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Highlights
Chloe Schwenke

The easy answer is simply that I am also a transgender person, so I feel a profound solidarity with my transgender brothers and sisters in any aspect of our shared struggle for equality as American citizens. It isn’t simply about avoiding military service and renouncing war; it’s about avoiding all conditions that give rise to violent conflict in the first place. What drives competition to become violent conflict is as complex as is human nature, and yet such extreme competition is frequently and appropriately linked to some of the worst attributes of human nature: greed, pride, arrogance, callousness to human suffering, elitism, even evil. I’m the grandchild of a Marine Corps general, the daughter of a Marine Corps colonel, the sister of brothers all of whom served in the armed forces, and the aunt of a Navy pilot, so I have lived close to men of commendable patriotism, sacrifice, virtue, and dedication through their service.

Chloe Schwenke

The majority of both U. S. states and the world’s countries either refuse to fully accept people such as me, or they make it nearly impossible bureaucratically to transition to one’s authentic gender. It’s a profound and provocative challenge – indeed, the very existence of trans and gender non-binary folk makes some people very uncomfortable. It’s hardly uncommon; through many international assignments over many years I have seen so many countries with laws that make it impossible for transgender and non-binary persons to have any visibility – to exist in any legal, economic, social, or political way. It’s time that I and all of my transgender and cisgender allies stand up and demand that our existence – the 0.6% of Americans who are transgender – be legally and socially recognized, respected, and – yes

Chloe Schwenke

Still, the New York Times’ account of the draft memo is harrowing, describing language that dispassionately and categorically intends to strip me of my legal standing as a woman (as a post-operative transgender person, that would leave me in a very curious anatomical place as a legal man). For us this is more than a legal nuance, or the checking of a different box, yet from the character of so much of the caustic social media on this topic in the past few days, a very large number of Americans view transgender and non-binary people as confused, intentionally provocative, irrational, or bereft of common sense. Fortunately, the aftermath of the leak of the memo did provide many opportunities for thoughtful, caring, principled people to speak out in support of the dignity, civil and human rights, and humanity of transgender and non-binary persons. I have to move on knowing that for many of my countrymen and woman, people like me only exist so that we can sexually assault women in public bathrooms (although I don’t think there is a single actual case of such a thing ever having happened with a real transgender woman as perpetrator).

Chloe Schwenke

That concept may already be anachronistic for large numbers of my fellow citizens, who in 2015 not only tolerated watching then presidential candidate Donald Trump as he crudely mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski (who suffers from arthrogryposis), but then went on to vote this person into the highest position of power and trust in the nation. After all, Trump is Trump; he makes it a common practice to assault the dignity of others by using demeaning nicknames, calling human beings “animals”, branding entire ethnicities (presumably just the males) as rapists, and so on. Still, I remain an idealist at heart, and I am moved by the notion that if only people knew what it is like, what we are like, then… I’m willing to work that angle, to gradually raise the awareness and empathy of those around me, to help them begin to see the person behind – and integral to – the gender identity that the person declares. transphobic comedy isn’t ever funny, and those who make their living by targeting the dignity of transgender people do not warrant your warm smiles and gentle praise, or PBS NewsHour’s time on the air.

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