Monday, February 19, 2007

Real ID Act & Its Impact On The Transgender Community

The Real ID Act is set to take effect in May, 2008. Many feel that this law, enacted as a so-called stopgap in the war on terror, is fatally flawed. Firstly, it is another link in the chain of this administration’s campaign to restrict freedom. Wiretaps without FISA approval, the limiting of habeas corpus, examination of financial records of “suspected” terrorists or terrorist sympathizers…executive power, in general, has been stretched and personal freedom for the average American has been limited. The Patriot Act compels libraries to turn over lists of who has checked out books; doctors and attorneys have seen the dilution of confidentiality in that any document transmitted electronically is now fodder for intel.

Over and above the visceral reaction to this intrusion, by the government, into our lives are the practical considerations. What is the basis for thinking that this will present terrorism? There have ALWAYS been ways around the system. Identification cards have been duplicated, successfully, for years, and there is no reason to believe that such will be the case with THIS ID card. Our borders are SO porous…what lends credence to the thought that this act will prevent “homegrown terrorism”. In fact, it can be safely presumed that terrorist cells have already been created and that they are just biding their time.

There is one group, however, that sees the Real ID Act as a major threat: the transgender community. Why is this the case? The rationale behind the Real ID Act is that all forms of ID must “match up”. That includes passports, driver’s licenses, social security cards and birth certificates. Not only must the names match up…so must the gender markers. That means that a TG person who has legally changed her/his name will have to keep the legal name change petition papers on hand at all times. That also means that a TS person who has had gender reassignment surgery, and who has had the gender marker changed on some, but not all, documents, will have to carry all of those documents on their person. Furthermore, by merely carrying these documents with her/him…there is still no assurance that problems will not ensue.

What kinds of problems, you might ask? Without appropriately matching ID, a person can be denied entry into a public…local, state or federal…facility. A person can be denied a National ID card and may be prevented from driving. Someone with an inconsistent set of ID’s may be taken out of line while intending to fly on an airplane. Or, a person in this circumstance may be denied her/his right to vote. These are draconian repercussions, all of which can affect a person who is decidedly NOT a terrorist. It would seem that part of the intent of this Real ID Act would be to alienate and cull out those persons the government believes would potentially subvert the “American Way”. We have already seen that they consider the LGBT community as second-class citizens. This is another attempt to disenfranchise a group who this administration contends will destroy family values.

We still have a year to fight the implantation of this legislation. The State of Maine has already refused compliance. Georgia, New Mexico, Washington, Montana and Wyoming all are moving in the direction of doing the same. If this makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will be the latest in a long history of state’s rights issues. The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly states that any powers not delegated to the Federal Government, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people. There is NO sensible reasoning that would make this a federal issue…not even the Commerce Clause, which I believe would be the only viable method.

This will certainly be contentious, but there is a lot at stake. The rights of the transgender and transsexual communities hang in the balance. We fear our rights will disappear if this Real ID Act actually takes effect. We have a year to let our legislators…state and federal…know how we feel. Speak up now, before you lose the right to do so!!


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Conspiracy Theories and Reality

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I will admit to being the kind of person who is generally susceptible to conspiracy theories. My basic distrust of governments, my disdain for authority, and the ever present trail of breadcrumbs often predispose me to believe that a chain of events was not merely the result of happenstance. I must admit that, once again, I find myself leaning towards an acceptance of a 9/11 conspiracy theory. Yes…I know that there have been many attempts to debunk the prevailing opinion. I have seen “Loose Change”, as well as the arguments against it. I am aware of the “Popular Mechanics” analysis, as well as those of others who have questioned the premises of the “Loose Change” hypothesis. I know there are sill many questions, on both sides of the issue that have gone unanswered.

Two sources provide food for thought in the case of conspiracy allegations. An article by Sander Hicks, entitled “9/11: The Case Isn't Closed”, utilizes reasoning that is VERY persuasive. Even though he does NOT affirm the necessity of accepting each and every assertion made by the conspiracy theorists, he certainly DOES make the case that our government has been duplicitous, at the very least, in the events that transpired on September 11, 2001. One might suspect, perhaps, that this administration’s complicity extends much further than duplicity. The second source is the recent presentation I saw by former federal prosecutor Elizabeth De Las Vega. De Las Vega’s new book, “United States. v George W. Bush, et al”, certainly makes the case for the Bush administration’s perpetration of fraud. These two sources take alternative paths that lead us to the same conclusion, namely that events cast a shadow over the Bush Administration and it’s prosecution of the so called War on Terror and the war in Iraq.

