Im unemployed and ashamed. The idea that people dont want to work is a ridiculous myth | Vicki Nash

The stigma attached to unemployment can be dangerous. We should all think before we judge people who are struggling with trying to find work

Last year I made a decision Id been struggling with for a few years: I walked away from the business I was running, the business Id sacrificed most of my 20s and numerous friendships and relationships to, the business I had dreamed of running since my primary school years.

To say this was a difficult choice would be a massive understatement but it was what was right for me, or so I believed. I wanted a social life, a regular job and a regular paycheque, and most of all I wanted to feel like a regular person.

For too long I had felt like someone who was tied to her business, who was constantly overworked, overstressed and over budget, but Id lost track of who I was outside the business. I ran a small thoroughbred farm breeding and breaking in horses for racing, and it was my life for a long time. But its clearly not an industry that leaves me with an obvious place to transition.

Another factor was my age. If I was leaving my business behind then I also wanted to leave the industry behind, start afresh entirely and, at 28, I was aware that not only was I getting ancient in terms of entry-level positions, but that if I was going to make a success of myself in my new field then I was better off getting started in it yesterday.

Unfortunately it has now been over six months since I started in earnest to apply for jobs in different fields, seeking to be reborn on a new career path. With the exception of one online video interview, I havent made it past the first checkpoint.

There are a lot of factors at play in this, and in some way I even have sympathy with the countless employers who have rejected me without even meeting me; unemployment is high at that moment, particularly in the Geelong region where I now live. I have no experience that counts, and that I was self-employed for so long does negatively affect the quality of my references. It has also become clear to me that most prospective employers see a history of self-employment in a negative light.

But sympathising with all the reasons that people dont want to hire me doesnt actually make the task of job hunting any easier, if anything it makes it worse. I can see why people dont want to hire a now 29-year-old with no relevant experience and a history of self-employment and, as time passes, I increasingly fail to see why they would.

I imagine this loss of faith in oneself and the growing belief that the ongoing rejections are never going to turn around is common among the unemployed. I just never thought Id be one of them.

Going into this, my biggest concern was that I would have to start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up. It never occurred to me that I would be unable to get a leg on the first rung. I would now give almost anything for the opportunity to prove my worth in almost any position and at any level.

This time last year I was still in the process of closing down my business. It was heartbreaking and depressing but it was something I got through by reminding myself how much easier it would be when it was through.

I knew, not with cockiness but simply because of the faith I had in myself, that I would find another arena in which to excel. The thought that I may be unemployed and on the precipice of giving up entirely never occurred to me.

Among the things I knew about myself then was that I was intelligent and hardworking, with many transferrable skills that would make me an asset in any number of industries but I no longer know these things.

When I think about my unemployed status today these are the things I know: that I may never find anyone willing to hire me; that with every passing day I get a little older and a little less employable and the majority of my intelligent, articulate and sometimes witty cover letters are not even being read. Or perhaps theyre not that witty after all.

I do not feel this every day but there are days where a previously unfamiliar feeling of uselessness and hopelessness do creep over me, and they are demons that I find myself increasingly unable to keep at bay. I never thought unemployment would happen to me. I imagined having to take a job I didnt necessarily want but no job at all wasnt anywhere on my radar. I think its probably this way for a lot of unemployed individuals. And this is probably the greatest lesson that has come out of this experience: that the idea that people dont want to work, that the unemployed are somehow lazy or unmotivated, is a ridiculous myth. And yet I still havent learned it completely.

I still lie to acquaintances and even friends about my employment; make out that Im doing some casual work to tide me over or make jokes about it because Im ashamed. I judge myself every day and Im determined not to let others judge me too.

There is a stigma attached to unemployment that can be dangerous because I dont think it would take much for it to create a potentially irreversible self-hatred. I fill my days with routines that involve exercise, cleaning, job applications and writing and certainly no television or leisure time during work hours; Im strict on that. I dont claim welfare of any kind, because apart from anything else I am far too proud, another one of my failings.

I am not what the unemployed stereotype looks like but I am unquestionably unemployed and Im struggling mentally, emotionally and financially every day. I often barely recognise myself.

This is not a story of self-pity, although it has elements of that Im sure. Im sacrificing my pride in writing about this. But its a lesson to think before you judge because unemployment is hard. If we could just come out and speak about our own struggles with unemployment freely and without shame and stigma, it may just get a little bit easier.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/22/im-unemployed-and-ashamed-the-idea-that-people-dont-want-to-work-is-a-ridiculous-myth

New drug cuts ‘bad’ cholesterol by 60% on average, reducing heart attack risk

Trial of 27,000 patients found that those taking drug evolocumab saw their levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol fall

A new drug can prevent heart attacks and strokes by cutting bad cholesterol levels, scientists have found.

