Trans Teen Jazz Jennings Refuses To Let The Trump Administration Tell Her Who She Is

From Huffington Post:

By Ja’han Jones

When a recent memo was revealed exposing the Trump administration’s proposal to begin strictly defining gender, LGBTQ advocates and allies around the country decried its apparent intent to erase transgender people.

But for activists like Jazz Jennings, the 18-year-old star of TLC’s reality show “I Am Jazz,” the threat of erasure is far from new. Long before networks began chronicling her life and tracing her every step, Jennings, a trans woman, was a relatively obscure trailblazer at her elementary school in South Florida.

Jennings began living as her authentic self at age 5, and with the aid of her parents, she asserted her identity as a girl while demanding her school treat her as one. Jennings has since ascended into a role as one of the nation’s foremost trans activists, and in a recent video posted to her popular YouTube channel, she defiantly criticized the Trump administration’s memo.

Jennings discussed the memo and its implications further in a follow-up interview with HuffPost. She also spoke of her beginnings as an activist, her approach to trans activism under the Trump administration and whether there is room for optimism in such a bleak period for the trans community.

You’ve long been politically inclined and politically active. What was your first instinct when hearing about the Trump administration’s anti-trans memo? How do you craft a response to someone who’s literally making a claim that you don’t exist?

I just sighed right away. It feels like the Trump administration keeps saying one thing after another, and this was a tipping point for me. I was over it, you know? My community — the transgender community — has already experienced victimization and been vulnerable in so many ways, and now the government is here trying to come after us directly. We don’t need that extra discrimination; we don’t need the government going against us when we already have society telling us we can’t be who we are. So if anything, we need more support — more administrative and legal action on our side ― and the opposite is happening. It’s annoying.

Has your method of engagement as an activist changed under the Trump administration, which carries more outright disdain for the trans community than the previous administration?

My only focus is on love and support. I’m not gonna give my attention to the Trump administration and people who are not supportive of the transgender community. Instead, I’m trying to speak with others out there and tell them not to be afraid of being who they are. I tell them not to worry. The government doesn’t have power over you ― people have power over the government. And you’re the people. So you be you, and be free, and be who you are, and don’t let anyone undermine that, even if the government isn’t on your side. So that’s the focus of my advocacy: the love and the uplift.

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U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders Anti-Trump Speech at GOTV Rally in Boulder, Colorado | Oct 24 2018

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Which Side Are You On — Pete Seeger

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Canada Is Not Safe from Donald Trump’s Attacks on Transgender Human Rights

From Vice:

There is reason to be concerned Canada’s conservatives could look to the south to find a convenient social issue to run on.

by Abigail Curlew
Oct 23 2018

Over the weekend, news broke that the Trump administration was considering imposing a new legislative definition of gender that would effectively erase the legal existence of transgender people. As reported by the New York Times, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is attempting to impose a universal definition of gender that is based in biology and “grounded in science, [that is] objective and administrable.” Of course the use of the word science here is rhetorical, as the biology around sex and gender is far more complicated than a simple gender binary defined by sex organs. Under the proposed legislation, the only way to contest the government’s assertion of your legal gender identity will be through genetic testing.

The push for this legislation is being led by Roger Severino, the head of the HHS Civil Rights Office under the Trump administration, who circulated a memo on the subject around his department. Severino was a controversial appointment to the Civil Rights Office as he’s been notorious for being an advocate for anti-LGBTQ policies that actively seek to make life difficult for queer folks. He once penned an opinion piece where he eschewed legislation that adds “gender identity” to human rights protections, warning that “the radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.”

From this view, the extension of human rights to transgender citizens comes at the expense of the rights of “normal” folks and jeopardizes public safety because it allows “men in dresses” to use the woman’s washroom. Such views are a gross distortion of the truth, as research demonstrates that transgender citizens face increased risk of violence and discrimination and are grossly in need of free speech protections.

