Genocide is not exactly a word on the lips of most people these days. In fact, it is a topic often ignored or pushed aside unless someone has a personal interest or connection to the atrocities. But as much as we want to think it doesn't happen in the modern age, we can no longer be that blind.
The history books have countless examples of the intentional destruction of particular peoples and how it has been a plague on the Earth for thousands of years. In the 20th Century alone, we saw the mass slaughter of men, women and children in Europe, Asia and Africa. As recently as 2003, the world watched as nearly 400,000 people were killed in Sudan. These numbers should shock and horrify any reasonable human being, but there are lives being lost to a genocide in progress, right now, not just around the world but right here at home.
After the atrocities of World War II, the UN General Assembly ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 after two years of work. As part of that declaration, genocide has defined any of the following acts that are committed with the intent to “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including: (a) killing members of the group (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Sadly, in today's world, these very acts are still being carried out, yet as history has shown, the perpetrators are blind to the damage and destruction they are without question culpable. Just as in the past, religion is being used in a present day genocide.
The right wing extremists, now under the guise of Evangelicalism, are not new to the Christian church. From the 15th through the 17th centuries, there were those in the church that brutally prosecuted and murdered any where from 600,000 to upwards of 9 million men, women and children world wide including here in North America. In 1484, two men, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, among others, allegedly received full papal approval to hunt down, prosecute and punish those they believed were guilty of practicing witchcraft.
Now witchcraft was not the only thing you could be prosecuted for during those dark centuries. For simply challenging the Church and the dogma of the times, one could be arrested for heresy. By the very act of questioning the currently held beliefs, there were those in the Church that prosecuted thousands of people and burned them at the stack.
At that time, science was just beginning to make inroads to explaining the world around us. The Church staunchly resisted the scientific community and branded many, including Galileo, as heretics. The common belief in those times was that any unexplained illness, malady or variation from the status quo was seen as magic and thus a product of the Devil.
If you think that these archaic ideas are far from reality today, think again. For those in the transgender community and their allies, they are all too real. Mack Major, self proclaimed social media evangelist and author of Hedonism: Destroying Demonic Sexual Strongholds, states “Just be aware that this tremendous push to normalize homosexual/bisexual and transsexual behavior is more evidence that the appearance of the anti-Christ is near. It is evidence of an old ancient devil-worshiping religion making a comeback in so-called 'Christian' America.” He also states, “Transsexualism and bisexuality is promoted as openly as it is today because these as characteristics and trademarks of the Devil's very own nature.” - hmm – product of the Devil you say? Sound familiar?
Mainstream Evangelicals have also chimed in as well. In 2010, Jeff Johnson from Focus on the Family has continued to ignore modern medical documentation and stated that being transgender is a product of Satan. “Satan, our enemy, hates God, and wants to deface God's likeness wherever he can. We are all sinners, deeply impacted by our own sinfulness and enmity toward God, by the sins of others and by life in a fallen world. Gender confusion is one example of human brokenness... Individuals are male or female. People can't 'transition' from one to the other. I haven't seen a third human gender discovered, and humanity is not 'multi-gendered.'”
Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson is not alone in his views. Rev. Franklin Graham, son of World renown Rev. Billy Graham, has adamantly opposed any LGBT non-discrimination legislation and spoken at length against the LGBT community. He has spoken repeatedly that gay or transgender people are not Christians as well as anyone who supports the LGBT community.
Though none of these men or the Southern Baptist Convention who preach that transgender identities don't exist, have outwardly promoted the prosecution, persecution or killing of transgender people, their ideals have none the less helped whip up the anti-transgender panic and perpetuate anti-transgender sentiment in America and around the world. Remember one of the factors in genocide is causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group”. If you think that mental harm has not been done to the Transgender community, you have to go no further than the use of conversion therapy on LGBT youth and adults to see the harm that cultural transphobia can cause.
But one does not have to be a victim of conversion therapy to have been dealt a harmful blow by conservative Christian rhetoric and attitudes. The American Psychological Association stands by the fact that the simple act of affirming an individual's true gender identity has a positive mental affect and by rejecting it, serious harm can be done to someone's mental health. Such harm that approximately 42% of trans people have attempted suicide and countless more have lost their lives with the world never knowing their struggle for acceptance.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the last few months, “bathroom” bills have been a topic of discussion and controversy across the country. In some cases, these bills would criminalize being transgender. In Indiana, a proposed bill would make it a Class A or Class B misdemeanor if a transgender person does not use the restroom that corresponds to their birth gender. The resulting punishment could be as high as one year in jail and a fine of $5000.
Kansas has proposed a bill that would reward cis-gendered students $2500 for reporting on their transgender classmates if they use a restroom or locker room that does not correspond to their birth gender. Does any of this sound like history being repeated?
In a 288 page report by the National Center for Transgender Equality, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the facts are abundantly clear. Twelve percent of transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in a school settings by peers or educational staff. The survey showed that thirteen percent of African-American transgender people were sexually assaulted in the workplace; and 22 percent of homeless transgender individuals were assaulted while staying in shelters.
In 2015, the United States saw a record number of transgender people murdered, the vast majority were trans women of color. Approximately 70% of the victims of anti-LGBT homicides where transgender women and over 60% of those were trans women of color. Since monitoring began in January of 2008, 2,016 trans and gender diverse people have been reported murdered in the 65 countries that report such violence. Sadly, the United States has the third highest murder rate of transgender people.
As much as many of us are taught from a young age to trust the police when we are faced with violence in our homes or on the street, the transgender community does have reason to fear. A transgender person is seven times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting with law enforcement than a cis-gender person. This was never been made so clear as the statements made by Sheriff Chuck Wright from South Carolina. In off the cuff statements in response to the proposed South Carolina “bathroom bill” made during a Greenville-Spartanburg Republican Women’s meeting, Sheriff Wright displayed just how dangerous attitudes from some high ranking law enforcement officers are toward transgender people. “Because if you are a guy and you go into bathroom with my wife, I’m gonna make the news -- I know there’s three cameras rolling -- I’m gonna whip your tail if you go in there with my wife while she’s trying to use the bathroom, or my granddaughter.”
Every person in this country is guaranteed life and liberty by our own Declaration of Independence. Transgender lives are being taken both by murder and the denial of our existence. Our liberties are being trampled on by our own government in the form of segregation and blatant discrimination.
The genocide of the transgender community is not a figment of anyone's imagination. It is not the skewing of statistics to fit a theory.
This genocide is not a local issue. It is not a state issue. There are times for states to tackle problems on their own and then there are times when the Nation needs to face a national crisis. History is being repeated. When will the leaders of this country own up to the fact that there is a genocide in progress right under their noses?
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