An international trial of 27,000 patients found that those who took the drug evolocumab saw their bad cholesterol levels fall by about 60% on average.

The patients in the trial were already taking statins, which are used to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Despite this, the patients who took injections of evolocumab saw their bad cholesterol levels fall even further. They were also less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke than those who took the placebo.

The study found that for every 74 people who took the drug for two years, one heart attack or stroke would be prevented.

However, the findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the drug had no impact on the rate of cardiovascular mortality.

Prof Peter Sever, from Imperial College London which led the UK branch of the study, said: This is one of the most important trials of cholesterol-lowering since the first statin trial, published 20 years ago. Our results suggest this new, extremely potent class of drug can cut cholesterol dramatically, which could provide great benefit for a lot of people at risk of heart disease and stroke.

There are approximately 2.3 million people living with coronary heart disease in the UK, according to the NHS. It is responsible for more than 73,000 deaths a year in the UK, and occurs when fatty substances build up in the arteries, making it harder for blood to get to the heart.

Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: Coronary heart disease is the single biggest killer in the UK and worldwide and bad LDL-cholesterol is a major cause.

While statins have had a significant impact in reducing the risk of heart disease for millions of people, they are not tolerated by everyone and only reduce cholesterol by a certain amount.

A promising new approach is blocking the action of PCSK9, a molecule which reduces the breakdown of LDL-cholesterol in the liver. Creating new treatments which use this approach could prove life-saving for patients with high cholesterol and those who cant tolerate statins.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/18/drug-which-cuts-bad-cholesterol-can-help-prevent-heart-attacks-and-strokes

Footballers could be at risk of dementia from blows to the head, study suggests

Findings show potential link between repeated sub-concussive head impacts and degenerative disease, although no clear link to football established

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/feb/15/footballers-could-be-at-risk-of-dementia-from-blows-to-the-head-study-suggests

On refugees, Trump and Turnbull compete in a race to the bottom | Oliver Laughland

As the former Australian immigration minister said about Trumps border plans: Really, the rest of the world is catching up to Australia

The fallout between President Donald Trump and the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, on the resettlement of refugees is not only an extraordinary break from diplomatic norms. It is a collective race to the bottom between two of the worlds wealthiest nations on failing to offer sanctuary to the worlds most vulnerable people.

The US president rode a wave of racially charged anger and anti-migrant rhetoric throughout his campaign and formalised it last week with executive orders imposing a travel ban targeted at seven Muslim-majority countries, the suspension of the US refugee resettlement program, and a directive to start work on a 1,200-mile wall across the southern border.

Meanwhile, the Coalition government in Australia has already implemented a hardline crackdown after years of bipartisan support for tough measures on immigration against asylum seekers who make the precarious maritime crossing from Indonesia.

Australia has had its own version of a border wall since 2013: its name is Operation Sovereign Borders. That military-led effort has seen boats carrying migrants turned back to Indonesian shores and the mandatory offshore detention and resettlement of asylum seekers who have made it to Australian territory.

These 1,25o men, women and children, who languish on the tiny island state of Nauru and in Papua New Guinea are the end result of that aggressive policy, stuck in limbo while Australia has struggled for years to find a viable resettlement plan.

President Trump now brands these people illegal immigrants and the next Boston bombers. The aspersions are breathtaking and at odds with reality. Not only would the roughly 1,250 individuals that could be resettled in America be vetted refugees, they come from a host of religious groupings and countries, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, as well as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Somalia.

But Trumps blunt assessment, which may or may nor result in the cancellation of the deal altogether, is partly how Australia sees these refugees as well. By adamantly refusing to resettle them in Australia and initially branding them illegal maritime arrivals, the Australian government too has otherized and marginalized them.

They represent a tiny fraction of the worlds refugee crisis, which has left more than 65 million people forcibly displaced across the world. They once again find themselves tossed around at the behest of powerful leaders seeking cheap political victories while lacking the moral fortitude to act in the interests of the most vulnerable.

Before moving to America, I spent a year and a half investigating the conditions of immigration detention in offshore sites and was often confronted by the deliberate strategy of harshness.

