Lynnea Urania Stuart
Author’s note 7/26/2017: the day after this article posted the President tweeted his announcement that transpeople will be banned from military service. His “reasons” for this will be addressed in a future article as the effects that can be expected upon existing trans servicemembers. No doubt the Secretary of Defense will not take kindly to this action after going through all the trouble of lobbying against Representative Harzler’s amendment in the House of Representatives and it remains to be seen what he will do in response. Details of this story follows, and today’s actions from the White House assure me that my belief expressed in this article is correct.
In some respects July has been an amazing month pertaining to trans rights at the federal level. But despite some celebrations by trans activists, the celebration could only claim a temporary win. Representative Vicky Harzler [R], Missouri, introduced an amendment to the defense spending bill titled the Prohibition of Department of Defense Medical Treatment Related to Gender Transition. Representative Harzler had called trans military service “a threat to national security comparable to North Korea, ISIS, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.”1
You’d think the Republican controlled Congress would have no trouble tacking on such an amendment. But surprisingly and to the delight of trans activists, that didn’t happen. It didn’t fail because of sudden sympathies in Congress. It failed because of the influence of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and for probable reasons not widely discussed.2
The amendment represented the continuing assault upon transpeople represented in the 2016 GOP Platform which reads:
“We emphatically support the original, authentic meaning of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It affirmed that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” That language opened up for girls and women a world of opportunities that had too often been denied to them. That same provision of law is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories. Their [sic] agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They [sic] are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their [sic] edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.”3
Clearly, the advances for civil rights secured under the Obama Administration would be under attack. In fact the White House page concerning LGBT rights was removed on the same day as the inauguration of Donald Trump.4
House Speaker Paul Ryan expected the amendment to pass. But Conservatives were shocked to see the amendment defeated 209-214. Activist Matt Thorn of OutServe Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network (SLDN) was quoted by Huffington Post to say, “It’s a major loss for Pence and the (GOP) leadership.” What was striking about the vote is that the 24 Republicans who opposed it included Darrell Isa (CA), Barbara Comstock (VA), and Carlos Curbello (FL), each a representative of a Congressional district considered vulnerable to Democrats in 2018.5
But according to CNN, the Secretary of Defense lobbied Congress for defeat of the amendment. Does that mean Secretary Mattis is in favor of transpeople in the military?
Hardly. The issue’s a matter of military control and protocol, not anyone’s change of heart. The Pentagon had intended to implement acceptance of trans servicemembers this month. The armed services had printed and distributed the 72 page book, Transgender Service in the U.S. Miliatry: An Implementation Handbook on September 20, 2016, stating that on June 20, 2016 then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the new policy. The initial action leading to this new policy took place in July 2015 in which the Defense Secretary directed the Department of Defense to identify the practical issues related to open service of trans servicemembers.6
But on the eve of implementation of acceptance of trans servicemembers the deadline was pushed back 6 months, pending “further study.” Newsweek reported from a leaked memo that this was done in consultation with senior officials in the Defense Department and “in no way presupposes an outcome.” Newsweek further reported:
“Military chiefs last week submitted a request asking for a new proviso to be added to the bill, requiring transgender recruits to wait to enlist for up to two years after transitioning. They also claim more time is required to assess the experience of transgender personnel, and consider the effect on military bases.”7
So implementation required 2 years till it could be considered ready. It’s absurd to think that the Pentagon would undo it at once with passage of this amendment. In fact funding transitions is only one aspect of the many issues pertaining to military acceptance. Secretary Mattis knew that a military reversal of a policy taking 2 years to organize would take months at least. Reorganizing non-acceptance is more than just tearing up existing military guidelines. It’s an organizational detransition that the Secretary of Defense would want control to affect and he could advise Congress of what would be appropriate at the proper time.
Perhaps the real test will come with another bill submitted to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on July 12. Seeing how the amendment Prohibition of Department of Defense Medical Treatment Related to Gender Transition passed its committee and went to the floor for a vote, we may anticipate much the same with HR 2796, also titled the “Civil Rights Uniformity Act.” It’s a draconian bill, directed specifically against transpeople to strip them of most of their civil rights:
SEC. 3. Prohibition of policies redefining sex to mean gender identity.
(a) Rule of Construction.—In determining the meaning of any Federal civil rights law, and of any related ruling, regulation, guidance, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the words “sex” and “gender” and their equivalents shall not be interpreted to mean “gender identity” or its equivalent, and the words “man” and “woman” and their equivalents shall refer exclusively to a person’s genetic sex.
(b) Rule of Interpretation.—No Federal civil rights law shall be interpreted to treat gender identity or transgender status as a protected class, unless such law expressly designates “gender identity” or “transgender status” as a protected class.