Mr. Hicks’ article sheds light on pre 9/11 connections between the Bush Administration and a host of characters related to terrorists, proto terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. He enumerates many overt and covert connections and relationships, not the least which were those connecting Mohammed Atta with Pakistani funding under U.S. auspices. Able Danger, much discredited, was right on the money, according to Hicks and presumably had established Atta as an alleged terrorist in 2000. Both the CIA and the FBI were aware of this man. Perhaps even more noteworthy, according to Sander Hicks, was an unmistakable and marked relationship between U.S. officials and alleged terrorists and/or sponsors of terrorists. He first mentions Zbigniew Brzezinski and his involvement in Mujahadeen funding and then goes on to describe concerted efforts by the U.S. to foment jihad and jihadists…first in Afghanistan to undermine Soviet war efforts and subsequently with our arming of both Iran and Iraq in the 1980’s.

Sander Hicks then moves his focus to GW Bush, the neocon agenda, PNAC and the connections between the Bush family and Middle Eastern oil. These relationships have historic significance in addition to their contemporary interpretation. There have been business arrangements between Dubya and the Saudis…specifically with his Arbusto Energy andSaudi heavyweight Khalid bin Mahfouz. Mahfouz has been named as one of the largest financiers of jihad, including Bin Laden. Of course, we cannot forget that those Saudis who were in the U.S. at the time of 9/11 received a special dispensation when they were immediately and quietly flown home in planes under the U.S. aegis.

Elizabeth De Las Vega focuses her argument on the domestic connection between PNAC and the Bush Middle East agenda. She does not assert that there have been conspiracies regarding 9/11, but she does make a good case for proving that there has been a pattern of deceit. It might be contended that obfuscation and subterfuge lend credence to thoughts of conspiracy. According to De Las Vega, it is all too obvious that the Bush administration has set into motion those plans detailed in the Project for a New American Century. These consist of U.S. hegemony in the Middle East, the securing of strategic oil reserves in Iraq and elsewhere, and an expansion of executive powers under a President who subscribes to PNAC doctrine. What is more…she makes it abundantly clear that the Bush Administration has knowingly and willingly subverted intelligence…so called cherry picking…in order to make a case for the war in Iraq, despite both CIA and DOF evidence to the contrary. The famous 16 words in the State of the Union speech regarding uranium and Niger comprised nothing less than an attempt to strike fear into the hearts of Americans. And, that has been a consistent theme with this administration…fight the enemy abroad, or we will have to fight them on our shores…stop Sadaam or the smoking gun will be a mushroom cloud…Iraq is the main front in the war on terror, and this war defines the 21st century. Of course, they have made sure to expand executive powers, as outlined in PNAC, and justified that as a mandate set forth in the Constitution and further provided for by the War Powers Act. A pattern had definitely been set and scrupulously perpetuated.

Hicks and De Las Vega are just the two latest in a long line of authors who have penned writings that expose this administration for what it is; namely, the agenda as constructed by those signatories to the PNAC and carried out by Bush, Cheney, et al. Obviously, the Bush Administration is struggling in its attempts to win Americans over to the neocon agenda. Were it possible, I am sure they would like to see more press regarding conspiracy theories because they temporarily change our focus. In fact…I am sure they long for any event that will change the 24 hour news cycle, even if it is just for one cycle. Pressure is mounting; failures are multiplying, and time is running out on this administration. One must assume that Dubya is fighting desperately for a legacy that will not paint him as the worst president in U.S. history. The chances for salvaging his legacy appear dubious at best, impossible when viewed realistically.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Propaganda from the Religious Right

I recently received a forward of a column penned by someone from “Americans for Truth”. Below is the URL:

http://tinyurl. com/ydrwlm

Writings of this nature should give all freedom loving persons pause. The agenda espoused therein is nothing short of an imposition of values from a conservative, or, shall we say fundamentalist, group who would have everyone submit to their iconoclastic and dogmatic rhetoric.

The piece leads off with the following assertion:

“ENDA-Our Freedom Bill and All Top-10 "Gay" Wish-List Bills”

The gist of this vitriolic diatribe is to insist that there is a gay, lesbian and transgender movement afoot, that we are out to “take over” the political arena, and that we must be stopped. Of course, the first piece of legislation to be attacked is ENDA, which this writer euphemistically calls “ENDA-Our Freedom”. Bearing in mind that ENDA stands for Employment Non Discrimination Act, one must presume that those who would prevent the passage of such legislation endorse discrimination in the work place. This is nothing short of Middle Ages thinking. The writer states that all “pro-family” Americans take a stand against this feared bill and protect “family values”.

