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Trans-Atlantic

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

It was announced by the UK government this week that transgender people will be able to choose their sex more easily as part of equalities reforms.

The changes, which will go out for consultation later this year, will make it easier for transgender people to choose their sex legally by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and basically get rid of all the red tape which gets in the way of this group of people’s right to self-determination. It’s a step forward for a minority group which has for so long been misunderstood, laughed at and ridiculed. What has driven thousands to depression, feelings of alienation, confusion and even suicide is slowly being unraveled and managed – with compassion and care.

At the same time 4000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean the opposite trans-message story is unfolding.  Stephen Colbot host of Tonight’s late show said “I began my day today as I often begin my days, by checking Donald Trump’s twitter feed, to see how far the crazy has spread, and today I really think he’s off his meds:  Because today he went from crazy to cruel.” The tweet he is referring to which caught everyone off guard and many up in arms, (but equally, many who may not be up in arms) was this:

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…… transgender service members

Thus in one brief Tweeted announcement he has basically committed to reversing the policy begun by the Obama administration last year. It all comes out of the blue as this has never been on Trump’s agenda as far as I can remember. In fact during his campaign, Trump tweeted: “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten our freedoms and beliefs.” I guess he was either unaware of what the ‘T’  stands for or perhaps he has that all-too-common politician’s flaw of saying what people want to hear in order to get elected.

“One can’t help wonder about those 15,000 trans troops who volunteered to serve their country who were “minding their own business, protecting our freedoms, when they all got fired, by Tweet – by a rich guy who, during Vietnam, sidestepped the draft with four deferments and a medical disqualification for bone spurs in his foot,” the late-night host reminded. Here is my Transgender for Dummies summary to get you up to speed. They come from all walks of life. They are dads (Bruce Jenner) and moms (Kal Ross) , brothers (Jazz Jennings) and sisters (Chaz Bono) , sons and daughters. They are your co-workers, and your neighbours. There are 7-year-old children and 70-year-old grandparents – it is a diverse community, representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as faith backgrounds.

The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Although the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history. Despite the increased visibility of transgender celebrities like actress Laverne Cox (Orange is the new black) or writer Janet Mock (Marie Claire), many people still don’t personally know anyone who is transgender – but the number who do is growing rapidly.

According to a 2016 survey, 35 percent of likely voters in the United States “know or work with someone who is transgender.” That's more than double the 17 percent who answered yes when asked the same question in 2014.  Other research suggests that there are at least 700,000 transgender people in the United States, about 3 percent of the total population and about 3.5 percent of the LGBTQ community; but these estimates are likely conservative because of the limited amount of studies that have attempted to measure the transgender population.


Denmark, Argentina, Malta even Iran are just some of the countries which have made progress accepting this reality and now the UK is coming along too. Trump’s tweet has essentially called for a step backward in time that goes counter to all the slow but necessary progress the United States and many countries in the western world has made in recent years in its treatment of transgender people.

This is the danger with Trump – he is so divisive…Mexicans, Muslims and now those who are Transgender. He has more cognitive distortions than  I can count but the one that sticks out is polarized thinking. Watch him talk of anyone and they are either good or bad, on his side or the other – either black or white. His thinking is irrational and extreme, hurtful and intolerant.

Michel Gerson summed this creature up in the Washington Post earlier this year when he said “Trump seems to take pleasure in throwing acid into the face of convention. In his calls to lock up his electoral opponent; in his wink and a nod toward violence at his rallies; in his groundless accusations of being spied upon by his predecessor; in his Twitter taunting of Congressional leaders; in his bold and obvious lies; in his dehumanization of migrants and refugees. Grace, dignity, empathy, integrity and kindness are stripped away, leaving the emperor naked but incapable of shame. Trump is the spendthrift of our public character, squandering an inheritance he does not understand or value.

There was a time when transgender people were considered freaks and perhaps this is Trump’s reasoning when he considers the concept of wanting to change a body  you were born in that doesn’t feel right or is authentic to who you are?  This is not a crime or a shame – the shame lies with him and in my book, he is the freak. The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Although the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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