The news for LGBTQ people just keeps getting worse.
Our rights to live as free and equal citizens erode further and further every day. President Trump’s controversial transgender military policy goes into effect today, 12 April, 2019.
According to the nonpartisan Palm Center, an independent military-research institute,
The policy is insidious in operation but designed to be as comprehensive a ban as possible… In that sense, it is a perfect parallel to the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, also sold as not being a ban although designed to systemically push gay people out of military service — or at least keep them silent and invisible.
NBC News questioned Trump last October about campaign promises to protect transgender people — in light of this ban and news about his Administration working to eliminate transgender protections under federal civil rights law.
“We’re looking at it,” Trump told NBC. “We have a lot of different concepts right now. They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now. You know that as well as I do, and we’re looking at it very seriously.”
When NBC followed up, asking about Trump’s “promise to protect the LGBTQ community,” he said, “I’m protecting everybody.”
Trump isn’t telling the truth. He’s not protecting anyone —
As the independent Palm Center points out, the Department of Defense didn’t ask for or want the transgender military ban. They weren’t experiencing problems with transgender people serving, and when Trump announced the ban, they’d just received a comprehensive, multidisciplinary report from the Rand Corporation tell them that transgender people were not burdens in terms of either budget or readiness.
What is Trump doing if he’s not protecting people?
He’s kowtowing to his ultraconservative, Evangelical Christian base, without whose support he cannot win the 2020 election. He’s giving them want they want, even though he’s hurting people rather than protecting people.
Let me show you how dangerous Trump’s war on transgender is to vulnerable people.
Warning: This story dramatizes events surrounding sexual assault in order to discuss problems relating to systemic transphobia.
Alicia kept her head down as she brushed past the dozens of men crushed up against the narrow corridor. Her eyes flicked back and forth avoiding direct contact as she assessed possible threats. She was wearing her loosest t-shirt, but she knew her large breasts stood out anyway.
Eyes reached out for them like remote fingers. Tongues protruded and waggled. She felt the leers as much as she saw them. This was her second day in the low-security federal men’s prison where she’d just been transferred after her conviction for possessing small quantities of meth. It would be her home for the next eight years.
Voices called out to her as she pushed toward the bathroom.
“Hey, mama! You one hot tamale. You want my cock, huh?”
“Check out that rack. Can’t wait to get my hands all over that shit, man.”
“You the finest bitch I seen in years, baby. Gotta get me some!”
Alicia pushed past men in brown boxers and white muscle shirts as she stepped into the bathroom and toward the stalls. She didn’t have time to locate an empty one. She grunted in pain as a pair of hands grabbed her from behind with so much force that her arm would bear a purple palm print for days.
“Get in here, bitch!”
The same pair of hands slammed the stall door shut, ripped the elastic waistband of Alicia’s khaki uniform, and forced her to bend over. Her stay in federal prison had only just begun.
The story I’ve written above is a compilation of true events —
I extracted the particular details from dozens of accounts of sexual violence committed against transgender women in US prisons. Alicia is an amalgam of countless trans women who are raped every day while inside correctional facilities.
Transgender women are uniquely vulnerable in prison because they often have very feminine appearances. Even without gender affirmation surgery, a trans woman on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can have large breasts, broad hips, smooth skin, and other biologically feminine characteristics.
Housing such women in the tightly packed company of male prisoners seriously challenges their safety. In fact, depending on the study you look at, transgender women housed in men’s prisons are 9 to 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than men, who are already assaulted at shockingly high rates. Sexual assault is common in prison but it’s at its worst where transgender women are housed with men.
Why is ‘Alicia’ important today?
She’s a perfect face for Trump’s ongoing war against trans people.
To cite just a partial list of anti-trans policies Trump has championed,
- The administration has ordered the military to ban trans people from service, a ban that the Pentagon didn’t ask for and doesn’t want.
- They’ve rescinded Department of Education regulations requiring the equal treatment of trans students in secondary schools.
- The Justice Department is pushing to exclude trans women from protections guaranteed by federal civil rights law.
- The US CDC has been ordered not to use the word “transgender” in official communications.
Forcing the Bureau of Prisons to change its previous policies is as senseless as the military ban, but it’s also cruel and inhuman —
Last May 11th, The Federal Bureau of Prisons responded to Trump administration orders by issuing revised policies that will result in most trans women being automatically housed with men.
As Lambda Legal notes, this is dangerous and pointless —
It is increasingly common for correctional facilities to house transgender people consistent with their gender identity, and agencies have made these placements without experiencing any increase in abusive incidents or security risks. There is no justification for this policy shift; it is a deliberate recipe for violence against transgender people based in inexcusable prejudice.
What prompts the change in policy?
According to Dan Holden at Buzzfeed, the administration is responding to a lawsuit filed by four incarcerated evangelical Christian women.
The shift comes after four evangelical Christian women in a Texas prison sued in US District Court to challenge the Obama-era guidelines, and claimed sharing quarters with transgender women subjected them to dangerous conditions.
Their complaint alleged housing transgender women — whom it calls “men” — along with the general female population creates a situation that incessantly violates the privacy of female inmates; endangers the physical and mental health of the female Plaintiffs and others, including prison staff; [and] increases the potential for rape.”
The trouble here is that as Lambda Legal points out, the complaint has no basis in fact. The BOP has reported no increase of sexual harassment or rape in prisons where trans women and cis women have been housed together for years.
The BOP has not asked for this policy change any more than the Pentagon asked for the trans ban.
Why is the Trump Administration doing this?
It’s no secret that Trump’s base is ultra-conservative and ultra-religious. Trump’s alliance with Evangelicals is bizarre from some perspectives, but from the perspective of evangelicals who want their policy positions advanced, it all makes perfect sense.
According to the Pew Research Center, 84% of white evangelicals believe gender is determined at birth, while 61% believe that American society has “gone too far in accepting transgender people.”
Evangelical leaders go even further than their flocks.
According to a report issued last August by the Human Rights Campaign,
more than 150 conservative Evangelical Christian leaders, including prominent members of the Trump-Pence administration’s Evangelical Advisory Board, released a vicious anti-LGBTQ manifesto attacking LGBTQ people as immoral and sinful, asserting their opposition to marriage equality and denying the dignity of transgender people.
Evangelical Christians in the United States are extraordinarily transphobic. They don’t want Alicia to be on HRT and have breasts. They don’t want her to express herself as a woman. Their religious beliefs dictate that Alicia must live as a man whether she shares their faith or not.
They’re willing to see her raped to enforce those beliefs.
Trump is happy to go along, telling the BOP to put trans women in men’s prisons because he needs to keep his base happy. They elected him to push their agenda, and he’s keeping his promise.
Remember his campaign trail tweet? I do.
He didn’t mean it —
Obviously. His alliance with Evangelicals means that Trump will continue to advance policies to promote homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia.
That’s very bad new for transgender service members and for trans people all over the United States who know for sure that the federal government isn’t looking out for them.
It’s really bad news for Alicia.