Transgender Day of Remembrance Speech

Hello everyone,

This is the speech that I gave at my local Transgender Day of Remembrance event. This year another 226 names have been added to the list of people killed for their gender identity or gender expression. Although it was left unmentioned in my speech, it is critically important for us all to acknowledge that most of this violence happens at the intersections of race, poverty, homophobia, and transphobia. This is not a time to ignore these intersection, but a time to highlight, question them, and challenge society to change them

[Image] A solitary burning candle on a black background

Before I do anything else, I would like to acknowledge that tonight we are gathered on Treaty 6 land, which, before people who looked a lot like me came and violently removed the peoples from this area, has had a long history of understanding and accepting gender and sexuality diversity including two-spirit identities, which I hope we will hear more about tonight.

I would also like to take a moment to thank all of those who helped to plan, organize, and run this event, as well as Miki for being such a gracious hostess tonight. Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank you all for coming out tonight. I realize that events like Transgender Day of Remembrance can be depressing and anxiety-provoking for even the most optimistic of people. But, by being here tonight you all are making a statement. You are showing that you care about what happens to those in the Transgender communities, and you show that you won’t stand passively by as yet more people are attacked, abused, and killed for their gender identity or gender expression. Your presence here tonight shows that the people on this year’s list have not been forgotten, erased, or destroyed. So thank you. For all of those who can’t say it anymore, thank you.

But without further delay, onward to the reason that I am here tonight.

Tonight we have gathered to acknowledge the most heinous of violence against the transgender people and communities; we have gathered to honour those who have been taken by this violence; and we are here to challenge society to do better for us and our transgender peers. As it always is, the list of the dead is far longer than it ever should be. However, being confronted with this list, of people who have been killed, sometimes in the most gruesome and grotesque ways imaginable, can make us forget about all the other, less deadly ways, those in the transgender communities face violence, oppression, and discrimination.

Transgender people, including some of us in this room tonight, have experienced employment discrimination where we were removed from positions, or simply never hired in the first place, because of our gender identity and/or expression. Recently, a survey of 433 transgender people living Ontario found that 18% reported they had been turned down for a job because of their gender while 32% reported being unsure whether their gender influenced the hiring manager’s decision. Further, 13% reported that they had been fired or otherwise dismissed for being transgender.

On average, the transgender people who took part in this survey reported having an education higher than that of the general population, but yet experienced joblessness at a rate nearly 4 times the provincial average. With that, is it any surprise that so many transgender people feel forced to do sex work to survive?

Transgender people also face housing discrimination. In another recent survey, 19% reported being denied the ability to rent an apartment due to their transgender status and 11% report being evicted for being transgender. This same study estimated that transgender people experience homelessness at rates at least double that of the general population, and for transgender youth it is even worse. For these youth, who too often have to face being kicked out of their house by unaccepting family members and guardians, the homelessness rate is nearly 10x that of the general population.

However, housing discrimination doesn’t even end there. In 2008, Jennifer Gale, a transgender woman died in Austin, Texas after being denied access to an emergency shelter. Her death was attributed to the colder than normal temperatures she had to bare as she slept on the street outside the Salvation Army. Jennifer was third such death in 2008 alone.

But that isn’t all. Transgender people also report being sexually assaulted at rates far higher than their non-transgender peers. In one study, it was found that 54% of transgender people had been sexually assaulted at least once, while others suggest a more realistic estimate is between 45-51%. This is at least double the rates that are considered ‘an epidemic’ by sources such as the Globe and Mail, Mother Jones, and The New York Times.

With all of this bad news, it should come as no surprise that transgender people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, social anxiety, phobia, and other mental health problems than their non-transgender peers. As a result, transgender people attempt suicide at rates much higher than the general population. In fact, it has been estimated that between 34% and 45% of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once, and even these numbers are dwarfed by those reported by the two-spirit communities.

So, while the names on this list seem so disconnected from us, here, in this room, I ask you tonight, tomorrow, and every night after to remember the reasons we have gathered, to call for changes that would leave this list empty, and leave those of us in the transgender communities protected, locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally.

