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Friday, August 04, 2017

The Wedge Issue

Written by  Brian George Hose

I’m sure you’ve all heard that Trump wants to ban transgender persons from military service. I would go into greater detail, but at the rate the story and its response have been changing I risk being out of touch by the time this edition goes to press. Instead, let’s break down what it means for us.

Like many of you, I was shocked and outraged by the news. I still am, but for different reasons. You see, Trump’s transgender ban was introduced as a wedge issue to be used during the 2018 midterm elections. The idea is that this wedge issue will do what wedges do – divide. The timing seems deliberate, occurring as health care, staff changes, and other political chaos ruled the headlines, which means it’s also a distraction from the trainwreck happening before our very eyes. It has the makings of some interesting political theater, but unfortunately for him it isn’t necessarily playing out the way he’d hoped.

In order for a wedge issue to be effective, the general population has to already be somewhat divided on that issue. In this case, the LGBTQ community and our allies have already won significant battles for equality and, with our success and changes in policy, we’ve demonstrated that our issues are human rights issues. Along the way our community and issues have become mainstream and shed many of the stigmas that once made us valuable wedges for politicians and leaders.

In other words, we’ve already been there and done that. We even got the t-shirt. Even people who don’t consider themselves allies accept that there are LGBTQ people and that we have rights, which shows how far we’ve come as a community and as a society. So, using us as a wedge issue is remarkably similar to Gretchen Wieners from Mean Girls trying to make “fetch” happen. It’s not going to happen, Mr. T. It’s likely you either misread the room, or you were so desperate to distract us from the important issues that you were grasping at straws. Either way, all you’ve done is given us the gift of showing how much support are community has.

And that’s the blessing of being the subject of a wedge issue. For as long as people have been coming out, we’ve been dividing and uniting people. In more recent times the division is usually temporary. Someone comes out, their family and friends freak out, and in their desperation they reach out to others for comfort and advice. Each story is unique but many have the same ending. Either accept your loved one as they are, or risk losing them. When people choose acceptance, the relationship is often stronger as a result of the soul searching, and the vulnerability our community experiences is highlighted, leading to more advocates and allies. And this acceptance and understanding only spreads and grows.

It’s not a fun experience, but when it’s over we often find we have love and support from unexpected sources. Ours is a community defined by love and love has a way of uniting people even under the most formidable circumstances.

To my trans brothers and sisters, I’m sorry that the leader of our country referred to you as a burden. It’s simply not true and I hope that in the past few days the people in your life who matter have reached out to you with love and support. If they haven’t, I’m reaching out to you now. You see, this experience has reminded me of a lesson that we need to remember when it seems the world is against us. Just because someone says something about you, no matter how horrible or painful it is to hear, doesn’t make it true. In fact, the things people say are only a reflection of who they are as a person and often has nothing to do with you. It’s a lesson that Mr. T will only learn the hard way.

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