30 October 2015

ezs comment #5

Credit:  http://theflounce.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/article-header-326x235.png

Aw, crap, this is gonna be a long one...

When I think of the long, long stretch of LGBT history (and most particularly that of transgender history) there is one date which stands out in my mind: 1946.  Granted, there is a long historical tome laid out for us; Sappho was one of the earliest lesbians; Albert Cashier was involved in the Union Army and served there with distinction - we cannot ignore what he did.  However, in the days immediately following World War II, the nations of the world finally got together and formed the United Nations.  (By the way, one of the people who gathered was former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.)

When the first group of nations gathered together, it was in San Francisco.  Indonesia came soon after, 
in 1950.  Here in the United States, we quaintly like to believe in a "patchwork nation". Well, in Indonesia, the population may be less, but the people are far more diverse.  Case in point:  the province known as Aceh.  Aceh is, um, different. Located in the far western portion of one of the islands (Sumatra) it is definitely Muslim.

Meanwhile, work was continuing on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  What this document did was put into written form what a human being was, and what his/her rights were.  Its ideas were spotty at best; for example, women did not gain the full right to vote in Switzerland until 1970.  However, it was a guidepost.  What it also was to serve as a launching pad for various groups, some of which were known (for example, race and sex were mentioned in the Charter) but many of which came into being only later - elders, natives, disabled people, and, notably, the LGBT community.  

Transgender people were the latest among the populace to gain a foothold; Laverne Cox was a first actress to get an Emmy, and Caitlyn Jenner was the first Olympic champion to come out of the closet.  Even with the advances made by people voicing more loudly, it's a hard road.  Nothing against Laverne and Caitlyn, but with beauty on a 1 to 10, well, I think you know where they would wind up.  And it isn't their blessing and/or curse, really.  I remember early in the movie "Ma vie en rose" Ludovic says he wants to be pretty.  Her grandmother "corrects" her, saying "Not pretty, but handsome".

And what about beauty, anyhow?  Despite its pedestrian view of being only 'skin deep', beauty carries with it a hell of a lot of baggage.  Add to that the transgender woman's 'friends', enemies, and observers myopic attitudes regarding beauty as being somehow "subversive", you can add a few bricks to the baggage.

However, when we look at the larger picture, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is here, and isn't going anywhere.  Let's look again at the Declaration for transgender people, paraphrased:

  • We are free and equal in dignity and rights. (Article 1)
  • Note carefully what it says in Article 2:  "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion..."  Could it be?  Hmmm....
  • We have the right to "life, liberty, and security of person." (Article 3)
  • No punishment is allowed.  (Article 5)
  • No one should be arbitrarily arrested. (Article 9)
  • We have the right to go we want.  (Article 13)
  • We have the right to seek asylum.  (italics mine) (Article 14)
  • We have the right to hold our own opinions.  (Article 18)
  • We have the right to form associations.  (Article 20)
  • We have the right to vote.  (Article 21)

What of Indonesia's (and Aceh's) future in all this?  For better or worse, Indonesia became a signatory in 1950.  Which means, as such, Indonesia willingly took on certain duties to the international community.  By their very nature, Articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not supposed to be easy.  When we go to the table, by all rights, we expect difficulty.  

Aceh, as it been mentioned before, is very much a Muslim territory.  Indonesia tries to keep the whole thing together by offering Aceh "special status".  However, when they signed the agreement with the United Nations, they agreed to principles documented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Otherwise, it's only a piece of paper.  We don't want that.