Thank you.

Weekly Reader: October 18

Let’s be honest, sometimes anal sex is going to hurt.

There is a fetish for everything, and every fetish has a name. Like sideromophilia.

Sex-positivity is more than just an approach to sex, it is an approach to life too.

Sex education is about more than just sexual activities, it is also about the complexities of the people involved in those sexual activities.

Just WTF is sexuality anyway?

I have a question: Are you a slut?

Critical Reading Time! The Canadian Women’s Foundation released a report on sex trafficking.

The always amazing Thomas Millar educators us, yet again, as to why we can’t simply blaming alcohol for sexual assault.

Yet another thing that Focus on the Family completely misunderstands: Sex Education

Anxiety can ruin all the things, including sexytimes. Don’t let it.

Some desperately needed sex advice by two amazing poets.

Perhaps a better title for this is: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Receiving Cunnilingus

Before rushing into an open relationship there are some do’s and don’t’s you should know

Sex Education starts at child birth, whether you like it or not.

Good to go is an app to document consent… that could exonerate more rapists than it helps convict

Resource Guide: Asexuality

List: Of Yes/No/Maybe Checklists

[Reaction Paper] The Queer Theory of Heterosexism

Hello again everyone,

It is time for a bunch more reaction type papers! Yay! Aren’t you excited!? Because I sure am! (Gah.)

Anyway, this time rather than watching movies in class and then having time to write about them afterward, we are being assigned readings on a specific social issue each week. The first week (which I have finished already) was on prejudice against Aboriginal peoples. The seminar on this was presented by the professor of the course. The rest of the seminars will be presented by the students. This week it is my turn to present for the class, but I still need to read and react to the readings assigned by the other student that is presenting after me. Her readings are below.

Of particular interest this week is the second reading which is explicitly focused bringing Queer Theory into the practice of Counselling. 

Reading List:

van Gelderen, L., Gartrell, N., Bos, H. M. W., van Rooij, F. B., & Hermanns, J. M. A. (2012). Stigmatization associated with growing up in a lesbian-parented family: What do adolescents experience and how do they deal with it? Children and Youth Services Review, 34(2012), 999–1006.

Smith, L. C., Shin, R. Q., & Officer, L. M. (2011). Moving counselling forward on LGB and Transgender issues: Speaking queerly on discourses and microaggressions. The Counseling Psychologist, 40(3), 385-408. doi: 10.1177/0011000011403165

Considering my interest in sociological and feminist theory, it should come as no surprise that the article by Smith, Shin, and Officer (2011) captured my interest and started me thinking. Of course, this is because, in this article, the authors explicitly invoke Queer Theory in an attempt to offer fledgling counsellors new, more effective ways of addressing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT or Rainbow) clientèle in an appropriate and affirming manner. In doing so, the authors use an example of a counsellor who is meeting a cisgender, gay male client for the first time. The client appears to be experiencing some distress arising from his relationship with his transgender partner. After this first meeting, it is clear to both that things didn’t go at all well. The authors use the rest of the paper to de-construct, analyse, and discuss the actions of the counsellor, and how these actions may have portrayed negativity or ignorance rather than positivity towards the intersectional standpoint of the client.

Although Queer Theory is often referred to as dense and obtuse, even by experienced academics, the authors did a wonderful job of making their analysis clear, concise, and approachable. The authors accomplish this through winding their way through the analysis slowly, taking one step at a time. In this way, the authors lead the reader deeper into the applications of this complex theory without diving into (or being bogged down by) the depths of its finer points. This, while disappointing to the experienced reader of queer theory or post-structuralist literature, is ultimately of great benefit to the average reader of the article.

Further, through expertly framing the narrative of the article, the authors cover more advanced concepts of queer theory without explicitly mentioning the theory or the tenets thereof. Instead, the authors rely on their use of literary assumptions, and the readers desire to tie the entirety of the work together, to accomplish this. However, the implementation of this method of avoidance means that the authors never actually addressed their underlying assumptions in the article. Because of their skill in this regard, this may not have actually contributed to the confusion of the readership, though it very well could have. This is because many of the assumptions made throughout the article ran counter to those that make up our daily experience.

