The Dye Has Been Cast

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Like many others today, I made my way to the polls to make sure my voice was a part of the cacophony we call democracy. Many view it as a chore but it is also our given right. It’s the chance for us to be a part of a larger collective, to show the government we will be heard and we do matter. This was also my first time voting in Ohio, so there was that added stress. Apparently, not all of Ohio uses the same means for residents to vote, it is county specific. Take Cuyahoga County for instance, we use a scantron method for our votes to be taken. That created its on moment of high school examination dread, when I opened the folder for my ballot.

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Queue the flashback sequence, a la Wayne’s World (party on Garth, Party on Wayne). It would be more apt to say… Pictures it Montgomery County, Virginia November 1992, a small town gay boy makes his way for his first time of entering the booth. Now before you get all pervy on me, I am recalling my first time voting in an election, not a video booth. Sheesh, maybe if you are good we can recount that story, spoiler alert I have never been in one of those booths. Anyway, back to the young boy, going through high school civics/government class we all had training to help man the polls and learn how to use the machines. At that time, Virginia was still using the punch ballot. You essentially would put your card in this machine, line it up, choose your candidates and using a pin push through the paper, and when you were done you would pull a lever to cast your ballot. The machine would reset for the next person. Think slot machine without the payout.

That was nerve-wracking back then, thankfully Virginia now uses an electronic system. Being a Gen X-er, we grew up watching technology evolve, so merging into that type of system wasn’t a hard migration. Moving to Ohio I was unsure what to expect and they didn’t let me down. I decided to vote before work and managed to get there about an hour after the polls opened and took my roommate along for the ride. Of course I grilled him about how it would work, since I hadn’t used a paper ballot since high school. I was expecting a large turn out and it wasn’t bad. The lines moved very quickly and since I screwed up one of my forms I was even able to retrieve a new one and recast in fairly quick time.

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What’s that you say? How could I have screwed up my vote? Well I did mention earlier the flashback to high school examinations with scantron sheets. Early in the morning my eyes haven’t adjusted and have a bit of double vision, combined with this season’s allergies. So, like a good child is known for, I colored outside of the lines. Apparently more than the machine would tolerate. I could joke about an attempt but saying that could be misconstrued and I wouldn’t want Big Brother showing up at home this afternoon.

All in all, we were in and out quickly. Nice to see that things were under control enough to make them move that effortlessly and thank you for the patient people that had to endure me not understanding the intricacies of Cuyahoga County Voting. I just hope that it wasn’t an indication of low voter turnout. I haven’t checked any information for Ohio, as of today, about early turnout versus showing up on Election Day. As of now at 10 am, it’s a bit too early to see any kind of results as to what may be happening. The fate of the country rests firmly in our hands and it’s time to remember that the government should fear its people and not the people who should fear the government. If you haven’t yet, get out there and vote, no matter who or how you choose to vote. Make your voice be heard.

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Sing it from the mountains…

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I can’t stress enough the importance of voting. Recent elections have shown us that deciding factors can be really close and sometimes a few extra votes can swing things wildly. This year is just as important, with it being midterm elections. How we decide to vote, as a people can vastly change how the remaining two years of this Administration play out. For the LGBTQ community, much of the stage for how our rights may be affected hinge on these elections. Many more communities and states are offering up ordinances for the protection of job status for the LGBTQ people and our votes will greatly impact those decisions.

Tomorrow, November 6th is the day to vote. Please make sure you exercise your right to be heard. No matter how you choose to vote, just do it. We live in a word where the very people who run it are trying to pass legislature that will take away basic rights of every individual. They will decide what you can do with your body, what options you have in healthcare or lack thereof, how laws will affect you in the future. Look at each and every item on the ballot for your area and think how you feel about them. If you are unsure of the wording seek help.

Remember, it is important that each of us get the opportunity to exercise our rights to vote. If you are heading to the polls, take someone along with you. Go as a group and make an event of it. Become educated on the issues so you know how and what may affect you. Let your voice be heard. Remember Thomas Jefferson once said, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Don’t let this administration that is so keen to publicly spouse hate rhetoric be the only voice that is heard. It is time we speak out, in unison, to let the government know that we are here and we need to be heard.

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

Toxic Avengers

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What we have to realize is that we currently live in a world that categorically is choosing to take away rights from marginalized communities. You have to understand this based on what we are seeing around us in the media. We cannot sit by and let rich, old, white, heterosexual men make the decisions that affect our very livelihood. Are these the people we want deciding if women have the capacity to make correct choices for their bodies, if being transgender is considered human, or who should and should not have rights. We have fought wars over similar principles.

We have a person in office that cannot speak the truth on any topic that comes out of his mouth. During his campaign, he stood on a stage waving a flag handed to him by someone who was supposed to be of the LGBTQ community stating that Trump was for LGBTQ rights, as shown in the picture below. The two years he has been in office has been one action after another that has shown he has no consideration for any LGBTQ person. By March of this year, the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) had stripped any words of gender from its online documents. Now we know that there is a memo circulating about how this administration wants to make it legal for them to decide what is or is not gender. These same old, rich, white, heterosexual men want to be able to legally decide what gender is to be defined as.

Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag with "LGBT's for TRUMP" written on it at a campaign rally in Greeley

If this memo were to become a new policy it would allow Title IX to have a redefinition that could affect more than just healthcare. We could see it reach into the educational system, public access, job discrimination, and into the legal system. Title IX states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Children, who identify, as a different gender than assigned at birth, would no longer have access to restroom, single sex class education, locker rooms, or any other access based on gender. It would remove any protection that transgender would have for discrimination in their jobs or housing. If you are transgender, it would allow anyone to refuse you service or reasonable accommodation due to someone else’s beliefs or definitions of gender.

