commentator Bryan Fischer let the world know how super-duper mad he is that his religion can’t dictate other people’s relationships anymore by comparing the effect that monumental day had on him with the fiery deaths of about 3,000 innocent people in an act of religiously-motivated violence.

“What moral jihadists did on June 26, 2015… What they did to the twin pillars of truth and righteousness [is] the same thing that the Muslim jihadists did to the World Trade Center on 9/11. So moral jihadists took down the twin pillars of truth and righteousness just like Muslim jihadists took down the twin towers on 9/11.”

Yeah, because the Supreme Court interpreting the 14th amendment to mean that two grown-ass adults with similar sexual bits are allowed to sign a piece of paper saying they’re legally a family is pretty much the same thing as hijacking airplanes and flying them straight into skyscrapers because most of the people in them talked to the wrong non-existent being. Those are basically two equivalent actions.

There’s not much more to say here, since his whiny-baby-ery pretty much speaks for itself. He didn’t get what we wanted last year because reality disagreed, and he’s super pissy about it. Whenever I see religious conservatives throwing hissy fits over battles they’ve long-since lost, it’s a heartening sign to me that we’re moving in the right direction, and these harmful and outdated ideas are becoming more and more scarce every day. I’ll continue to laugh and revel in the schadenfreude of the self-appointed God Warriors’ failures until the day that they have lost the war for good.

 

6/29 – Bill Donohue Isn’t Sorry For Homophobia, Wants ‘An Apology From Gays’

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While responding to a recent speech made by Pope Francisthe head of the Catholic League (and all these years later, I still have no idea what this group is supposed to be or even if there’s more than one member)…

…was asked if he planned to heed the pope’s call for the Church to “apologize … to a gay person whom it offended.”

“No,” Donohue responded. “As a matter of fact, I want an apology from gays. I’ve been assaulted by gays. I’ve never assaulted a gay person in my entire life.”

“[Pope Francis] has said that gay marriage is the work of the devil. He has said that gendered ideology — you know the trans, the trans people? — he says that gender ideology is demonic,” Donohue said. “That’s the pope that I like.”

The thing is, he’s not completely wrong about the Pope’s stance on LGBTQ issues. Despite the rosy picture much of the media likes to paint, Francis is hardly a staunch ally. Recently, he expressed the opinion that transgender kids just need to stop being selfish and learn to accept the way God made them (hint: it’s whatever the doctor assigned them at birth) and that the Catholic Church is and will remain totally opposed to same-sex marriage. The Pope is clever in that unlike previous popes, he cloaks his bigoted views in seemingly compassionate language, and that’s what the media picks up on. Remember when the Pope said that atheists can go to heaven too and the media jumped all over it? Yeah, turns out that the quote was taken out of context; he actually said atheists can go to heaven if they stop being atheists and accept Catholic Jesus.

A similar thing is happening here. While the media extols Francis for the not-evil portions of his speech, they often completely leave out the surrounding context which elucidates his opinions. Much of the media focuses on his comments that gay people “should not be discriminated against. They should be respected, accompanied pastorally,” and that transgender children “deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect” (what a radical thought that queer people should be treated like humans) while failing to mention his statements that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” and that “thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.” In fact, Francis has a long history of anti-LGBT sentiments and actions. He may be a slight improvement for the Catholic Church given that he seems mildly benevolent toward individual queer and trans people rather than openly antagonistic, but he has not changed any of the official Church policy on these matters. He doesn’t accept and love queer and trans people unconditionally; he pities them and hopes that by being kind to them, they will come to know Jesus and change their sinful, unnatural ways.

But that’s getting on a bit of a tangent, as this story is not about the Pope himself, but one of his followers. The funny thing here is that the official Church position – to be sympathetic and pray for the poor, confused queers rather than bash them – doesn’t seem good enough for Bill Donohue, who favors an approach more similar to his evangelical cousins. In fact, he openly defies the Pope’s command to apologize for his homophobia. One would think that a Catholic person, especially one so devout that he heads an organization dedicated to the religion, would heed the urgings of the man who is not only the head of the Church, but also has direct communication with God. But silly me… Since when have most religious people been consistent in their beliefs, especially when it challenges their inherent biases?

I have no idea whether or not Donohue has really been “assaulted” by gay people before. I have not been able to find any evidence that he has, other than perhaps their existence amounting to an assault on his warped conscience. So Christians, particularly Catholics, I ask you to please take the Pope’s advice and apologize to the LGBTQ community on behalf of this bigoted, hate-filled man who supposedly represents you.