Nevertheless, the use of this framing allowed the authors to explain (without actually explaining) the mutualistic relationship between hegemonic discourse and the structural oppression that it reproduces. In the context of the article, this implicated gender and sexuality in perpetuating the oppression that those in the Rainbow communities suffer under. Taking this to its logical end, the authors argue that the mere existence of gender and sexuality as hegemonic identity classes birth, support, and reinforce heterosexism, cissexism, homonegativity, and transnegativity as we in the Rainbow communities experience them.

This notion that identity classes, through their very existence, actively recreate and support structural oppression—despite not being stated explicitly in the article—truly strikes at the heart of queer theory. In fact, many argue that this is the tenet which the entire theory is built around. If not, it is most certainly one of the points that the theory hinges on, and one which attracts much of the debate. And, realistically, there is much debate to be had at this point.

However, to claim that the debate is truly about whether or not identity classes should exist at all would be doing the debate, or queer theory more generally, a great injustice. As with most things, the actuality of the situation defies simplicity. Even the article seems to acknowledge this, as it both calls for the dissolution of hegemonic identity classes while endorsing them through their continued proliferation in the text.

This makes the reality somewhat complicated, as it isn’t so much the identity classes themselves, but rather the hegemonic nature of these classes, that create and facilitate structural oppression; a point made clear in the writings of Foucault. This means that, so long as the hegemonic aspects of these identity classes are removed, the identity classes themselves can stay. However, as is also made clear throughout Foucault’s writing, this is not a task easily accomplished. Rather, given our propensity to create hegemony through the selective inclusion or exclusion of members of our peer group, the argument to end hegemonic discourse and the argument to end identity classes are, at least at this point in time, functionally the same. To many, this is inherently problematic.

As much as hegemonic identity classes allow for the creation of structural oppression, they also allow for the construction of culture and shared experiences. Knowing that someone else belongs to the same socially oppressed class as yourself allows for a connection that isn’t possible without this knowledge. This bond is something that those in the overclass cannot and do not experience. This is, in part, due to the discourse of the other that reinforces and perpetuates social dominance through leaving the dominant identity unnamed, but also because the impetus for this connection is simply not there.

For those suffering under societal oppression, the need to cling together, develop culture, and find solidarity is very real. The stakes are simply too high not to. Those without the support system to counter this ever-present, top-down pressure are crushed into cultural assimilation. This obliterates the pride that comes from the development of the culture of the oppressed and replaces it instead with shame, self-policing, and internalized oppression. This becomes a self-destructive spiral, which feeds off both the continued pressure towards cultural assimilation and the inability of the person to ever fully assimilate.

For those with the cultural supports that comes with finding community around one’s oppressed identity class, these negative results can be largely avoided. What’s more is that positivity can start to take hold and personal strength and resilience can flourish. Tying this back to the topic at hand, this may help to elucidate the findings of van Gelderen, Gartrell, Bos, van Rooij, and Hermanns (2012).

In their study of adolescents born to lesbian parents, they found that stigmatization based on their parents sexual orientation was common; However, for the most part, the adolescents were able to handle these stigmatizing situations through the deployment of the adaptive coping mechanisms. If these adolescents, through finding other children in similar situations or with similar identities, had developed community pride and a community culture around their shared experiences with oppression and marginalization, this could explain the ability for these adolescents to deal with this negative attention in such positive ways.

Without the positivity of this community pride and community culture arising from the negativity that is oppression and marginalization, it is hard to say what would have happened in the case of these adolescents. Perhaps they would have still shown these positive attributed in dealing with these stressful and unnecessary aspects of growing up. But at the same time, perhaps, without the hegemonic identity classes that pigeon-holed their mothers and, by extension, them, these negative experiences wouldn’t have existed in the first place. Whether this would make for stronger or weaker adolescents, or whether this would make for a truly egalitarian society, free of oppression, marginalization, and discrimination, it impossible to really tell.

