Wisconsin’s Pride Month Needs Focus On Transgender Rights

Last week a press release from Democratic Governor Tony Evers stated that the LGBT Pride flag will again fly over the State Capitol. This decision matters for many citizens in our state. Let us make no mistake about the visual importance of the flag bending with the breeze over this wonderful and symbolic building.

At moments like this, I think of gay teenagers in this state who live in rural areas.  I know they need support and assurance that living authentically is truly an option as they prepare for adulthood. The flag and the message it imparts is meant as much to recognize past achievements, as providing continued assurance and hope for the future.

But this year, in light of the national conversation about transgender rights, along with legislation being debated under our Capitol dome about girls’ and women’s sports, makes the flag being hoisted high even more important.

The reason is due to discriminatory legislation aimed at creating sports participation bans for transgender people. We apparently have not had enough culture wars in the state. Outside of the political arena, I have not noticed a groundswell of examples in female sports that required a partisan resolution. Once again, however, a solution is in search of a problem and it is taking up far too much bandwidth with some legislators.

Therefore, if anyone wonders why the pride flag needs to fly over the statehouse should simply follow the news about bills that would allow students to join teams only that correspond to their biological sex as assigned by a doctor at birth. In time, that type of discourse will be as ancient as defining being gay as a mental illness. Until that time we must stay vigilant and fight on.

From a national perspective, this month should also focus our attention on states that are attempting to prohibit gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. We all should be most concerned that partisan legislators are working feverishly in some states to get in between a doctor, who is guided by science and ethics, and a teenager who is in search of medical advice and therapy.

We know that forgoing gender-affirming medical procedures can have tragic consequences with mental health problems which can also lead to drug use and increased rates of suicide. We absolutely must do better for the young people who look to us for guidance and a helping hand.

I can not speak about transgender rights from more than a humane perspective. But as a gay man, I know full well the way it felt when politicians were writing and signing laws to deny my rights over the decades. They had no idea how I felt, or the stresses it placed on my life. As such, I can understand how others now facing discriminatory actions must feel.

It is why I press the case that we must not do harm to those who are dealing with being uncomfortable in their bodies. When it comes to these children I feel a deeper sense of responsibility to speak up and stand alongside those who need our support.

For too long gay Americans were the ones who were vilified by Republicans and used as nothing more than partisan tactics and a means to raise money in letters to the base. Now it is transgender people, including children who are so treated to this abuse.

THAT is the reason the Pride flag needs to fly above the Wisconsin State Capitol.

And so it goes.

Republicans Pick On Powerless Groups, Trans Children Latest Target

I know how it felt when the Republican Party, both in Wisconsin and from the power of the Oval Office, worked feverishly to place anti-gay marriage referendums on state ballots. As a gay man, I had a personal stake in the attempts to undermine my rights. From that experience and taking note of their attitudes and policy moves on several issues it is clear nothing makes the GOP seem more powerful than when they can place bigotry into law.

But as a student of history and one involved with government and current issues the tactics from the GOP rip at a central understanding. That being this nation always is at its best when we strive to include more people under the large social umbrella. Not limit and restrict such liberties.

It would seem obvious that transgender rights, which is the latest attempt by conservatives to fight the culture wars, will be the toughest fight in the gender wars. But what is gut-wrenching is that they now use children as their partisan club. The battle though is being engaged by the majority in the nation in the same way we gained civil rights for gay Americans. Simply put, success will be attained over time due to more people realizing that others in their lives–perhaps the ones they know best and love–are actually transgender.

Putting a face to the issue is the best way to break down walls.

For now, the reason this issue resonates with me is due to the impact this has on children who are well-aware of the person they are and the need to have acceptance and understanding from the adults in the nation. The political class must recognize their responsibility for preventing the effects of causing trans children to have depression and even commit suicide. Add to the list the bullying and torment of their peers as they play off of the political rhetoric, and it underscores why we need to care.

I come from a background where anti-gay bullying was terrible in my school years, and which was a cause for the suicide of my best friend. I know the toll such boorish behavior causes and the long-lasting impact it creates. So when I say we must help trans children, even if it is not totally understood, I know the reason why we must be caring adults.

