NEW YORK CITY—By now, everyone is familiar with the disputes going on in prisons and local jails around the country about how to handle transgendered (TS) suspects and defendants. Most penal officials have opted to put male-to-female TSs in with male populations despite the fact that some have progressed far enough in their gender reassignment so as to have ample breasts.
But what about transgenders and international travel ... and homeland security? This issue was part of a report commissioned by the United Nations and issued on Aug. 3, though it is still awaiting official approval. While most of the report deals with women's issues—everything from forcing Muslim women to remove their headwear to check for explosives, to using wives (and children) as bargaining chips to extract information from prisoners—it notes that travelers identified as gay or transsexual face equally daunting ignorance.
"While many of the measures discussed in the report relate to the human rights of women," writes U.N. Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin, "gender is not synonymous with women, and, instead, encompasses the social constructions that underlie how women's and men's roles, functions and responsibilities, including in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, are understood. The report therefore discusses, besides the human rights of women, the gendered impact of counter-terrorism measures on men and persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and addresses how gender intersects with other prohibited grounds of discrimination, such as race and religion."
Specifically, the report, titled "Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism," notes that "Governments have used vague and broad definitions of 'terrorism' to punish those who do not conform to traditional gender roles and to suppress social movements that seek gender equality in the protection of human rights. For example, Governments have alleged terrorism links to justify the arrest and persecution of 'suspected homosexuals.'"
The report further notes that "enhanced immigration controls that focus attention on male bombers who may be dressing as females to avoid scrutiny make transgender persons susceptible to increased harassment and suspicion. Similarly, counter-terrorism measures that involve increased travel document security, such as stricter procedures for issuing, changing and verifying identity documents, risk unduly penalizing transgender persons whose personal appearance and data are subject to change. This jeopardizes the right of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities to recognition before the law."
Considering that there has not been a single reported case of a transgendered person attempting to smuggle explosives or even electronic data through security measures, it would seem that targeting that gender group would be useless to the point of harassing... but that's not how right-wing reactionaries and evangelicals see it.
"It strikes me as a parody of U.N. political correctness and sexual universality," said Frank Gaffney, a former Assistant Defense Secretary under Reagan and one of the signatories to the Project for the New American Century's "Statement of Principles" that advocated American imperialism, "and it's just hard for me to believe that anybody thinks that these notions actually should trump security concerns—as I think it's only too clear that … the people who are trying to blow us up have absolutely no use for any of these sexual proclivities."
Gaffney further claimed that terrorists "would be only too delighted to take advantage ... of burqas and other subterfuges to disguise their malign intents," summarizing the report's findings as "truly absurd and appalling."
Heritage Foundation fellow Steven Groves, a proponent of denying Guantanamo prisoners their legal rights, was equally dismissive of Scheinin's findings—and of Scheinin himself.
"Instead of the Human Rights Council focusing how the human rights of people who are blown apart by terrorists impact people's human rights," Groves said, "they created a new office for someone to go and make sure that the terrorists' human rights, and the human rights of almost everyone else—except for the victims of terrorism—are being protected, and so that is his mission. That he would stray into some wrong-headed report about gender stereotypes as part of his mandate on counterterrorism isn't a surprise to me. This is the way that the United Nations and the Human Rights Council work."
An article on this subject by Cybercast (formerly Christian) News Service reporter Adam Brickley claimed that "social conservatives are mounting a campaign against [the report] due to its redefinition of gender."