"I am Chelsea Manning. I am female." With that announcement, Chelsea Manning begins her thirty-five year sentence with the dubious distinction of being the first openly trans woman in the U.S. military prison system.
While a new National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study shows that trans people are twice as likely to serve in the military than the rest of Americans, the military still bans openly trans folks from service and discriminates against them in a variety of ways. Manning's imprisonment has already sparked national conversation about punishing whistleblowers and treatment of trans people—now, the military is having to consider the fact that their prison system is not set up for trans service members.
"What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heel print upon another woman's face?"
– Audre Lorde
As I write this, two undocumented activists have spent 104 out of the last 108 hours in total isolation. Twenty-four-year-old Lulu Martinez and 22-year-old Maria Peniche are in solitary confinement at Arizona's Eloy Detention Center. It has been reported that Peniche is currently on suicide watch.
In 1923, 17-year-old Carrie Buck was raped and impregnated. Her adoptive family, trying to avoid the public shame of having an unwed mother in their midst, had her committed to an institution for the "feeble minded." Because she was supposedly "feeble-minded" and the daughter of an unwed mother herself, the State of Virginia sought to sterilize her and, in 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in its favor.
One would think we've come a long way since 1927. But apparently we haven't.
This week includes the most patriotic day of the year—a perfect time to consider the current heated debate over the milions of people living in the United States who want to be able to legally call themselves Americans and access the privileges that citizenship brings.
The process was an hours-long rhetorical tug-of-war, as opponents and proponents worked to frame the debate in their own linguistic terms. In many ways in this national debate, the data around abortion means far less than the story.
Governor Rick Perry has demanded a second special Texas legislative session on July 1 just to take a vote on bill SB5 that would shutter most of the state's abortion clinics.
That's ridiculous. Wasting public money on a special vote just to women's restrict reproductive rights is unproductive and downright offensive. Senator Wendy Davis and hundreds of protesters fought the bill so hard this week because it is NOT concerned with women's health—they are concerned with controllling women. Like many Americans, we're Pissed at Perry. If Governor Perry and politicians nationwide actually wanted to support the lives and choices of women, why have 49 states passed measures that restrict our rights rather than actually preventing unwanted pregnancies?
Instead of criminalizing abortion, politicians should push for funding comprehensive sex education in schools and making birth control affordable for all women. Those are two smart policies Texas Representative Senfronia Thompson tried to add to Texas' bill, but Republicans shot them down.
What policies should Rick Perry and politicians in every state support to improve the lives of women?
Ding-dong, DOMA is dead! Let there be much rejoicing.
As we break out the champagne and cupcakes, though, it's important to recognize how overturning the federal "one man-one woman" definition of marriage is not the end point for making America a more equal union.