(c) Definition of “Federal civil rights law”.—For purposes of this Act, the term “Federal civil rights law” means any Federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, including title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000a et seq.), the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.), the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111–148), and any other Federal law or provision thereof prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.8
We cannot expect Secretary Mattis to lobby against HR 2796. Nor can we reasonably expect those House members to vote in the same way as they did in the Prohibition of Department of Defense Medical Treatment Related to Gender Transition. Currently the conventional wisdom seems to say that HR 2796 will fail. It certainly has solid Democrat opposition. What remains to be seen is what the 24 Republicans do. If they vote according to the Republican Platform 2016 then we can anticipate House passage, a cliffhanger in the Senate, and probable approval in the White House.
If, indeed, HR 2796 becomes federal law, then the civil rights of transgender people revert to the states that support them. Most states have not passed legislation in favor of transpeople. In fact most states have pending legislation specifically aimed toward the ultimate criminalization of transpeople, mostly through the use of facilities appropriate to their respective gender. That results in sectionalism in the United States of a sort not known since before the Civil War.9
It could potentially result in something worse: an American Cultural Revolution that mimics in some respect the one that occurred in China in the 1970’s but reflecting the kind of revival the Evangelical Alliance has sought for many decades: the sort of revival that includes forced conversion such as has typified Christianity’s bloody history for centuries. It would demonstrate a naked meanness fostered by many Evangelical churches against minorities of various sorts that has typically included LGBT peoples.
It would mean forcing transpeople underground again, something that has been typical of many parts of the world over the 16 centuries of the Abrahamic Oppression. Evangelical Conservatives want us to be out of sight and out of mind. They want to pretend we never existed. They want to erase any memory or record of us in the name of a Christ that scarcely resembles the historical Y’shua.
If indeed that should happen, then where does that leave cherished shibboleths and rivalries that has infected the trans community since Stonewall? Can transvestite and transsexual afford to define the others out of existence or to refuse mutual support? No. What we need instead are deeper support networks like what developed in Vogue culture. The house system has assured the survival of not a few trans youth long before trans youth gained popular recognition with media attention upon Jazz Jennings.10
The trans community now stands on the precipice such has not been seen in American history. Part of our future depends upon the actions of the GOP. But the greater part falls upon us in response if indeed conditions exist where any atrocity could be directed against us without permitting us recourse. We may indeed witness what could erupt into full scale crimes against humanity. We must implement outreach however subtle that may be. We must educate.
What Secretary Mattis did isn’t the turning point. The real turning point has yet to arrive. It will not have arrived till once more the GOP reawakens to the very issue of civil rights as what brought its initial rise to power under Abraham Lincoln. It will not have arrived till Americans broadly see past the propaganda of the Evangelical Alliance. The roller coaster that has identified the month of July will continue. Even if HR 2796 fails, another draconian bill will wait in ready for another try and we will again have to look beyond with fewer rights but unable to be anything but the people we are.
- Ford, Zack. Conservatives celebrate delay of transgender military enlistment (July 5, 2017) Web: ThinkProgress: https://thinkprogress.org/transgender-military-delay-2c4513a2629f . Retrieved July 23, 2017.
- Signorile, Michelangelo. Vulnerable Republicans Showed Why Fighting For Trans Rights Is A Political Winner (July 15, 2017) Web: Yahoo! quoting Huffington Post: https://www.yahoo.com/news/vulnerable-republicans-just-showed-why-135419590.html . Retrieved July 20, 2017.
- Republican National Platform Committee. Republican Platform, 2016. (2016) Web: com: https://www.gop.com/the-2016-republican-party-platform/ . Retrieved July 20, 2017. p. 35.
- Itkowitz, Colby. LGBT rights page disappears from White House web site (January 20, 2017) Web: Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/2017/live-updates/politics/live-coverage-of-trumps-inauguration/lgbt-rights-page-disappears-from-white-house-web-site/?utm_term=.9f02d1d7269b . Retrieved July 20, 2017.
- Signorile, Michelangelo. Vulnerable Republicans Showed Why Fighting For Trans Rights Is A Political Winner (July 15, 2017) Web: Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/republicans-showed-fighting-for-trans-rights-political-winner_us_59696dbce4b0d6341fe9104c?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000313 . Retrieved July 20, 2017。
- Levine, Peter, Undersectetary of Defense, et. al. Transgender Service In the U.S. Military: An Implementation Handbook (September 30, 2016) United States Department of Defense, p. 2.
- Porter, Tom. What Is Behind U.S. Military Decision to Delay the Induction of Transgender Recruits? (July 1, 2017) Web: Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/what-behind-us-military-decision-delay-induction-transgender-recruits-630906 . Retrieved July 23, 2017.
- Representatives Babin, Abraham, and Hartzler. HR 2796, Section 3 (June 7, 2017) Web: Congress.gov: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2796/text . Retrieved July 20, 2017.
- (n.a.) Equality Maps (n.d.) Website: Transgender Law Center: https://transgenderlawcenter.org/equalitymap. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
- Stuart, Lynnea Urania. The Defiance of the Houses. 2016) Web: Transpire: https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/the-defiance-of-the-houses/ Retrieved July 23, 2017.