One Equal World

The trans symbol painted on the palm of an unidentified individual.

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Zeke Smith, a contestant on Survivor, was recently outed as a trans by another contestant. The intent behind this was malicious, as it was intended to paint him as dishonest and therefore get him kicked off the show. But it didn’t go that way, as the rest of the cast and the majority of the audience saw this as the disgusting act it was: an act of violence against a trans person.

Many trans people choose to keep their gender history a secret because it can be dangerous to come out. It has nothing to do with deception. Trans people face a high risk of being assaulted or even murdered due to their identity. All things considered, it’s pretty understandable that many choose to keep their transition hidden.

But there’s another reason that trans people choose not to come out; it’s because their current identity is the one they see as their authentic identity. A trans man is not a woman pretending to be a man, but a man. It’s not a hard concept to grasp.

This is in sharp contrast to coming out as gay, since many gay men and women view coming out as an opportunity to live their authentic lives. Being in the closet as a gay person means pretending to be something that you are not, but there isn’t a cultural stigma attached to coming out like there is to being trans. The narrative is one of celebrating the authentic life of a gay person, as opposed to feeling deceived by a trans person.

Outing a trans person is an act of violence in that it sets them up for brutality at that hands of other people and strips them of their own agency. Nobody has any right to the knowledge of another person’s gender history, and they sure as hell don’t have the right to announce that history to anyone else, least of all on national television.

A bathroom with a gender sign on it that says, "who cares?"

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Trans bathrooms are a hot button issue right now. Conservative pundits argue that if trans people are permitted to use the women’s restroom, there will be a massive increase in rapes, child molestation cases, and peeping Tom incidents. Even though experts have already proven this notion to be false, this “predator myth” still stubbornly persists despite zero evidence to support it.

What the latest research does show is that not allowing trans people to use the restroom of the gender they identify is incredibly harmful to our children. In other words, the future of society is at stake and it’s up to us to ensure that we create a more inclusive environment for our youth.

The study found that ensuring the safety of trans students in high school bathrooms is essential to providing them with educational equality. Based on surveys of five schools in Michigan conducted in 2014, researchers found that trans students who didn’t feel safe in the bathroom generally didn’t feel safe at school, which could impact their grades and self-esteem.

High school is already a notoriously difficult time, but for trans students trying to figure out their gender identity, it can be even more difficult. What’s more is that high school students have considerably less agency and mobility than adults, which means that when they’re subjected to unsafe conditions, it’s a lot harder for them to do anything about them.

This research comes at an important time, as several U.S. courts are currently dealing with cases related to bathroom access for trans students. This research suggest that even the relatively simple solution of including gender-neutral bathrooms in schools can go a long way towards making these students’ lives a lot easier. That may not address the underlying social problems that make trans students feel unsafe in school bathrooms, but it can help those students get by as we continue to fight for trans inclusion.

A photo of a mosque in Chechnya.

A mosque in Chechnya.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Russia is known for having regressive views towards homosexuality, but the republic of Chechnya (which is part of the Russian Federation) is taking things to another level.

Police there are suspected of having rounded up over 100 men “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” At least three have been killed, though specific details remain unclear.

The round-up began after a gay rights group in Russia applied for permits to march in a different part of the country. Although authorities aren’t releasing much information on the case yet, it’s very clear that Chechnya is not LGBT-friendly.

To give you a little background, Chechnya is a small region in Russia that has long been a thorn in the side to Russian leadership ever since Stalin. The region’s current leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, is known for human rights violations, although until now, gay men were not targeted in large numbers.

Kadyrov’s spokesman, Ali Karimov, denied reports of the action, stating that there are no gay men in Chechnya, and that “it’s impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic.” But he went on to say that if there were gay men in Chechnya, “law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

It’s clear that the government of Chechnya is hiding something, and certainly has no love for its gay citizens. Outright denying these claims, which have been substantiated by several sources (including Russian federal law enforcement) is a weak smokescreen at best.

But claiming that there aren’t even any gay people to oppress, while dismissing them as some kind of pests who would have been killed by their own families, shows a complete lack of conscience on the part of Kadyrov. Unfortunately, the only thing that this proves is that it is still very, very dangerous to be gay in certain part of the world.

The YouTube logo.

Image credit: rvlsoft/ Shutterstock

In its constant push to make YouTube into a mainstream, profit-generating machine, Google has (hopefully inadvertently) started blocking content by LGBTQ+ creators. The introduction of a “restricted mode” for the service is designed to make it more “family friendly,” allowing parents to feel better about their kids poking around YouTube, which can contain a lot of profanity, hate speech, and nudity.

The problem is that somehow or another, the system used to define what is restricted has flagged some videos from LGBTQ+ content creators. The implication seems to be that content by and for LGBTQ+ people isn’t “family friendly,” an outmoded way of thinking for sure.

According to Tyler Oakley, a gay content creator, YouTube is “often the first place many LGBTQ+ youth around the world see themselves and their stories shared and celebrated.” Representation, whether of the LGBTQ+ community or other marginalized groups, is hard to come by in mainstream media.