For many, there are few times where you have to be concerned about your legal identity. Save for the occasional disruption of renewing a driver’s license or passport, most people can fluidly navigate public spaces and have access to services. At most, you might present proof of your identification several times a day, from using a bank card to pay for your groceries, to getting carded when buying alcohol.

However, for transgender folks, the experience of navigating the public is rife with precarity. There is an abundance of trans citizens who, for various reasons, may not have the opportunity to change their legal identity—and appearing differently than what appears on your photo ID can lead to countless unpleasant and vulnerable experiences.

Every time we present our legal identities in a transphobic and cisgender supremacist society, we risk outing ourselves to someone who might actively discriminate against us.

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White men can be terrorists, too

Anyone wasn’t aware of that one missed the actions of the KKK, American Nazis, Skinheads, Timothy McVeigh, the Proud Boys and so on and so on.

From The LA Times:

Christian Picciolini
Oct 07, 2018

When four members of the white supremacist group Rise Above Movement were arrested last week on federal charges that they traveled to Virginia last year with the intent to incite a riot and commit violence, many news outlets referred to the group as an “alt-right fight club.” Others called it “a racist social club.”

The Rise Above Movement, or R.A.M., is far more dangerous than these euphemistic labels suggest. An extreme hate group that grew out of California’s skinhead subculture, R.A.M. calls for the extermination of Jews and other “anti-white” enemies, not to mention the overthrow of the U.S. government.

R.A.M. is one of many violent hate groups that espouse such views. Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group that is organized into cells and whose name means “atomic weapons” in German, openly aspires to terroristic violence. Proud Boys, another group in the white-power ecosystem, has demonstrated a propensity for extreme violence.

Despite the dangers posed by such groups, many Americans tend to view their violent acts as either the work of a mentally deranged individual or the collective anger of misguided young men who are merely lashing out. This outlook is dangerously naive and one we can no longer afford to indulge.

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The Rage of All Women

From Slate:

“Man-hating dyke” is the worst thing you can call a lesbian. But in the #MeToo era, it’s time to reclaim it.


This piece is part of the Radical issue, a special package from Outward, Slate’s home for coverage of LGBTQ life, thought, and culture. Read more here.

In the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings, a dyke friend in her twenties posted that, real talk, she doesn’t like men. I hit the like button super fast, feeling secretive and sort of guilty about it. She’d come through the same radical queer and trans circles I came up in, and in that click, I felt relieved to acknowledge an obvious truth: Most men treat women like something less than human, whether accidentally or on purpose, and that means it’s hard to like them.

I’d recently been scanning the men coming into my workplace, wondering about their histories of sexual assault. Is he a rapist? What about him? Where does he fall on the creep scale? It was an old impulse that had returned in force as the nation debated just how many of their husbands, brothers, and sons were perpetrators, given that one in three American women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. Republicans insisted that men were the ones who should be afraid, while women recounted the everyday, harrowing ways we reroute our lives to avoid assault. My “woke” male co-workers made #MeToo jokes, as if the whole thing were a funny spectacle. It was enough to make me want to stop talking to men entirely.

Yet still, inside my head, the #NotAllMen chorus roared. What about the dad of two who likes all my angry tweets? Or the guy who showed up at the hospital with too much food when my spouse was in labor? Or my friends who are trans men?

Patriarchy runs so deep that I defend hypothetical men’s feelings right away, even to myself. I am a married lesbian, as far away from needing male approval as a woman can get, and I still feel it, the slow poisonous drip of cultural conditioning that tells me to prioritize men. My imagination, that thing that could break us out of American fascism, is trapped in an old feminist loop, because I’ve been trained that the worst thing I can be is a man-hating dyke. But it’s time to confront the latent homophobia in that insult and our fear that anger makes us seem too gay. Because anger, not fear, is precisely the emotion that’s needed these days.

Of course, certain women’s anger had become trendy under Trump: that of straight cis white women, the good girls of the left taking on the big bad president. Rebecca Traister, promoting her new book, Good and Mad, joked on at least two podcasts that writing about rage made her sex life better, reminding the world—perhaps unconsciously—that women’s anger needs a heterosexual qualifier.