I read a powerful article in The Atlantic that cuts to the core of what the Republican Party is doing as it uses trans children as the latest weapon for their partisan ends.

The time for blaming the nation’s problems on gay people was over; now was the time to come together as a country and blame our problems on Muslims. For the past 30 years, the GOP has pursued a consistent strategy: Find a misunderstood or marginalized group, convince voters that the members of that group pose an existential threat to society, and then ride to victory on the promise of using state power to crush them.

Again and again, Republicans have targeted groups they believe too small or too powerless to spark a costly political backlash. By attacking them, the GOP seeks to place Democrats in a political bind. If they decline to bow to demagoguery, Democrats risk looking either too culturally avant-garde for the comfort of more conservative voters—whose support they need to remain viable—or too preoccupied with defending the rights of a beleaguered minority to pay attention to bread-and-butter issues that matter to the majority. This strategy has worked in the past—President Bill Clinton, who signed the federal statute outlawing same-sex marriage in 1996, was no Republican. Many people across the political spectrum accept the premise that defending a marginalized group’s civil rights is “identity politics,” while choosing to strip away those rights is not.

We simply must overcome the bigotry.

We accomplish that by first denying oxygen to the political party that attempts to use trans children for their conservative ends.

And so it goes.

Most Americans Do Not Personally Know Active Member Of The Military

I have often wondered how military policy would look if more valedictorians served in the armed forces. What would their families demand of policy-makers when constructing international policy or engaging in military maneuvers? Over the years thoughts of this kind percolated when issues of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, and more recently transgenders openly serving were making headlines  During the national dialogue with both topics the end result furthered an image of the military as being small-minded and backward.

For many in our country who are not involved in the military, but listened and watched those debates, concluded that living a double life was quite pre-Stonewall.  Most Americans know gay people, more and more know a transgender person, and poll after poll shows a strong level of support for a variety of ever-more rights to ensure equality is provided regardless of sexual orientation or biology.  When those topics were making headlines nationally about the military it needs to be noted gay dates for high school proms were no longer uncommon.  In other words, society is moving forward.   

So must the military.

So, it has long been perplexing to me the disconnect between what is happening in neighborhoods across the nation and then what comes from the aging politicians and military planners in Washington.  All this underscores how the mindset of the military as a whole needs to be shaken up.  After all, gay men and women and transexuals just want to serve their country with their heads held high. Does not the nation want a military made up of members serving with pride?

As I think about this matter one question keeps popping forward. Why would any intelligent and self-confident young man or woman coming out of high school want to join the military?  Why would any well-reasoned and educated person want to enter an organization that is so disjointed and illogical when it comes to human sexuality? Or join an organization that is simply backward with their scope of thinking when it comes to people in another land, or the faith they follow?

This should be concerning to us all.

Most people do not personally know any active enlisted members of the military. I do not. But during my life, I have known a number of valedictorians.  Three are in my family.  My husband James, along with my niece Katrina, along with her father Darvin. They all had the honor of representing their class on graduation day. 

But I have known only two people (neither were family, and both were casual acquaintances) who served in Iraq, and in each case, they were stationed there for less than a year.  In one case it was only for a few months, and the young man spent most of it on a base.   When he returned, he told of the type of stunted social development some of his fellow soldiers had, and how uncomfortable it made him hear the way they talked about the people and country where they were stationed.  The words they used were not the ones he heard at home or uttered on his own.

While my dad served in World War II, and a few uncles were in this or that branch of the armed forces, none of their children made the military a destination when they reached adult age.  No one in my high school made the military a career, and the vast majority never even made the military a pit-stop on the road to the future.  I think most people have the same experience as I have had.  Most people simply do not know someone personally in the armed forces.

Why is that? 

Does it not warp the way we feel about war and the policies of the nation if we do not at least know one person involved in a conflict?  It is different to have a young man from the larger community shredded by a roadside bomb than to have a son or cousin meet the same fate.  Does that fact make a difference when we condone this or that military adventure?  I think it does.

