A few weeks ago, President Trump decided to reinstate a ban on transgender people serving in the military. It was a blow to transgender rights, which had been creeping along in a positive direction in the US. You can read more about the details here.
The first thing that comes to mind is how some people’s rights hang in the balance; decided and determined by others. This is about the rights for transgender people, but the bigger picture is that some humans’ rights are guaranteed, while other humans’ rights are at the mercy of those in power. People from marginalized communities are vulnerable to losing their rights, or to having them reduced. This ban on transgender people in the military is a perfect example of that.
Next, it’s interesting the arguments that are used to support these types of discriminatory decisions. In this case the argument was financial and logistical – “medical care and disruption.” Wow.
Hold the phone.
Given the numbers (see below) it’s inconceivable to me that medical care and disruption for other things (like, I don’t know… PTSD!) isn’t much, much more than the numbers for transgender people suggest.
- transgender military personnel are few (estimated at 1,320 – 6,630 of a 1.3 million member force0
- the medical costs associated with transitioning are estimated at $2.4 – $8.4 million of a $49.3 billion budget
So, the numbers don’t add up to a burden. But it’s easy to throw words like “disruption” around effectively, when the general public has limited understanding of what it means to be transgender and the medical care involved.
This limited understanding applicable to the relationship between the “general public” and marginalized groups. I’m going to use transgender people as an example here, but you can use any group. In general, we hear little about the realities of transgender people, and we typically don’t know that we know so little. We hear about celebrity or high-profile cases, and while these opportunities provide some information, they don’t always give us the whole picture, or the day-to-day realities. How can they? They are one person’s story. Plus, remember that our various identities impact our experiences, so how much money you have, skin colour, body size and shape, abilities, religious beliefs, etc all impact what it means to be transgender in the world.
School curriculum doesn’t often include mention of transgender people or transgender realities – either in terms of role models or in terms of information during classes on puberty, the human body, or how we approach the topic of gender across the board. Even GSA’s are sometimes not the safe places they could be for those who live outside the gender binary.
Sometimes, despite the information that may be out there, we don’t want to know about transgender people because we have been taught to fear or hate. The result is that transgender people experience high levels of discrimination in all areas – housing and employment being big ones. And there are high levels of violence against transgender people.
I could go on, but here’s the main argument for today:
Some people have human rights they can count on having and keeping. Their lives and realities are upheld in a positive light in the media, in curriculum, and in the awareness of the public at large. Conscious and unconscious bias helps to uphold their valued place in society, and with it, their rights.
Some people, however, have human rights that depend on the tenuous value they have in society. This tenuous value is due to misinformation, lack of information, and various undermining beliefs that seep into the media, school curriculum, and eventually how they are seen and treated – consciously and unconsciously.
It’s easy to reduce or remove some people’s rights.
And there is little push back when some people’s rights are taken away.
What are you going to do about that?