We have already seen this administration push to the Armed Services not actively recruit transgender people to serve openly in the military. Four courts had turned down this ban, but the administration enacted it in March of this year. It says that any transgender person cannot serve in the military, openly. The only exception is if they were diagnosed under gender dysphoria, however, there are very few actually fell under this diagnosis. To be able to enlist you cannot have starting any transition process, so in essence you have to enlist as the gender you were born under and must continue to serve as that same gender. If you are transgender and have a diagnosis and are currently serving you are fine but if you do not have the diagnosis there is no clear directive of how it may affect you. In the past we have seen punishments like”lack of promotions, denial of deployment, forced discharge for pretextual reasons used against those that didn’t conform to popular mindset.

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In a country that is supposed to separate church and state, we have witness the Supreme Court side on the rights of a cake shop to refuse service to a gay couple based on First Amendment Rights. Freedom of Religions gives you “Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order.” Yet, the Supreme Court decided that their views could be used to not serve a specific group of people. We have also seen that the Justice Department fully believes that rights of protection should not be afforded to LGBTQ people. If this were allowed to be rule of the land, it would in essence give any employer the right to fire any employee based on “perceived” sexual orientation. That’s important to note due to them not having to have proof of it, only suspected belief, how else could one proves orientation of someone they do not have personal knowledge of.

In the first year of his presidency, we were witness to the Department of Health and Human Services creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. This group was created and put into action to ensure that healthcare workers religious liberties wasn’t affected in having to deal with LGBTQ patients. Part of the Hippocratic oath states “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.” By that very wording it is said that the healthcare provider is not to play God, so by denying someone access to what may be life saving means is making that decision

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Lastly, we saw that the Trump administration fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. This doesn’t affect only the LGBTQ people, but ALL people. Yet the importance of this advisory council doesn’t seem to affect this president. Also there have been numerous reports of moving around funds from the Ryan White Fund to help offset detention camps that this administration started to detain children of “illegal immigrants.”

We have to recognize that this administration is toxic to us. We have to be the ones that make the stand. LGBTQ people have fought for the very frail precipice we stand on and we cannot stop that fight or we will be pushed from it. It is now that we must rally in strength and numbers. It is now we must get out there and make our voices heard. Your voice and vote matters so let it be heard. Show up in numbers, ensure that those who cannot get to the polls on their own have the means to go, and talk your friends and family into voting. To change this tide before it swallows us whole will take each and every one of us. Make your voice known.

Gay-Voting

Voices Carry, Make Sure Your’s Does As Well.

Our current administration has been in office two years and this November 6th marks the midterm elections. This is an important time for each and every one of us. In that two years we have watch LGBTQ legislation that was put into place by Obama be changed and often times repealed. Our voices rise to the very heavens in protest, but are they enough?

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In the last couple months there have been talks coming from DC on how Trump wants to change how transgender people are viewed under our current laws. In short, he is wanting to take away protections based on gender identity and put into place the means to have healthcare, protective status, jobs, public service access, and a host of other services based upon the gender you were born with. With more and more states passing legislation for protective status to LGBTQ people, this will be in direct conflict and allow business and groups who don’t want to support that a mean to circumvent state laws.

The Washington Post posted and article on how Trump wants to redefine how transgender status is interpreted. He says he wants his administration to “seriously” consider changing the way it treats transgender people under the current law, confirming his debate about whether someone’s sex is a biological fact determined at birth. The Health and Human Services Department has also been pushing for a change to the law. Wanting a “fresh and direct aim at transgender rights,” though what is unclear is if they are in support of the alleged Trump reform or for transgender rights. Previous changes made by the Department of Health and Human Services would point to the former.

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These kind of changes as to whether gender identity is the same as biological gender will allow much debate on the protection status of transgender people under current laws. This would allow the government to decide our gender identities, rather than how we view our bodies and ourselves. It is clear that many people feel that the Obama administration overstepped their bounds when they enacted laws to offer protection stations to LGBTQ people. These same people are in support of the Trump administration systematically rolling back these efforts.

Here are just a few of the changes this administration has been making to laws that are already in place.

September 7, 2017 the Department of Justice filed a brief on behalf of the United States arguing for the constitutional right for business to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

October 5, 2017 the Department of Justice release a memo giving DOJ attorneys legal position to not protect transgender workers from discrimination.

October 6, 2017 the Justice Department released a “license to discriminate” that would allow federal agencies, government contractors, and even private businesses to engage in illegal discrimination based on citing religious reasons.

January 18th and 26th the Department of Health and Human Services started putting into place proposals that would allow healthcare workers to discriminate based on religious or moral reasons. In a sense, being able to turn away someone who was LGBTQ simply because their religion doesn’t accept them. So much for the Hippocratic oath governing how doctors are to treat patience.

February 18, 2018 the Department of Education announced it would dismiss any complaints from transgender students that involved exclusion from school facilities. It would also dismiss any claim based solely on gender identity discrimination.

March 23, 2018 the Trump administration implemented a discriminatory plan that would ban transgender people from serving in the military

May 11, 2018 the Bureau of Prison in the Department of Justice adopted an illegal policy of almost entirely housing all transgender gender in prisons that match their assigned birth. This changed existing protections already put into place.

August 10, 2018 the Department of Labor released a directive for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs that would encourage them to grant sweeping religious exemptions to federal contractors with religious based objections to nondiscrimination laws.

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The point of all of this is to state that this administration is working tirelessly to remove any protections that were put into place by the previous administration. This midterm election will have an ability to change the balance of power so that further stripping of protection status and non-discrimination laws will be harder to remove. Every vote matters, your status as a voter matters. Ensure you are registered to vote and then get out there and do it. Get a group together and go vote, take someone with you who may not be able to make it. Ensure that every vote is taken and counted.