I bring this all up today because there is still a strong perception of the military as a place that stigmatizes certain people or groups of people who wish to serve the nation. Such ‘jar-necked’ notions, create an atmosphere where a whole segment of the country says “I want my kid to go to college and not get messed up in the army.”  

That may sound elitist, but it is an honest statement that is played out over and over coast-to-coast in living rooms and kitchens every day.  The military is seen as red-neck and most parents want their kids to have a different direction in life.  That is proved by the fact so many Americans do not know someone serving in the military.

And it will continue to be that way as long as in the military “sand-monkey” is thought to be a funny term, and those who can quote Thoreau are ‘fags’.

It is essential for the long-term military interest of the nation that a strong and determined signal is sent that the modern defense establishment understands that society has changed, and they need to change too.  Until that happens folks across the nation with a good job (because this is also very much an economic issue) are saying “our kids are going to college, they are not getting into the military.”   It has everything to do with what image they want their family to have, and a deeper sense of what parents want their kids to connect with as adults.

Who can blame any parent for wanting the best for their children?

Front-Pages Show Arc Of History Bending Towards Justice, Gay Rights Move Forward

I always enjoy showcasing a smattering of the front pages of newspapers following a major news event.  Being a newspaper reader since a teenager, and sensitive to the first draft of history by reporters in papers coast-to-coast, means these posts are not only fun but reflective of where we are as a nation.

Today we are in a much better place from the Supreme Court ruling that disallows gay and transgender people being faced with workplace discrimination.  There is still work to do, but a major and powerful ruling has made for a tremendous moment when we all can be proud that the process of our national government can still work for the nation.

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Supreme Court Starts Week With Massive Win For LGBT Community

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As of just a few minutes ago, (as of this posting) it was possible to get married on Sunday and legally fired on Monday, but no more.  In a sweeping 6-3 Supreme Court decision it ruled that federal employment discrimination laws protect LGBT employees. This is a huge decision and a progressive one.  With the victory coming from a conservative court during Pride Month is nothing short of the cake and frosting, too, all being delivered to the nation first thing this Monday morning!

Let cut to the core as to why this matters, and is such a stunning legal victory. Theere is an estimated 8.1 million LGBT workers across the country because most states don’t protect them from workplace discrimination.  This is why is matters to always place the Supreme Court as a topic for election year conversations.  The lives of every-day Americans are always at stake with court actions.

The vote was 6 to 3, with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The case concerned Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex. The question for the justices was whether that last prohibition — discrimination “because of sex”— applies to many millions of gay and transgender workers.

The court considered two sets of cases. The first concerned a pair of lawsuits from gay men who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation. The second was about a suit from a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who said her employer fired her when she announced that she would embrace her gender identity at work.

The first case was filed by Gerald Bostock, a gay man who was fired from a government program that helped neglected and abused children in Clayton County, Ga., just south of Atlanta, after he joined a gay softball league.

The second was brought by a skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, who also said he was fired because he was gay. His dismissal followed a complaint from a female customer who had expressed concerns about being strapped to Mr. Zarda during a tandem dive. Mr. Zarda, hoping to reassure the customer, told her that he was “100 percent gay.”

The cases concerning gay rights are Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., No. 17-1618, and Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, No. 17-1623.

Most federal appeals courts have interpreted Title VII to exclude sexual orientation discrimination. But two of them, in New York and Chicago, have ruled that discrimination against gay men and lesbians is a form of sex discrimination.

Supreme Court To Decide Scope Of Civil Rights Law For Gay Americans

The news Monday was expected, and yet it seemed like every legal move takes forever to occur.  The process does move in a methodical fashion.

News that the the Supreme Court will decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees protections from workplace discrimination for gay and transgender people–in a presidential election year–will be nothing short of a barometer reading concerning how this newly formed set of conservative justices view the rights of gay Americans.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said the 1964 act does guarantee protections for gay people.  My readers will not be surprised that the Trump administration has pushed for the Act to be viewed as not applying to sexual orientation or transgender status.