The Rape of Alice: An Exploration of the Abuse in The Killing of Sister George

* * * TRIGGER WARNING :: Depictions of Abuse, Stalking, Rape, and Homonegativity * * *

Hello again!

For one of the courses that I am taking at University, I have been tasked with writing 6  reaction papers over the course of the semester. Many of these take the form of psuedo- film reviews, where my reaction is to a film that we watched in class. The first of these was to the film Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). This was not published here as, well, I didn’t think about it at the time. This, the second reaction paper is in reference to The Killing of Sister George (1968). However, before I begin with my write-up, I just want to point out again that there is a trigger warning on this post, as well as on the movie being referred to, for depictions of rape, stalking, abuse, and homonegativity and discussions thereof. Please tread carefully and remember self-care.

[Image] A person with painted nails holding up a card saying "It's NO until I say YES without coercion"The Killing of Sister George (1968) contained quite a few problematic elements. Ranging from conflation of femininity with infantilism to the complete inability to resolve the plot, the movie seemed quite content to make wild, unfounded generalizations and then leave the audience hanging. However, perhaps the most problematic elements of the movie did not lay in the mechanics of plot development or basic storytelling, but instead with the depiction, and implicit normalization, of manipulation, abuse, and rape within lesbian communities of the time.

These themes were almost omnipresent throughout the film, but were mostly tied to those who took an interest in Alice ‘Childie’ McNaught. From the very first scene, it is shown that the relationship between June ‘George’ Buckeridge and Alice is one marked by alcohol, control, and abuse. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, June is aggressively questioning Alice about who she has been drinking with, as if an empty glass on the table is an indication of sexual indiscretion. Despite this concern being quickly dispelled, June follows up by once again accusing Alice of sexual impropriety, this time with her boss at work. This leads into one of the most awkward and blatantly abusive exchanges in the movie when June screams at Alice “If that’s what he’s like, then why hasn’t he had a go at you?” This is quickly followed up by June exasperatingly adding “No one ever tells me anything” to Alice’s assertions that she is being honest, forthright, and true.

This seemingly confused behaviour on the part of June seeks to throw Alice off balance and pressure her into a certain pattern of responding. This is shown more clearly later in the film when June unexpectedly shows up at Alice’s work to find that her boss is not the sexy, suave, lady-killer that she was expecting, but rather an older, married, Jewish man. In this scene, June insists that Alice lied to her about the sexual appeal of her boss; However, Alice did no such thing. Rather, she gets pressured into responding in the affirmative simply to defuse the anger that was being directed her way by June. This pattern of denial, followed by continued abuse, and finally complete surrender is one that repeats itself throughout the film, and a truism of long-term abusive relationships: learned helplessness.

Alice isn’t the only person to be a recipient of June’s abusive behaviour, however. Rather, this list includes a pair of random nuns in the back of a taxi, as well as the entire cast and crew of the BBC soap opera June was working on. In both of these cases, alcohol fueled her exploits, leading June to act inappropriately. With her peers on the set of her soap opera, June simply hurled abusive barbs at those members of the cast she didn’t appreciate. However, with the nuns earlier in the film, it is suggested that June sexually assaults either one or both of these women, a fact that she uses to taunt Alice later on.

As with many abusers, June also shows a history of abusive, consent violating behaviour. In a scene detailing how June first met Alice, June recounts the story of how she stalked Alice, violated many of her personal boundaries, and even took a piece of her property as a souvenir, all prior to even speaking a word to Alice herself.

June: That takes me back years. When I first met you…

Alice: That awful boarding house.

June: You know, for weeks I watched you come and go, and I never spoke a word to you. Every morning, you set off for work punctually *giggle* at 10 past 9. You were always in such a rush.

Alice: I had no idea you were watching me.

June: Then, one night I went into the bathroom just after you had had a bath, and the mirror was all steamed up and the bathmat was all wet and glistening where you’d be standing on it. And, there was a smell of bath crystals and talcum powder. It was like an enchanted wood. And I stood quite still on the bathmat in your footprints and then I noticed that you’d left your comb behind, it was a pink plastic comb and it had your hairs in it and I kept that comb as a souvenir. And all that time, I’d never spoken a word to you.