For the most part, YouTube has, until some recent changes, been a place where anyone can post content and be seen. And while it’s still true that anyone can post content, it appears that not everyone is being seen. This comes at a time when LGBTQ+ visibility is more important than ever before.

For the record, Google has never taken an outward stance against diversity or the LGBTQ+ crowd, so it’s unlikely that the system is flagging such videos intentionally. The system uses “community flagging” and other signals to filter out content. There are literally millions of videos on the platform, so Google uses a software system to streamline the process.

But YouTube is also a place where bigots gather, so it’s entirely possible that somebody figured out that those videos could be blocked by flagging them as inappropriate. It wouldn’t be the first time that trolls abused a system to punish people they don’t like.

Two protesters holding a rainbow flag that reads, "not my president."

Photo credit: Hayk_Shalunts / Shutterstock

The day after Trump was elected, there were people protesting in cities across the country. People were protesting the day after that as well. You’ll also recall the protests that took place in airports across the country after Trump introduced his immigration ban.

It’s likely that this is going to be a mainstay for a while, as people, scared and angry about his winning the election, take to the streets to vent those frustrations. Trump has called it unfair. Giuliani has called the protesters cry-babies. They’re both wrong.

Protesting is a right that we all share as Americans, and when you build your campaign on hate and violence to the degree that Trump has, you have to expect that people are going to protest you. Trump lost the popular vote, yet won the presidency, just like George W. Bush did in 2000.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work. If Clinton had won the electoral college but lost the popular vote, Giuliani and his cohorts would be complaining about it for the next four years and then some.

But despite what anyone thinks, these protests are legal and constitutionally protected. It’s an effective way to show displeasure with the new president, who many Americans have reason to fear. Trump’s campaign, and his supporters, want to deny other Americans a whole slew of civil rights. Fortunately, activists and protesters will never let that happen.

The protests will likely continue for a while, but eventually they’ll come less and less often, as people become accustomed to the “new normal” of whatever Trump’s presidency will entail. That’s when we should start to worry, not now.

Protesting is a sign that people are socially and politically engaged. It is a sign that people are paying attention and that they care about what is happening in the world. How on earth is that a bad thing?

People dressed up as superheroes at Comic Con, Los Angeles.

Comic Con, Los Angeles (2016).
Photo credit: Lauren Elisabeth / Shutterstock

We often think of nerds as the picked-on rejects that band together over common interests such as Dungeons & Dragons or Star Trek. The theme of outcasts coming together is a popular one in fiction, and one that you would think would lead to nerd culture being progressive and inclusive.

And while that may be true for some people and groups, nerd culture has some serious issues with inclusivity. From the toxic nature of so many online video games, to the continued over-sexualization of women’s bodies in art, to nerd culture’s blatant courting of fascism during GamerGate and in support of Donald Trump. Nerd culture has a long way to go before it can actually call itself inclusive.

No one knows this better than EmilÆMaxima. EmilÆMaxima is a transwoman who wrote an essay for The Establishment about her experiences as a nerd before and after her transition.

When she came out and announced that she was transitioning, she was met with a lot of questions about whether she would still play video games or like Star Wars, as if those interests were reserved exclusively for men. She notes that, even though there had been girls in their social circles throughout her life, her friends still seemed to think of women as outliers in nerd culture, as if they somehow didn’t belong.

But she also found that women’s experiences of nerd culture were very different than men’s, and often quite hidden. She quickly learned that there were chat rooms and events that men weren’t privy to, where women could be themselves and not have to worry about being harassed or assaulted. She learned, first-hand, that women have a hard time of it in nerd culture, especially online, where anonymity often emboldens men to act like complete monsters.

Finding acceptance for who we are can be difficult, but it’s essential that we do so. And if ever don’t feel accepted by a certain community, it’s time we change the dynamics of that culture.

An elderly woman at a gay pride festival.

An elderly woman takes part in a gay pride parade.
Photo credit: Ivan Bandura at Flickr Creative Commons.

There are roughly 2.7 million Americans over the age of 50 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and that number of expected to hit 5 million by the year 2060. So why is it that a recent study from the University of Washington’s School of Social Work is the first to actually study this population?

The longitudinal study, called Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, Sexuality/Gender Study, interviewed 2,450 adults aged 50 to 100. The study investigated factors such as race and ethnicity, relationship status, resiliency among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men, and transgender people who served in the military. Researchers found “higher rates of disability, cardiovascular disease, depression and social isolation” among this population, compared to other people in the same age group.

Studies like this are important because they help shed light on an underrepresented population. While the LGBTQ+ rights movement has scored some victories in recent years, the primary focus has been on the younger population. We have to remember that older people should be included in this movement as well. If anything, they should be front and center of it, considering that the previous generations paved the way for the rights we have today.

But we also need to remain cognizant of the fact that populations experience aging (and the medical, emotional, and psychological affects thereof) in different ways. That’s why it’s important to study populations through various lenses and remember that being gay and being old are not mutually exclusive. Information from studies like this allow us to better address the problems of the population in question and also allow us to better plan for the future. Everyone stands to benefit from this type of work, considering that we’re all going to get old someday.