I wrote about the Iranian man Reza Berati, murdered by private security contractors at the offshore detention centre on Manus Island; about unaccompanied minors kept in solitary confinement for months as they self-harmed, of other children sexually assaulted by detention centre staff on Nauru, and those who died after receiving lacklustre medical attention. This was coupled with the creeping discrimination imposed by a code of conduct that asylum seekers on the Australian mainland were forced to sign.

Covering the Trump campaign trail, I was reminded of this discriminatory rhetoric and seeming affection for institutionalised cruelty. Trumps vows to build a wall and expedite deportations sounded all too familiar.

Once in power, he wasted no time issuing executive orders imposing mandatory detention of those apprehended while crossing the southern border, rapidly expanding the private detention network and drastically lowering Americas refugee intake.

As Scott Morrison, the former Australian immigration minister, said earlier in the week about Trumps border plans: Really, the rest of the world is catching up to Australia.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/02/refugees-trump-turnbull-compete-race-bottom

US housing crisis: what can Ben Carson learn from radical 1960s ‘new town’ plan?

The US housing departments ambitious initiatives of the 60s and 70s created urban communities that were both mixed race and mixed income. Though many didnt last, are there lessons in them for Donald Trumps new housing secretary?

Innovation is, to put it mildly, not one of the first attributes that come to mind when you think of Hud the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, soon to be overseen by Donald Trumps former Republican rival Ben Carson. Yet this wasnt always the case.

Imagine urban and suburban communities that banned cars, collected trash in pneumatic tubes, offered prototype community video chat capabilities, built elaborate pedestrian and cycle networks, and carefully retained existing foliage. You may not be thinking of the Jetsons, but products of the groundbreaking Hud New Towns initiatives in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Whats more, these aims were achieved while paying real and successful attention to creating both mixed-income and mixed-race communities.

So where should Carson go to be inspired by these pioneering projects? The catch is (with a few exceptions) federal support for them had sputtered by the mid-70s and vanished entirely in subsequent years, leaving at best, mere fragments of their once grand ideals.

The genuine problems with some of these projects now perceived as failures, if recalled at all eclipsed their admirable qualities in historical memory. These are qualities that might have offered Carson models for a country that is currently experiencing acute housing shortages in many of its metropolitan areas.

In the 70s, 15 projects were approved for Title VII support, most on greenfield sites near existing metropolitan areas. Two were in cities: Roosevelt Island (previously known as Welfare Island) in New York and Riverside Plaza in Minneapolis. Another, Soul City, was distant both from any nearby cities and prevailing practices of building them, as an effort to build a genuinely multi-racial community, spearheaded by an African American developer and African American architects.

There were many inventive elements on the drawing board, and some became a reality. If most developments were substantially suburban in character, planning mainly for single family homes, they often integrated higher density elements or multi-family homes, as well as significant efforts at pedestrian friendliness.

Ben
Donald Trump nominated Ben Carson as his secretary for housing and urban development. Photograph: Rainier Ehrhardt/Reuters

The Woodlands, near Houston, attracted praise for a trait that seems intuitive: retaining nature. Initial planning in semi-arid Texas was guided by an intention not to disturb the sites water table, which would have affected the vegetation. The preservation of generous amounts of greenery around existing streams and drainage patterns was the first planning goal, not an afterthought.

Jonathan, Minnesota, a suburban new town, included an extensive trail system throughout the community and even more futuristic touches. According to Andy Sturdevant in the Minneapolis Post: Each house was to be wired with interconnected cables as part of a General Electric Community Information Systems (CIS) project that would turn each television into a telephone that allowed you to communicate visually with your neighbours.

Each homes address was also its ID number for the system: Someone dials up 110612 on their television, your TV makes a futuristic ringing sound, and you can have a video conversation, Sturdevant wrote.

The two urban projects, Roosevelt Island and Riverside both of which were fairly substantially realised were thoughtful reactions against the known shortcomings of the design and composition of prior decades of low-income housing. Both forsook the anti-urban characteristics of prior decades of towers in the park and stressed the importance of planning for a mix of incomes.

Roosevelt Island (substantially the work of New Yorks fascinating Urban Development Corporation) centred its marquee-architect designed main street around a coherent, colonnaded main street lined with shops. It introduced other innovations, banning private cars (for a while) and collecting trash via a pneumatic tube system.

Floyd
Floyd McKissick visualises the future Soul City to be built on these empty fields in Warren County. Photograph: Harold Valentine/AP

Riverside Plaza, designed by the notable modernist Ralph Rapson, included Minneapoliss first high-rise residential towers but, more importantly, offered buildings at a variety of scales designed to house a variety of incomes, along with retail and community amenities. It was also a surprising television star, the site of Mary Tyler Moores residence in later seasons of the eponymous show.