This extreme example very much mimics the way that abusers and rapists choose their victims. They often violate social norms and minor personal boundaries as a way of testing whether the victim would be likely to rebuff their advance or challenge their presumed power. If these small invasions are successful, the abuser moves to larger boundary breaches and more controlling behaviours. Often, by the time the victim realizes what is actually going on, the abuser is far too close or far too connected to push them from their place of power and control. [Dick pictures as minor boundary breaches]

This entrapped nature of abuse, and the random, often unpredictable nature of the abuser pushes the victim in to a state of learned helplessness, much like that exhibited by Alice. In this, the victim often surrenders to the abuse, even when it is over things that aren’t factual or believable, simply because they know that correcting the abuser will only make matters worse. With this in mind, the sex scene at the end of the movie begins to look less like a failed attempt at romanticism and more like a new abuser using the learned helplessness of Alice to take a place of control and power. At the beginning of this scene, Mercy Croft places her hand on Alice’s breast, Alice pushes her hand away, not once, but twice, Mercy continues to push Alice’s limits until, finally, Alice gives up, “allowing” Mercy to do as she wills.

This pattern of learned helplessness does not imply consent; However, in the many years since the films release there is little to no discussion about how the sex scene at the end of the movie may actually be an act of rape. This may be because of general perceptions of rape as a wholly violent act, against a thrashing, fighting, completely unwilling victim. Patterns such as the one described with Alice are often not only discounted from rape discourse, but actively eroticized by generations of romantic comedies. This, along with the passing reference to a sadomasochistic relationship between June and Alice, offers real life people who act like June and Mercy social license to operate. This allows them to use the benefit of the doubt created by “gray rape” romantic comedies, and other aspects of rape culture, to continue their track record of manipulation, abuse, and rape.

Considering that Alice, June, and Mercy are the only developed lesbian characters, and given that not one of the three of them is a positive, strong role model (to say the least), it is safe to say that this film, much like Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) is highly homonegative. Further, since many of the major character flaws present within Alice, June, and Mercy can be tracked back to stereotypes and beliefs about the butch/femme dynamic of lesbian relationships (butch as sexual and physical aggressor, femme as childish, innocent, and passive), the film actively supported the hatred, fear, and misunderstanding that surrounded lesbian women and gay men at the time.

Gender-blind

Hello Everyone~!

This is the first blog post that I am shamelessly stealing from my academic pursuits. This is something that I am working on a the moment, and I always find that drafting things in a “blog” format is easier than drafting things in an academic format. So, I am going to go through the process of drafting a piece that I am working on, publishing it here, and editing it to make it fit the more academic format that is required of it. I do hope that you enjoy!

Please remember that this is a first draft!

[Image] Figures for men and women in blue and pink. Some men are in pink, some women are in blue. Text in the middle reads "True Love is Gender-blind"

Gender-blind

“Gender-blind,” as it sounds, is a term that is used to describe a person, policy, or service as being blind to the gender of others. In this, the person, policy, or service attempts to communicate an unbiased reaction on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. However, this disinterest towards gender comes across very differently based on whether it is a person or service which claims to be gender-blind.

Gender-blind as Identity

As an identity, the term “gender-blind” lies somewhere between the notions of pansexuality, or panromanticism, and pomosexuality. This is because, much like pansexuality, describing oneself as “gender-blind” acts as a way to tell others that one is sexually or romantically interested in people of all gender identities or gender expressions. However, where pansexuality explicitly allows for sexual relationship with members of all gender identities and expressions, being gender-blind claims to be unaffected or disinterested by the gender of their potential partner, implying an allowance for relationships with members of all genders.

As these terms are so close in their meaning, it is common for people who identify themselves as pansexual to also describe themselves as gender-blind. This is not to say that these terms are simply interchangeable, however, as one could be gender-blind without identifying with pansexuality or vice versa. This is exactly the case with aromantic asexual people. For people with these identities, there may be a disinterest demonstrated towards gender expressions and identities of potential sexual and romantic, but only because of their lack of desire in having romantic or sexual partner at all. Further, those with demiromantic or demisexual identities may also endorse being gender-blind, whether or not they have also endorsed a panromantic orientation.