 

6/29 – Caitlyn Jenner: Donald Trump Is a Champion for Women and LGBT People

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And to tide us over until the next edition of BBR, here we have Official Trans Spokesperson™ Caitlyn Jenner demonstrating once again that she doesn’t know (and probably doesn’t care) what life is like for the average queer or trans person, or even the average woman.

“Trump seems to be very much for women,” the former Olympian and reality TV star told Stat. “He seems very much behind the LGBT community because of what happened in North Carolina with the bathroom issue. He backed the LGBT community.”

“I think he would have a hard time with women when he doesn’t even realize it, and it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be good for women’s issues,” Jenner said of Trump. “I think he would be very good for women’s issues. … I don’t think he’s out there to destroy women or takes things away or do any of that kind of stuff.”

I’m not saying that just because she’s trans, she necessarily has to be liberal and progressive across the board. Reasonable people from all walks of life can differ on their views of economic and foreign policy issues, for example. Jenner was conservative long before she became public about her gender, so it makes sense that she would continue to be. She’s been extremely financially privileged for decades and Republicans are typically the ones who represent that segment of the population, so it’s somewhat understandable that she would favor conservatives over liberals on those sorts of issues, although it does call into question her compassion for others who are not as fortunate as she. But to suggest that conservative views on women’s and LGBTQ issues are anything other than toxic to those communities is to be completely blind to the realities that everyday trans and queer people face. This unfortunately is not a departure from other remarks she has made on political matters, including her self-nomination as Ted Cruz’s “trans ambassador”.

To be fair, Trump has been far less objectionable on LGBT issues than any of the other Republican frontrunners, mostly taking a states’ rights, laissez-faire attitude towards them (with some notable exceptions – it wouldn’t be Trump if I couldn’t immediately find a quote or seven where he directly contradicts his previous statements when it suits him politically). That’s a far cry from many of the explicitly anti-LGBTQ stances of other, now-defunct Republican candidates such as Ted Cruz, Ben Carsonand Mike HuckabeeBut that’s not to say his stances are GOOD, either. Trump seems to be very much for the status quo on queer and trans issues, and any policy that doesn’t actively fight for equality and justice contributes to continued oppression. He treats the queer community the same way he treats the black community  – by asserting, without any attempt whatsoever to provide evidence, that they support him despite his clear objectification of them. He uses them as pawns to bolster his image when it suits him (“Look at all these minorities that like me! I’m so great even the [insert marginalized group]s love me!”), then makes zero effort to put forth policies that would actually benefit these groups in any tangible way.

And speaking of objectification, Jenner’s assertion that Trump would be in any way “good for women’s issues” is absurd and flatly false, given his illustrious history of gross misogyny in both his personal and political lives and his horrific statements on reproductive rights.

Again, that’s not to say that I expect Jenner to abandon all her other politicals ideals and campaign for Hillary Clinton – or even better, Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein – since they are much better on LGBTQ and women’s issues than Trump. Jenner may be a prominent figure who happens to be a transgender woman, but I don’t necessarily expect her to make trans and women’s issues her top priority simply because of that. She’s still a private citizen with the right to her own opinions and speech. However, I do have a problem with her positioning herself as the Queen of the Trans People and then using her power, influence and platform to advance an agenda that is directly counter to the needs of the community she supposedly represents. This is not the first time and likely not the last that she has put herself and her interests above those who are struggling and who don’t have nearly the amount of privilege she does. Again, it’s fine (disappointing but still somewhat understandable) if she wants to live her own private life as a person who happens to be trans and not do anything to try to help other trans people. She’s not obligated to act as a martyr for the benefit of the trans community at large when the only thing she shares with them is being uncomfortable with the gender she was assigned at birth.

And that’s precisely my point; she doesn’t have to do any advocacy at all, and yet she continually positions herself in a way that makes her voice the most prominent. If she doesn’t want to advocate for the trans community, she can and should be quiet and let other voices who care about the wellbeing of others come to the forefront. Visibility can be a great thing for any minority group, but not when the person making themselves visible is acting against the best interests of the group they claim to represent.

I’m not sure what Jenner’s motivations are for attempting to act as some kind of leader for trans people (who, for the most part, have roundly rejected her leadership). Maybe she wants recognition and doesn’t care how it affects others, or maybe her life circumstances make her so oblivious to what the average trans person deals with every day that she genuinely believes that Trump would be a good President on issues that affect that community. Either way, her intentions matter very little. What matters are the real-life effects of her actions, and if her statements lead straight/cisgender allies and feminists to believe that a Trump presidency wouldn’t be incredibly damaging to women and LGBTQ people and therefore be slightly more likely to vote for him, that’s a big problem.

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