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Community Relationships and Trans Rights

After more than a year of gridlock, corruption, and political scandals under the Trump Administration, the reinstatement of the civil rights and protections for transgender people established by the Obama Administration, which the Trump Administration has promised since before January of 2017 to dismantle, may now appear less pressing than, for example, critically damaged relationships with foreign powers or the near-disintegration of funding for social programs that the Republicans oppose.

These are not niche issues. No expansion or curtailment of any social group’s rights and protections affects just that one group. The removal of the hard-won rights of marriage and of protection from discrimination in the fields of employment, education, housing, and healthcare such negations damage relationships between all people. The ability to commit acts of indiscriminate violence with impunity, or even the license to stigmatize an individual on the basis of discomfort with some immutable aspect of their identity, undermines communities’ trust in the essential beneficence of their local governments—and their police power..

Transgender people face violence, betrayal by our families, and community shaming that drives some to self-destructive behavior. Yet we still lack the definitive government protections that could help prevent the dissolution of our biological and chosen families, the theft of our opportunities, and the violation of our personal autonomy. The Trump Administration has done nothing but teach trans people, young and old, that our lives and contributions mean nothing, and that our existence threaten those around us. These lies tarnish the reputation of all inhabitants of a free society, however nominal that freedom may be.

My respectful request of Indian Springs faculty and students is this: as we work, travel, and study in this country and abroad this summer, even when these social issues do not confront us and we do not feel the need to reexamine ourselves, our relationships, or the systems in which we operate, let us please not forget that somewhere, someone is being targeted just because they are trans or gay or black or undocumented--and that the pain inflicted on them is no less shocking or worthy of intervention. Remember that everyone has agency except when systematic or individualized violence removes that agency, and that those with agency have the responsibility to restore agency to those without it.

No person exists as provocation. Even if being trans were a choice--which it is not--failing to conform to a standard of a standard so exacting and arbitrary as the connection between gender and sexual characteristics does not constitute a personal failure. Instead, it reveals a failure as a society to confront our own hypocrisy and inflexibility.

--Sam St John '18