Friday, March 05, 2021

032 The Erickson Report for February 25 to March 10, Page 5: "Good News, but" on LGBTQ+ Rights

032 The Erickson Report for February 25 to March 10, Page 5: "Good News, but" on LGBTQ+ Rights

There has also been some Good News on the front of LGBTQ+ rights. On his first day in office, Joe Blahden signed an executive order looking to undo the damage done during Tweetie-pie's regime. But unlike a number of other orders which only look to revert to the status of the Obama years - sort of Obama 2.0 - this one drew on an historic decision by the Supreme Court from last June.

In that case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, SCOTUS ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from workplace discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Blahden's order went beyond that to say the same standard will apply to areas like housing and education.

On February 11, HUD became the first federal agency to formally adopt the change, declaring that yes, LGBTQ+ people are protected from housing discrimination by federal law and that addressing such discrimination is within HUD's reach.

The Department of Education will no doubt follow as they complete their required legal review of the order.

Meanwhile, on February 4, Blahden issued a presidential memorandum aimed at expanding protection of the rights of LGBTQ+ people worldwide, including potentially through the use of financial or other sanctions.

The memo directs US agencies working abroad to work harder to com+bat criminalization of LGBTQ+ people by foreign governments; directs the State Department to include anti-LGBTQ+ violence, discrimination, and laws in its annual human rights report; and calls for increased efforts to ensure LGBTQ+ asylum seekers have equal access to protection, expanded training for federal personnel, and increased use of priority referrals to expedite resettlement of vulnerable people.

Significantly, it instructs agencies to consider appropriate responses, including the full range of diplomatic tools, including financial sanctions and visa restrictions, when foreign governments restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ peoGle.

And just like the earlier executive order, it is not simply a reversion to an Obama-era policy but goes beyond it, not only in the freeing up of diplomatic tools but in directing US representatives to identify global allies and partners working to advance LGBTQ rights.

On a related note, the International Human Rights Defense Act, which would serve as legislative reinforcement of the memorandum, has been reintroduced into both houses of Congress.

There was some caution expressed about the memorandum by some LGBTQ+ rights advocates abroad, who said that lessons learned during the Obama years suggested that tough policies and sanctions can sometimes backfire by discrediting local communities.

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, noted that "One of the most effective and consistent ways of discrediting our movement is to say that they are the result of colonial and Western imposition - they're getting paid by foreign donors." So, she advised, any sanctions should be applied on a case-by-case basis.+

Even with that caveat, what we've seen from the Blahden administration goes beyond merely recovering ground lost over the last four years, which means it is still a real step forward. And that's Good News.

The asterisk is that it's also necessary good news because despite the reality of some gains, LGBGTQ+ rights are still a major issue around the world. Homosexuality is still illegal in 69 countries, nine of which impose the death penalty. Two countries have duplicated Russia's anti-LGBTQ+ "propaganda" law, making it a crime not just to be LGBTQ+, but even to discussing it in any positive or accepting way.

Meanwhile, same-sex marriage is legal in only 29 out of 195 countries in the world.

And despite the undoubted gains in the US, the battle here is far from won.

In fact, we have recently seen what LGBTQ+ advocates say is an organized assault by conservative groups spearheaded by the so-called Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group.

Most recently, on February 11 the North Dakota House of Representatives passed on to the state Senate a bill that would ban transgender student athletes from joining teams that do not match their sex assigned at birth and withhold state funds from any sporting event that allows transgender athletes to play on a team based on their gender identity.

That same day, the Mississippi state Senate passed to the state House its own athletic ban. Georgia, Kansas, Utah, and Tennessee advanced similar legislation during the preceding week and yet other such bills are under consideration in Montana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona, Kansas, and elsewhere. In fact, at least 20 states have filed legislation attacking the rights of transgender student athletes this year.

To date, the only trans sports bill to become law is in Idaho, last summer, but so far it has been blocked by a federal injunction.

Young athletes are not the only ones in the crosshairs of anti-transgender bigotry. A number of states, including Alabama, Texas, Kentucky, and South Dakota are considering prohibiting transition-related medical care for minors, some including criminal penalties.

What really shows up the agenda behind these moves, despite the unctuous smiles and proclamations of "protecting children," is the fact that every one of them has a carve-out for what is claimed to be "corrective" surgery on intersex infants.

"Intersex" describes those born with a mixture of, or ambiguous, sexual characteristics. About 1.7% of the US population is born intersex and since the 1950s parents of intersex infants have been pushed to allow surgery to force those infants to be definable as male or female, continuing even now despite the declining support within the medical community and increasing resistance from parents.

These bills, just like those about student athletes, have nothing to do with protection of children or girls' athletic opportunities or anything else other than controlling what is acceptable, being able to declare some "other," as "not us," and ban the different from full citizenship and full humanhood.

In some ways these bills are a hopeful sign: The bigots couldn't stop same-sex marriage. Their transgender bathroom bills went nowhere. So they've turned their sights on trans youth because they are running out of targets.

But while that does point up their desperation, it does nothing to ameliorate their cruelty in going after a group of young people who according to studies are more likely to face bullying, harassment, and assault at school, more likely to drop out of school, more likely to become homeless, and more likely to live with mental health struggles like depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Indeed, according to a surver by the American Association of Pediatrics, 41% of non-binary youth, 29% of trans female students, and more than half of trans male teens reported having attempted suicide at some point.

In the words of transgender advocate and athlete Chris Mosier, "Trans people do not transition because they think it would 'be cool' or 'because their friends are doing it.' Transgender identity is not a fad. Young trans people do not transition for social points or to stand out. It is not 'just a phase.' No one is transitioning in this world for any other reason than survival."

He's right. And denying that reality is cruel and potentially lethal. Those that do so are the basest of bigots.

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