Likewise, gender-blind, as an identity, overlaps with pomosexuality, or the “erotic reality beyond the boundaries of gender, separatism, and essentialist notions of sexual orientation” (Queen & Schimel, 1997). This deconstruction of the assumptions of, and around, gender boundaries is something that is inherent within the concept of gender-blindness. People with this identity often question the relevance of the gender divide in many aspects of life. This especially true with regards to sexual realm, but some may also find it pertinent to support gender-blindness in policy and services as well.

Gender-blind as Public Policy

From a public policy and social service perceptive, gender-blindness takes on a slightly different reality. Rather than being about opening oneself up to the possibility of having romantic and/or sexual partners of many different gender identities or expressions, gender-blind public policy seeks to remove gender from the determination of provision of services. To this end, gender-blind programs attempt to provide services to the population without regards to the gender of the recipients of said services.

This type of formal equality (treating all people the same, regardless of circumstance) is not typically a problem when there are few barriers to people of any gender accessing said services. However, as the number of barriers to access increase, so does the potential for gender-blind services to neglect the needs of people of a certain gender identity or expression. While this may sound straightforward in theory, in practice, it usually is not. This is because, often, barriers to accessing services are not readily apparent or readily connected.

Take, for example, the complex issue of access to healthcare. In countries without socialized medical systems, the largest barrier to accessing the healthcare that one requires is their access to the finances to pay for this treatment. However, even today, this economic freedom is not afforded to men and women equally. This is especially true considering that women are still disproportionately taxed with the costs of money and time to raise and care for children. These additional costs place women at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing healthcare services, and preventative services in particular.

Further, healthcare services often completely ignore the experiences of people with other gender identities or expressions. This leads to doctors who lack the knowledge or the comfort level to deal with these patients appropriately or adequately. This makes it hard, if not impossible, for these patients to access the healthcare that they require.

Perhaps the European Commission (2013) on gender equality summarizes it best: 

Gender blindness is the failure to recognise that gender is an essential determinant of social outcomes impacting on projects and policies. A gender blind approach assumes that a policy or programme does not have unequal (even if unintended) outcome on women and men.

The Reason I Refuse to go Stealth

[Image] Stealth, as written on a hockey stick

Photo by:Andrew Jensen

Going stealth is something which a lot of Trans* people strive for at the beginning of their transition. They hope, as many would, that never bringing up the fact that they were assigned to the wrong sex category at birth would make their life much easier somehow.

I was one of those. When I first started transitioning, I felt that the end goal was to be fully female (whatever the hell that means). I thought that, at the end of my transition, I should be able to just stop mentioning that I was Trans* and fade into the background. I thought that I would just be able to live my life, as just another woman, without being hated or discriminated against because of who I was. I mean, I even lied to my first boyfriend about it. (A story for another time)

Today however, I am of a completely different mind. I have been in the process of transitioning for over 5 years now and, if I wanted to, I could probably go stealth.

I just don’t want to anymore.

It isn’t because I don’t think my life would be any easier if I just stopped talking about being Trans*, I know that it almost certainly would. Instead, it is because I now feel that it would be selfish of me to go stealth.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don’t think it is inherently selfish to go stealth. There are a lot of reasons to make that decision, for or against, and some of them are really good ones. Personal and familial safety are two of the biggest of those, and I would never fault anyone for doing what they need to to survive.

However, for me, I feel as though it would be. You see, I am rather lucky for the most part. I live in Canada (a white, mostly progressive country) as a white, young, passable Trans* person. I do not get threats or harassment while walking down the street. I don’t get told that I am not allowed in Rainbow safe spaces or Women’s Only spaces. I don’t get picked on or made fun of because of the way that I look.

The only time that I get blow back for being Trans* is when I out myself.