When straight cis white women talk about anger, it’s sexy resistance fuel. When straight cis black women get angry, they get caricatured and punished. When cis lesbians talk about anger, we get Rosie O’Donnell’d, used as a shield for misogyny, since men know other women won’t defend us. “Man-hating dyke” is a classic insult, whether aimed at actual lesbians or Hillary Clinton, used to remind queer women that there’s something wrong with us. Second-wave straight feminists did whatever they could to distance themselves from lesbians, avoiding the “lavender menace” and adopting pretty, gender-conforming icons like Gloria Steinem. Straight or queer, angry or not, trans women’s mere existence is considered a threat.

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Authoritarians like Trump target trans people for a reason

From The Guardian UK:

Transgender rights are crucial in the struggle not only for human rights, but women’s liberation

Mon 22 Oct 2018

Attacking transgender people – especially transgender women – has become a favorite strategy for authoritarians, and Trump is no exception. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration is attempting to narrow gender identity to the one assigned at birth – thereby denying transgender people their place in society.

This is a deliberate attempt to deploy tried and tested transphobic messaging to rile up his voter base ahead of the midterm elections. Trump wants to rally conservatives while engaging in attacking a marginalized group that it is still socially acceptable to target. Unfortunately, support and inclusion of transgender individuals even among mainstream progressives is lacking, and even some self-proclaimed feminist movements advocate for trans exclusion in ways similar to the recent Trump directives.

The irony in this is that if we peel the onion it becomes clear that transgender people are not actually the real target of such authoritarian leaders. Though transgender people will be the ones annihilated on the frontlines, figuratively and literally, by this tactic, we form too small a minority to pose a serious threat to authoritarianism. Women’s liberation is what autocrats are attempting to quell with anti-trans measures. Strongmen have made their hostility and contempt for women clear, whether it is through promotion of rape as was done by the Filipino leader Rodrigo Duterte, or pushing a US supreme court nominee credibly accused of sexual assault while insulting his accusers, in the case of Donald Trump.

Substantial evidence exists showing that gender equality and greater participation of women in the democratic process leads to more inclusive and socially oriented forms of government. Autocrats rely heavily on the “might is right” model and perpetuation of socially constructed violent models of misogyny in order to exert power, and women’s equality and liberation challenges basic tenets of totalitarianism. It is not a coincidence that with increasing pushes towards gender equality and justice across the globe, patriarchal forces are striking back violently and propelling anti-women leaders such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro towards power.

Progress on transgender issues, and the very existence of transgender individuals, also challenges the basis of male hegemony, because it blurs the boundary between men and women. The directives from the Trump administration on strictly delineating and defining sex as binary, immutable and determined by chromosomes and natal genital anatomy are basically attempts to demarcate a red line between men and women. The recent actions by the Hungarian leader to withdraw funding from any educational programs that deal with gender theory and an insistence on binary immutable sex is part of the same effort of transgender erasure.

Transgender erasure is a weapon being used to fight against women’s equality. In order for a mechanism of oppression to exist between two classes in society, differentiation between them is crucial. In the same fashion as interracial relationships and mixed-race children were anathema to segregationists, transgender people pose a serious challenge for patriarchal structures. The inviolable superior status of white people over black people is challenged when there are people who are both black and white. Similarly, in creating gray space between male and female, transgender people subvert the patriarchy.

Misogyny and oppression of women must be fought globally and unwaveringly, including in western societies, which have falsely been perceived as post-feminist. Transgender rights are crucial in the struggle not only for human rights, but women’s liberation. Those who fiercely advocate for eradicating transgender people are fighting to retain a world under the regime of male hegemony. In such an environment, autocrats and their accompanying oligarchies are sustained. A world without misogyny and with women and queer liberation is a world without despotic rulers. We are in desperate need as a global community to arrive there.

  • Mischa Haider is a transgender researcher and activist at Harvard University
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