One of the things that drew me to Little Weaver nearly a year ago was the unique and clear set of values that the collective holds. We favor clients who are doing good in the world. We champion the rights of minorities and marginalized peoples. We are a female, queer, trans, dancer, artist, scientist-owned company with a flair for social justice and hearts that span the country and into Canada.
The recent events of the Trump Administration do not in any way align with Little Weaver's values. As one of the Little Weavers in Washington DC, I have a front-row seat to the waking nightmare.
I woke up this morning to the news that the Senate had voted down the so-called “skinny bill” that would have repealed the individual mandate which requires that most individuals have health insurance and that larger employers cover their employees and drastically increased premiums, leaving millions without healthcare by next year. Thanks to the resistance, the bill did not pass. Thanks to disability rights activists, healthcare activists, all of the phone calls, bodies on the ground, thanks to two women Senators, to the Democratic and Independent Senators, the bill did not pass.
Let’s not let the fact that we woke up with the Affordable Care Act intact to allow us to be complacent. While I feel like my body on Capitol Hill did some kind of good… I was keenly aware that I was not the most important one there.
On July 5, 1978, a disability rights group called Atlantis literally blocked Broadway and Colfax Avenue in Denver, CO with their wheelchairs to draw attention the fact that the new fleet of busses that had been released did not include wheelchair lifts. The group had spent over a year talking to Regional Transportation District (RTD) about installing lifts on their busses. The group held steady for two days, until RTD agreed to make their busses accessible. The requests for accessibility were made invisible for a year… until folks in wheelchairs literally refused to get out of the way.
The bus campaigns spread throughout the country in the 1980s. this led to further, similar protests in the 1980s by ADAPT activists all over the country and eventually led to the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 on July 26, 1990.
When I the virtual office at Little Weaver on Tuesday and headed to Capitol Hill, I intersected with the National ADAPT protest to save Medicaid at the Hart Building. Folks directly affected by the potential Medicaid cuts flooded the lobby. Voices melded into one call, “No cuts to Medicaid!” Staffers and other officials flooded out from the offices and into the halls of Hart. I could see the sheer volume of people with disabilities visibly strike onlookers.
Social invisibility occurs when the social network that tends to bind people together is pruned in such a way as to leave out entire groups of people. This diminishes the social influence of the invisible social group. Rather than try to remedy social invisibility, this Administration seems to play off of it.
On Wednesday, via Twitter, Trump attacked another socially invisible group when he reversed Obama’s announcement from last year that transgender folks could serve openly in the military with a declaration saying that American forces could not afford the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender service members. Trump did not offer any numbers to support his inflammatory claim. The Rand Corp. Department of Defense study issued estimated that these treatments would cost the military between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually. This study found that allowing transgender folks to serve openly would have “have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” for the Pentagon because the estimated that health care costs represent an infinitesimal 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase in spending.
Can we stop for a second and think about how ridiculous this is?
Less than one percent.
In more completely wacky news on Wednesday, our own Department of Justice does not think that the Civil Rights Act should protect queer people. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The Obama Administration correctly interpreted “sex” to include gender identity and indicated that Title VII protections also applied to sexual orientation. In an amicus brief filed at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Wednesday, lawyers under Attorney General Jeff Sessions contend that Title VII actually does not cover sexual orientation. The filing of this brief is highly unusual, as the DOJ does not typically weigh in on private employment lawsuits. More disturbing still, the DOJ claimed that it has a “substantial and unique interest” in the Title VII’s interpretation because the federal government is the largest employer in the country.
I’ve been discriminated against due to my sex and due to my religion. In both cases, despite having a venue for recourse, I felt somewhat powerless. I felt violated. As a queer person, I have struggled against an intrinsic fear of violence, rejection, misunderstanding, and worse for being vocal and open about who I am. But while the DOJ ruling stuck a personal chord, the ramifications of the healthcare bill for those with disabilities, the ruling on trans folks in the military, the rampant police violence and militant islamophobia plaguing the country also strike chords. Every day is an Orwellian nightmare under Trump’s Administration. Trump and this Administration are some of the biggest perpetrators of transphobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, ableism, and sexism I have seen.
We cannot let our guard down.
We must continue to amplify the voices of those around us.
Trump is not going to stop, but we can keep fighting. We can move towards justice. We can all support each other with our full selves.
Here is a short list of important reading:
To the cis person angrily sharing news of the Trump transgender military ban by Angela Dumlao, Creator of “Call Me They” on Facebook, Queer trans non-binary Filipinx Artist & Activist
Kin Aesthetics // Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice by Frances S. Lee, a queer designer, trans baker, cultural studies scholar.
Our cynicism will not build a movement, collaboration will by Alicia Garza, a special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance by Kiese Laymon, an Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies at Vassar College.
In Love and Justice,