How did this brave new wave of innovation come about? Two housing bills in the twilight of the Great Society sought to chart a brighter residential future in offering loan guarantees and other incentives to developers to build mixed-income and mixed-race modern towns. The latter bill, passed in 1970, formed a corporation chartered to distribute $500m in bond guarantees to new town projects.

Inspirations were quite openly European, yet the programmes structure was considerably different. Congress eschewed the direct construction of new towns, as Nicholas Dagen Bloom, associate professor of social science at New York Institute of Technology, wrote in an 2001 essay entitled The Federal Icarus:

Title VII stated instead that the government would rely to the maximum extent on private enterprise in the creation of new towns. At heart, congressmen sought to harness the power of private enterprise for public policy, believing they could save the government money by recruiting developers who would, through their plans, attract home-buyers and their money. Title VII thus relied on the individual choices of thousands of homeowners who would, in theory, buy homes in these towns and in turn subsidize the high development costs of these communities.

It was a forward-thinking solution, mandating the substantial provision for housing within the means of persons of low and moderate income. It also encouraged the use of design innovations in land use and construction, the provision of community services, and more. The carrot was federal loan guarantees and promises of eligibility for other financial support.

Construction
Construction work at Roosevelt Island in 1975. Photograph: New York Post Archives/The New York Post via Getty Images

The developers were varied, ranging from Robert E Simon (creator of the well-known new town of Reston, Virginia) to Edmund Marcus (son of the Neiman Marcus department store founder) to Floyd McKissick (civil rights leader and head of the Congress for Racial Equality, who lead the Soul City project).

What could go wrong? Quite a lot, actually. Most Title VII projects didnt advance very far. Some, such as Soul City, were too far away from existing population centres to attract much growth. Others were admirably set up but failed to attract buyers, probably due to their aversion to any or all of the characteristics of modern, mixed-race or mixed-income planning. Some developers didnt manage their projects well; others suffered when pledged federal grants failed to materialise.

In time, the Carter and Reagan administrations terminated federal relationships with most of these projects. Some never really developed, while others ended up as conventional suburbs. Riverside Plaza fell from grace after its owners abandoned its original careful balance of income, and converted the complex entirely to subsidised housing.

And yet some things went very right. Roosevelt Island, which had been carefully designed and engineered for multiple incomes, remained a lasting success, with an unusually low crime rate even through the citys most dangerous years, and a recent spurt of growth including a new Cornell Tech campus on the islands south end. The Woodlands, too, flourished as both a high-end suburb and a corporate centre, although its lower-income elements essentially vanished.

Suburban new towns may seem quaint to foolhardy given 40 additional years of sprawl, yet there are traces of these ideas in the recent rise of New Urbanism and efforts to provide options beyond the car. Perhaps more importantly, the Title VII new towns were a large-scale effort to achieve income integration as a central goal of housing policy. Subsequent decades only rendered clearer the lesson that concentrated amounts of poverty tend to produce comparativelyhigh concentrations of crime and little opportunity.

Today its not simply the poor, but a broader number of lower-income Americans who are increasingly squeezed by rising rental costs. A Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report early last year found a remarkable growth of 9 million renters to 43 million from 2005 to 2015. These are increased numbers chasing a dwindling supply, leading to the unenviable situation of more than 28% of renters paying more than half of their gross income in rent. As with any shortage, lower-income Americans are most affected.

Whats the most important quality missing today? While barriers to construction continue to choke off the meaningful expansion of housing supply, government support for low-income housing typically remains minimal. There is also an element of self-fulfilling prophecy to much of their work: low-quality construction only sporadically maintained will inevitably age badly and produce undesirable results. The new towns movement wasnt a panacea by any measure, but it demonstrated the notably superior results that slightly greater effort could produce.

The Trump administration has broadcast its enthusiasm for infrastructure spending and theres no structure more important to the public than a home. Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development could do far worse than look to the spirit of experiment of the new towns movement. Today its not new towns but old ones under increased pressures of growth but we need experiment and effort to make them generally accessible again.

Anthony Paletta writes about architecture and urbanism for The Wall Street Journal, Metropolis, Architectural Record and The Architects Newspaper. Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion, and explore our archive here

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jan/10/ben-carson-trump-solve-us-housing-crisis-should-look-new-towns-late-60s

Indian police accused of raping women in restive Chhattisgarh state

Countrys human rights watchdog says it has identified 16 cases in which security forces grossly violated victims rights

The Indian governments human rights watchdog has accused police of raping and beating at least 16 women from tribal communities in Chhattisgarh, a central state racked by a 50-year Maoist insurgency.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said there were 20 alleged attacks still to be investigated, but that in 16 cases the human rights of the victims have been grossly violated by the security personnel.