The following is a direct quote:

“the top of the "gay" wish-list is ENDA, which we are calling the "ENDA-Our Freedom" Bill because it would use federal power to force businesses to support and subsidize homosexuality and gender confusion ("transgender" : think men in dresses, using female

Of course, as a transgender individual, I take great umbrage at the last assertion.

Again…here is a quote of the dreaded top 10 pieces of “anti-family values” legislation:

Top 10 gay bills in Congress

Gay-supportive members of Congress have introduced these bills at the request of gay rights or AIDS advocacy groups in recent years. All of them have died in committee after Republican leaders in the House and Senate refused to bring them up for a vote. The new Democratic-controlled Congress is expected to be more sympathetic toward the 10
bills, but Democratic leaders chose not to place any of them on their agenda for their first 100 days in office.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act: Calls for banning private sector employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act: Calls for giving the federal government authority to prosecute hate crimes based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Military Readiness Enhancement Act: Calls for repealing the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy so that gay male, lesbian and bisexual troops would be allowed to serve openly.

Uniting American Families Act: Calls for amending the U.S. Immigration & Nationality Act to allow foreign nationals who are same-sex domestic partners of U.S. citizens to apply for the same immigration rights offered to foreign nationals who legally marry
U.S. citizens. Similar to the existing law's application to heterosexuals, the bill calls for prosecution of same-sex couples who fraudulently form a partnership to enable a foreigner to obtain immigration rights.

Domestic Partner Health Benefits Equity Act/Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act: Introduced respectively in the Senate and House, the identical bills call for amending the Internal Revenue Code to end taxation of health insurance benefits for domestic partners. Under the current IRS Code, legally married employees do not pay taxes on their employers' contribution to their health insurance benefits that cover their spouses and dependent children. But gay and lesbian employees must pay taxes on similar benefits as if they were ordinary income.

Domestic Partners Benefits & Obligations Act: Calls for providing health insurance and other benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners of federal government employees. Under current law, these benefits are only available to legally married spouses of federal employees. The bill sets various requirements to define a domestic partnership, including an affidavit that the partners live together, are not relatives, are over 18 and are not married.

Clarification of Federal Employment Protections Act: Declares that, "federal employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation" and "[repudiates] any assertion to the contrary." Gay-supportive members of the House of Representatives introduced the bill to overrule a controversial decision by U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch not to enforce a longstanding federal employment policy banning sexual orientation discrimination against federal workers.

Family Medical Leave Inclusion Act: Calls for amending the Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993 to allow government and private sector employees to take leave to care for a domestic partner who has a serious health condition. The bill also would allow medical leave for the care of a same-sex married partner or the parent-in-law, adult child, sibling or grandparent of a same-sex partner who has a serious health condition.

Responsible Education About Life Act: Calls for creating a $206 million federal grant program to award funds to states for comprehensive sexuality education that is not linked to advocacy of abstinence-only- until-marriage. Supporters say the bill is needed
because existing sexuality education programs funded by the federal government are linked to abstinence-only policies.

Early Treatment for HIV Act: Calls for allowing low-income, childless adults with HIV to become eligible for Medicaid coverage before they develop full-blown AIDS. Under current law, people who meet the income requirements for Medicaid are ineligible for the federal health program if they have HIV but are not "disabled" by having AIDS.

I would like to examine these 10 prospective pieces of legislation and show how they use a version of “straw man” arguments to make the case, which have no substantiality in the real world. We will find that the “straw men” are virtually the same in each and every case and that they represent a recognizable pattern. The “straw men”, in this case, are fallacious arguments designed to prey on a population subset’s fears and thereby goad them into taking a discriminatory stance in the name of self-defense.

1) Espousing their opposition to ENDA, it must be obvious that the only reason this is the case is because certain people feel that “family values” would be at risk. How, I ask you, does guaranteeing a person the right to either find employment or not be fired for her/his being a member of the LGBT community affect a person’s beliefs? It is based on the assumption that a person will be subject to some type of brainwashing or mind control if LGBT individuals are allowed to flourish and prosper. One might think that if their family values were strong enough, none of their children could or would be persuaded to become gay, lesbian, or trans. The flaw in this argument is that people do not choose to become gender variant. They just are. That is precisely why their children will not be safe from this abominable lifestyle. Those who believe family values are at risk live in a world dominated by fear, controlled by “what if”. “What if my child is attracted to that lifestyle”, “what if my child were to get AIDS”, “what if my child wants to change her/his sex”. Okay…no one wants to see a family member contract HIV. Other than that, there is nothing a parent can do to keep a child from discovering that she/he has some gender variance or a different sexual preference than they would prefer. It is not within their power to determine and this is the etiology of their fear. It is outside their control. In this case, the fallacious argument is that members of the LGBT community pose a threat to the rest of society. It is generally embellished with the claim that, by asserting our rights, whatever they may be, we are imposing our beliefs upon them. That is certainly a case of misplaced blame.