This just isn’t true for many Trans* people in my community or even for many Trans* people in the larger Trans* communities. For many Trans* people, they don’t have any choice but to not pass. It isn’t due to any failure of their own, but rather a failure of their genetics or their current situation. However, as a result of no indiscretion on their part, they are thrown into the role of being the public image of the Trans* community.

In this role, these members of the Trans* community have their body and actions policed. Everything they do, everything they say, is assumed to be generalizable to the entirety of the Trans* community. They are forced, often without the knowledge or ability to do so, to defend the Trans* community and all of its members.

And, in choosing to be stealth, as a privileged person with little risk of societal reprisals, I am condoning the mistreatment of those who can’t hide from society’s abuse and harassment. I am choosing to relegate my knowledge of the Trans* communities and the experiences I have gained throughout my transition to the dustbin, never to be used again.

And, that just isn’t fair.

That isn’t fair to me or my narrative. That isn’t fair to the Trans* community. That isn’t fair for the larger Rainbow communities. It just isn’t fair for anyone.

So, for that reason, I actively choose, as I hope to always do, to use my privileged position within the Trans* communities to advocate, fight, and rally for the inclusion of all Trans* people in society. And, I actively choose not to hide or to force the others around me to create my narrative for me.

DOMA Didn’t End, It Wasn’t Struck Down, and Stop Saying That It Was

Unless you have been living under a rock the last couple of days, you likely know that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) recently struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, if you have been reading about the decision in many online sources, you may have been misled.

In many of the news outlets that I have been looking at over the last 48 hours, I have seen one HUGE mistake being reported again and again. This mistake is news outlets reporting that DOMA has been repealed or struck down.

[Image] Now that DOMA'S dead, will Obama and Clinton take fight to Illinois[Image] Obama hails court decision striking down DOMA[Image] Court Overturns DOMA, Sidesteps Broad Gay Marriage Ruling[Image] Dems voted for DOMA, cheered its end[Image] How the end of DOMA will affect Obamacare, Federal Employees[Image] Same-sex couples cheer DOMA's demise

 

Sadly, this isn’t what actually happened. The ruling that the SCOTUS handed down did not strike down the entirety of DOMA, but rather, the ruling struck down a specific section within the larger law. Specifically, the ruling by the SCOTUS struck down Section 3.

    (a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`Sec. 7. Definition of `marriage’ and `spouse’

    `In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.’.
    (b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 6 the following new item:
        `7. Definition of `marriage’ and `spouse’.’.

Assuming that your legalese is up to scratch, you know that Section 3 of DOMA was the section of the law that was being used to stop same-sex couples (i.e. those who have been legally married in a state which allows same-sex marriage) from accessing the same benefits that are given to heterosexual couples. So, by striking down this section, the SCOTUS paved the way for a lot of really positive things… in the states that have legal same-sex marriage.

In these states, the federal government can no longer deny access to the benefits of marriage based on the fact that the marriage is between two members of the same-sex. This means that, unlike the day before the decision, immigration, pension, healthcare, and tax benefits have to be extended to same-sex couples in the same way that they are in heterosexual couples.

Needless to say, this is great news, even if it only truly impacts a select subset of the LGBT subset of the population of the US.

However, what would have been ever greater news would be if the entirety of DOMA was struck down. If this were the case, not only would Section 3 (the federal ban on benefits) be removed from the books, but so would Section 2.

    (a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 115 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding after section 1738B the following:

`Sec. 1738C. Certain acts, records, and proceedings and the effect thereof

    `No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.’.
    (b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 115 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1738B the following new item:
        `1738C. Certain acts, records, and proceedings and the effect thereof.’.

This section of DOMA is the section that bars the federal government from enacting any legislation that would open the ability to marry up to same-sex couples. Basically, it makes it so that same-sex marriage, as it is at the moment, must be won on a state-by-state basis.

Should this section had fallen to the pen of the SCOTUS as well, the federal government could have, and likely would have, drafted a bill aimed at making same-sex marriage legal nationwide. While this would not have likely been successful (as you could imagine given the Republican controlled House), it would have almost definitely been stalled for the remainder of the Obama presidency, giving the Democrats strong political fire power come election time.