It was investigating a report published in the Indian Express that police had committed abuses against women in several villages in Bijapur district during an operation against rebels in October 2015.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), an advocacy group whose members met the alleged victims, told the newspaper police had committed violence on a mass scale.

Around 40 women have said that they were forced to strip, sexually harassed and assaulted, one WSS member said. They allegedly included a 14-year-old girl who was grazing cattle when she was said to have been raped by several officers.

The NHRC said it believed eight women had been raped, six sexually abused and two physically assaulted. It asked the Chhattisgarh government to show why the women should not be paid compensation of up to 300,000 rupees (3,600).

The investigation had turned up more complaints of sexual violence committed by security personnel in Bijapur and other districts in the state, the watchdog added.

Chhattisgarh, around 1,000 miles from Delhi, is part of a red corridor stretching from Andhra Pradesh to West Bengal where thousands of armed communist fighters have waged a 50-year rebellion against the government.

Thousands of civilians, mostly members of poor and remote tribes, have been killed in the fighting, which the Maoists claim is over jobs and rights for farmers and landless labourers.

Indian security forces are regularly accused of committing extrajudicial killings, arson and rape in the affected regions. The Maoists have also been implicated in civilian deaths, including by sabotaging a crowded passenger train in West Bengal that crashed and killed 100 passengers.

Kishore Narayan, who represents 14 of the victims the NHRC has identified, told Agence France-Presse that the human rights agency had backed its claims and accused the police of deliberately shielding the culprits.

The victims gave the names of the policemen involved in the barbarity, but nothing has happened. They carried out a sham investigation and are trying to obfuscate the case, Narayan said.

He said they had filed a petition in the Chhattisgarh high court demanding an investigation by a special police team from outside the state.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/10/indian-police-accused-of-raping-women-in-restive-chhattisgarh-state

Mexico win both men’s and women’s Homeless World Cup

The Homeless World Cup came to a close in Glasgow on Saturday, with Mexico winning the mens and womens finals

The curtain came down on the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow on Saturday, with both the Mexican men and womens teams taking home the silverware and retaining their titles.

More than 50 teams took part in the 14th tournament, which was described as a wonderful success by the organisers, the Homeless World Cup Foundation, which was set up to support and inspire homeless people through the sport.

The president and founder of the Homeless World Cup, is Mel Young, who is recognised as one of the worlds leading social entrepreneurs. The Scot co-founded the Big Issue magazine in Scotland in 1993.

The Mexicans beat Kyrgyzstan 5-0 in the womens final and the men achieved a 6-1 win over Brazil, so Mexico were crowned double winners for the second successive year after winning both events in Amsterdam in 2015.

Up to 100,000 spectators were estimated to watched the 416 matches over seven days in George Square, in the heart of Glasgow.

The organisers said: Its been an amazing seven days in central Glasgow with the focus of the football world on George Square this afternoon for the final competitions in this years tournament.

Women
The Scotland womens team beat the Netherlands 8-3 in George Square, Glasgow. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Every match has been a corker, with penalty shoot-outs and cracking goals aplenty, warm hugs and handshakes and stands packed with fans cheering on their native and adopted teams.

The pinnacle of the final day, the two Cup competitions, were played out before a packed house.

Before the event, the Duke of Cambridge said: The Homeless World Cup Foundation is taking a unique approach to this problem, using the universal language of football to tackle the issue. Every one of the 512 players in this tournament is homeless. They have each engaged with programmes run by the foundation to deal with some incredible personal challenges to make it here.

This competition is a celebration of all that they have achieved so far, using football as a means to get back into a more stable life.

The next Homeless World Cup will be held in Oslo next summer.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jul/16/mexico-win-both-mens-and-womens-homeless-world-cup

Obesity causes premature death, concludes study of studies

Although it is true that the body mass index is flawed, even the merely overweight have shorter life expectancy than the slender

Obesity and excess weight do shorten lives, according to a major review across five continents which sought to find a definitive answer to a controversial question.

While obesity is a known risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes, which can all be life-shortening, the impact of obesity alone has been much disputed. Overweight and obesity are measured by BMI body mass index which charts weight against height. Many argue that it is a seriously flawed measure because it does not allow for the muscle that replaces fat in very fit people, such as athletes.

