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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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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Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services Seeks to Erase Transgender Protections

From Rolling Stone:

By redefining sex and gender according to one’s genitals at birth, the current administration is reversing civil rights for millions of Americans

By <
October 22, 2018

The Trump administration is poised to revoke the rights and protections guaranteed to some 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender by redefining the legal definition of gender under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination in education on the basis of gender. This is according to the New York Times, which obtained a memo being circulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that reportedly urges key government agencies, including the departments of Education, Justice and Labor, to follow their lead by seeking to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo. “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.”

According to the Times, DHHS plans to present the new definition to the Justice Department before the end of the year. If adopted, the change would effectively roll back policies enacted by the Obama administration which updated the legal concept of sex in federal programs, including Title IX, to reflect an inclusive understanding of gender identity as determined by an individual’s choice, not biological attributes at birth. If enacted, the change wouldn’t impact state laws or services, like, for example, New York City’s recently approved third gender option on birth certificates for trans adults, a change which makes it easier to amend other official documents and forms of ID.

“Their little scheme as laid out in that memo seems to indicate that they really have a childlike, 1940s view of sex and gender,” Mara Keisling, the executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, tells Rolling Stone. “They really seem to think everybody has very typical genitalia, everybody has a very typical chromosomal markers. And that isn’t the case. There’s a whole range of people who don’t fit into that and they seem to just be disregarding them. They wanted to find a definition that was administrational and this is clearly not. Their whole thing about genetic testing? That stuff just isn’t possible.”

While HHS officials declined to explicitly comment on the memo to the Times, they did cite a 2016 federal court ruling on a civil rights statute in the Affordable Care Act as the basis for their position. In that case, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled that “Congress did not understand ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity.’”

“The court order remains in full force and effect today and HHS is abiding by it as we continue to review the issue,” Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the DHHS, said in a statement.

However, as a coalition of civil rights groups pointed out in a recent memo presented to the administration, the “overwhelming majority of courts” have validated the Obama administration’s understanding “that anti transgender bias constitutes sex discrimination under federal laws like Title IX.” Regardless of how “sex” is defined, transgender advocates say the federal law still offers them the same protections.

“They think they’ve figured out how to define sex without transgender people,”  Keisling tells Rolling Stone. “The flaw in that comes because you cannot define transgender people without sex. If I’m fired from my job because I’m transgender, or if an eighth grader is thrown out of school because they are transgender, or somebody is denied health care because they’re transgender, it is because of their sex. It is because you think I’m the wrong kind of woman, or not a woman, or you think I’m a man, or too much of a man — whatever it is you think, it is still about ‘man and woman.’ They’re trying to define sex as just ‘man and woman,’ but we’re still included in the that.”

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Two Weeks Before Midterms, Transgender People Feel Like ‘Pawns’

From The New York Times:

By Liam Stack
Oct. 23, 2018

When the news broke on Sunday morning, many transgender people, world-weary, saw it as grimly predictable: With two weeks to go until the midterm elections, the Trump administration was considering a new move that would undermine federal civil rights protections for the transgender community. This time, they thought, it was the nuclear option.

Under the terms of a proposal reported by The New York Times on Sunday, the administration would adopt a narrow definition of gender as an unchangeable biological condition — either male or female — that is determined by genitalia at birth. Such a move would not only roll back protections for transgender people: It could also legally negate their very existence.

“The thing that really took the wind out of my sails and is deeply upsetting, particularly as someone who teaches ethics, is what this ultimately says about the American people,” said Gabrielle Bychowski, a college professor and married mother of two in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“This is a very evidently political move done, approaching the midterms, to garner favor with a portion of the American public who would be encouraged and pleased by this news,” Ms. Bychowski, 31, said. “It’s a reminder that pain is a political tool. A certain portion of the American population takes pleasure at the pain of others.”

The midterm elections on Nov. 6 are a critical test for the Republican Party, which is defending slim majorities in the House and the Senate. It has sought to lessen the weight of President Trump’s low approval ratings and beat back the enthusiasm of the Democratic base by framing the election as a referendum on immigration, crime and unruly leftist mobs. Many transgender people feel similarly in the cross hairs.

“Transgender people are frequently used as political pawns; they say we’re monsters and we go into bathrooms and commit crimes and whatever else,” said Bryce Celotto, 26, a middle-school teacher and Army National Guard veteran in Oakland, Calif. “It’s just like with immigrants or other marginalized communities: It is easy to throw us under the bus as a scare tactic.”

The Department of Health and Human Services is leading the effort to establish a new definition of gender under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination on the basis of gender in federally funded education programs. If enacted, the proposal would turn to genetic testing to resolve any dispute about a person’s gender.

The department has called on other parts of the federal government — including the Departments of Education, Justice and Labor — to adopt the new definition, a measure of government uniformity that would make the courts more likely to recognize it as well. The health agency is planning to formally present the change to the Justice Department by the end of the year, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

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