Transgendered Americans historically have been among the most marginalized and persecuted among us, and they still are. Yet, slowly, the country is waking up to the existence of transgendered (TG) people and some degree of acceptance is geminating in the mass culture. The actions of a few, high-profile celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox (the Orange Is the New Black actress) have helped to ease the process forward.
Politically, change is in the air too. President Obama’s Justice Department has interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to apply to TG-Americans. Obamacare basically bans discrimination in health insurance. The Pentagon will lift the ban on trans soldiers. The LGBT movement is taking TG rights seriously, including them in the broader struggle. I’ve read articles that say transgender equality is the next frontier of civil rights.
But, it’s a tough sell to millions of Americans. The transgendered are a small, little understood, and historically despised and feared group. Discrimination is widespread and not at all a social taboo in many parts of the country. Bathroom use seems to freak out some people, especially.
My goal for Monday’s meeting is pretty basic, since I do not know much about this subject myself: A little education. Plus maybe it would be useful to discuss how our society traditionally defines gender and the challenge that TG people pose to this definition. The idea that a person has the right to define for him/herself which gender he/she (rather than have it defined for them by the shape of their genitals and society) is the core moral question, is my understanding. I also would like to get into the politics of TG equality, especially in California. I believe our state has been a controversial pioneer in adding TG to anti-discrimination and public accommodation laws.
Discussion Questions –
- What does being transgender mean? What other terms are used these days to describe the spectrum of gender ID and sexuality?
- How many TG Americans are there, and where and how do they live?
- How bad is persecution? Why does it happen? Why does TGs’ existence bother so many people?
- How quickly are cultural norms of acceptance changing?
- What legal protections exist for the transgendered? Are any of the political demands of the transgendered community unreasonable? What arguments are made in opposition other than just, “ew, it’s gross?”
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
- What does transgender mean?
- Are they “born that way?” Great but long.
- Caitlyn Jenner helps but we are NOT at a transgender tipping point. Recommended.
- The LGBT movement has lagged in taking the “T” seriously.
- Conservative POV:
Next Week: Why are so many people on govt disability programs?