A large group of international researchers has attempted to overcome the problems of previous studies by analysing a vast amount of data collected in smaller studies, on 3.9 million adults worldwide. They found that even overweight people risked an earlier death than those of normal weight.

On average, overweight people lose about one year of life expectancy, and moderately obese people lose about three years of life expectancy, said Dr Emanuele Di Angelantonio, the lead author, from the University of Cambridge.

We also found that men who were obese were at much higher risk of premature death than obese women. This is consistent with previous observations that obese men have greater insulin resistance, liver fat levels and diabetes risk than women.

The researchers in the Global BMI Mortality Collaboration looked at the risk of early death between the ages of 35 and 70. Men of normal weight (with a BMI of 18.5 to 25) have a 19% risk of an earlier death and women a 11% chance. For those who are moderately obese, with a BMI of 30 to 35, that rises to 29.5% for men and 14.6% for women.

If obesity does directly cause early deaths, they calculate that if all those who are overweight or obese were instead of normal weight, one in seven early deaths could be avoided in Europe and one in five in north America, where obesity rates are higher. Obesity is second only to smoking as a cause of premature death in Europe and North America, said co-author Prof Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford.

Smoking causes about a quarter of all premature deaths in Europe and in North America, and smokers can halve their risk of premature death by stopping. But [being] overweight and obesity now cause about one in seven of all premature deaths in Europe and one in five of all premature deaths in North America.

But the study, published in the Lancet medical journal, is still not the final word. In a linked comment in the journal, three scientists from the National Institutes of Health in the United States point out the difficulties, when using BMI data, in accounting for fitness and physical activity, peoples diet and their history of disease even though the study excluded people who had ever smoked and those who died in the first few years of the study so that those factors would not influence the results.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/13/obesity-causes-premature-death-concludes-study-studies

It’s right to end the ban on trans people in the military but wrong to set conditions | Chelsea E Manning

The new policy says trans people should be stable in their gender … as certified by a doctor. Thats not good enough. Were the ones who know our gender best

Open trans service in the military is a necessary step toward protecting and recognizing the humanity of trans people, but the militarys proposal falls far short of what is needed.

When I first heard about Thursdays announcement I was grinding and sanding metal to a polish at my prison job. The news was both a relief and reminder of how little we can count on the principles of equality and institutions like the military to bring justice to our community.

Even within the military inclusion framework, many issues remain unresolved and concerning. Right away, something didnt sit right with me. We dont need the military to be the gatekeeper of our gender expression and identity. We should be able to define ourselves.

The policy outlined by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter would require new recruits to be stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military. How many young trans people like myself fit this criteria? The idea of having a gender certification process is a misuse of the medically accepted standards of care. What is the stability of gender? Isnt gender an inherently unstable concept always being constrained by the various context and rules under which we live?

I worry that this type of requirement will further entrench the gender binary and further legitimize the control that administrators and medical providers have over our bodies and our identities.

And what about those of us who are incarcerated? Will these rules apply to us? I am deeply concerned that like so many policies, the impact of this change wont penetrate the prison walls. What does it mean that the military will recognize our gender, unless and until we are arrested, and then what? This core identity is then stripped away and our birth assigned sex is imposed on us?

But defining ourselves for who we are is one of the most powerful and important rights that we have as human beings. No one knows my gender more than I do. You do not know my gender better than I do. A doctor doesnt know it better than I do. My parents dont know it better than I do. No one experiences my gender in the way that I experience it. Presenting myself and my gender is about my right to exist. With this policy, the military is essentially saying you can exist, but only on our terms. What they are doing is taking away the control of our identity.

Gender presentation should reflect the person that you are. When you lose control of your gender presentation you lose an important aspect of your identity and existence. By setting so many caveats, time lines, standards, and training, the military is making this far, far, more complicated and bureaucratic than it needs to be. The simple reality is that we are who we say we are.

When it comes to trans inclusion in the military, at this point, there are still too many questions. We dont yet know whether this policy of inclusion will be in name only and whether medical providers and commanders will find ways to push us out, dehumanize us and cast us as freaks.

Of course, this is not the first time the military has confronted its own entrenched prejudice.

But if history is any guide for instance the racial and gender integrations of the 20th century the US armed forces are more than capable of overcoming such obstacles.

No matter how this shift in policy rolls out, I hope that we remember that if our most powerful institutions cannot take us on our own terms, then perhaps we should fight to change those institutions.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/01/transgender-military-ban-chelsea-manning