So bring in the justices to weigh in on the law of the land.   And also bring up the stress level for gay Americans who seek equality and protection under the law.

The cases come down to a central general concept.  Anyone is free to have an opinion, but that person is not free to discriminate on the basis of it.  That seems a very basic and easy to digest summation.

The cases range from a skydiving instructor who said he was fired because he was gay, a  Georgia case being brought by a child welfare services coordinator who said he was fired for being gay, and an employee who was fired from a Michigan funeral home after she announced in 2013 that she was a transgender woman and would start working in women’s clothing.

How we are still doing battle for the rights of people over sexual persuasion and identity is, on the one hand baffling, while on the other hand offensive.  In 2019 when the cases are heard, and in 2020 when the cases are ruled should already be a time when it is most clear that such discrimination is not only illegal, but also immoral and inhumane.   What is wrong with people who think their bigotry should rule?

From a legal perspective I do find credibility with the argument raised last night on a talk show that trying to interpret Title VII, a law passed some 55 years ago, might be problematic when dealing with the issues at hand today–such as with transgender people.   I understand the legal and political jockeying that such a line of thinking takes us.   Because with that line of reasoning comes the need for another new law to prohibit anti-gay discrimination.

That would be a long political chapter to watch unfold.  But it would be far better in the long run to do the hard work and pass legislation than to allow for bigots to discriminate against gay and transgender people, and do so in a ‘legal’ fashion based on some tortured ruling from this conservative court.

And so it goes.

Vote “Yes” On Massachusetts Question 3: Human Dignity At Issue

The facts are very clear to see.  One group in Massachusetts is in favor of human dignity and making sure our nation always moves forward to allow for equality to be broad-based.  Another group seeks to use discrimination as a way to brow-beat and degrade people.

Massachusetts voters on Nov. 6 will be asked whether to uphold a 2016 law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people.  The vote should be the easiest one to cast in the Bay State.  The law has given transgender people freedom to live their lives knowing they have some legal authority to fight discrimination.

A “yes” vote means the law remains and transgender people will continue to be legally protected against discrimination in public places, including convenience stores and bathrooms. A “no” vote means the law is repealed and the legal protection is eliminated.

It would seem from this blogger’s desk from afar–based on polling and Letters to the Editor in various newspapers–that public sentiment is very much with those who wish for the rights of transgender people not to be undermined.

There are always those who wish to undermine facts–and that is surely the case with those who want to repeal the law.  But I am confident that reason, conscience, and facts prevail on Election Day.

There is no evidence that the law poses a danger to public safety when transgender people use bathrooms.  That canard is used only when bigots try to influence low-educated voters.  There is a most credible study conducted by a think tank associated with the UCLA School of Law that found no correlation in Massachusetts between crimes committed in bathrooms and civil rights safeguards for transgender people.

After the chaos of a fact-free Republican administrator in Washington, I stroppily suspect that fact-based voting will be much in vogue this fall.  After all, the voters of Massachusetts do not want to be known as the state an unsafe or unwelcoming place for transgender people.  The voters, I am confident, will consider the needs of people seeking equality over the partisan flavor of those who wish to undermine human dignity.

Trump Plays To Under-Educated Base On Transgender Military Ban

Trump will be creating all sorts of news over the next 48 hours in an attempt to take the public’s eye away from his cash for whore pay-off problems.  They seem to piling up like used cord-wood.

Donald Trump issued orders to ban transgender troops who require surgery or significant medical treatment from serving in the military except in select cases — following through on a controversial pledge last year that has been under review by the Pentagon and is being fought out in the courts.

The memorandum, which drew swift condemnation from gender rights groups, states that while the secretary of defense and other executive branch officials will have some latitude in implementing the policy, “persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — including individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances.”

Just recall that at one point they were doing this type of thing to gay men and women.  We over-came the bigotry.  In years to come history will show this news tonight as just another bump on the highway to social progress.  Liberals always win these wars—battles are just a way to keep people focused and determined.  And then there is victory—like same-sex marriage.