2) Hate Crimes Legislation. Once again, we see the ugly head of fear rising up. How a person could support brutality and violence, in the name of “family values” defies any rational understanding. We must presume that a person who believes this is so consumed with fear and hatred that it has precluded their ability to think clearly. Regardless of your stance on being lesbian, gay or transgender…how could anyone sanction violence and brutality? Their “straw man” is designed to take the focus from their bigotry and retrain it on the objects of their intolerance. Fear is the vehicle they utilize and it is aimed at those who are sitting on the fence and who have really not taken a stance. The hate promulgated by these fear mongers has the effect of demonizing LGBT individuals and convincing these fence sitters that their lives are in jeopardy. This is utter folly!

3) Don’t ask, don’t tell…another “straw man” issue…creating a fallacious premise and then attacking its credibility. There is no reason to believe that gay and lesbian individuals are any less able to carry out military duty or are suspect regarding their propensity to recruit others into their “gay and/or lesbian fraternity”. Neither does it follow that a person’s sexual preference has any bearing upon their ability to take orders.

4) Immigration rights for same sex couples or transgender individuals or couples…again…Americans for Truth would have these people barred from entry into the United States. Of course…if we cannot tolerate LGBT persons at home, we certainly do not want to give them a chance to emigrate from another country. The same thread runs through each and every one of this group’s arguments. A person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is a second-class human being. In fact…that is even too liberal an interpretation of their argument…LGBT individuals are “abominations” and need to be isolated from the “normal” people. This harkens back to the days of “ships of fools”…floating insane asylums which always remained at sea so as to keep the “crazies” from interacting with the general population.

5) Health benefits for Domestic Partners. One wonders just how this poses a threat to a God fearing, non-LGBT person. I guess we must presume that not only do they not want us to have a right to exist…they want to make sure that we are excluded from any of the financial aspects one might anticipate would be guaranteed us by virtue of our citizenship. Oh...I forgot…we are second class citizens entitled to second-class rights.

6) Other benefits for Domestic Partners. See #5

7) Clarification of Federal Employment Protections Act: The Fundamental Right would have the government allow discrimination, based on sexual preference, in the workplace. The argument here is the same as that for ENDA…LGBT individuals are not entitled to any special protection and employers have no obligation to insulate their employees from harassment. Nor will they be required to treat each and every employee the same when it comes time for advancement announcements or any other situation based on merit.

8) Inclusion of LGBT individuals in federally mandated medical leave provisions, which allow spouses to temporarily leave work when a spouse is ill. The same argument…the second class citizen argument…is again at work!!

9) The end to sex education predicated upon abstinence programs. These have been shown to be discriminatory and inefficacious and certainly do not face the reality of what teenagers think about sex. These “just say no” programs have had other consequences, not the least of which are rhetorical debates as to just what constitutes having sex. The spreading of false information goes unchecked and we allow young people to live in perpetual ignorance.

10) AIDS….of course…the Americans for Truth do NOT want to see those without children and who are not eligible to receive Medicaid at this time get any kind of early help to stem the tide of their HUV status. One cannot imagine a greater negation of compassionate conservatism than the stance they take on this issue.

All in all…the arguments postulated by Americans for Truth or by other groups with similar agendas make the case that certain “other” Americans do not deserve to be treated equally. The reasoning is the same as it was when people of color asserted their rights; or when women asserted theirs. In fact…the LGBT community does not even get “separate, but equal”!! No…we are all morally degenerate, we all have a predilection for sexual predation, and we are all a threat to America’s children. Protect them from LGBT individuals AT ALL COSTS!!

The “straw man” arguments that the LGBT community will be responsible for an increase in the incidence of AIDS in schools, that we, as members of the LGBT community, are all actively recruiting for new members, that everyone knows gay men are more likely to be sexual predators, that transgender male to females want to use a woman’s bathroom to satisfy their sexual appetites, that all God –fearing Americans must stem the tide of this plague lest their children become enamored of this hideous and heinous lifestyle…these arguments are groundless and have no basis in the real world.

Today’s youth, however, represent the light at the end of the tunnel. Their perspective is much further reaching than that of their parents. Fewer of them are possessed of the hatred their parents espouse. The current generation of younger people is showing us that they are made of far sturdier stuff when it comes to diversity, and that many of them are willing to take a public stand for what they believe. They will be our salvation; we need to encourage and foster their sense of tolerance and allow them to give it a voice. Perhaps they will be the ones to put these “straw men” to rest!