Why I Can't Stop Thinking About Obama's Farewell Address

Why I Can't Stop Thinking About Obama's Farewell Address

Pres. Obama shared some inspiring ideals about our country.
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Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama delivered his final address to the nation as its leader. Now, I am not here to talk politics. There is plenty of that being done in the media nowadays, anyway. I am not here to argue for or against Obama's presidency either. I simply want to share my thoughts on the topics that he covered in that hour long speech that I watched and admired.

He began by talking about his search for purpose in life, which is something that we can all relate to. He then spoke about America as an experiment. This description is truer now than ever before. So many variables have changed, and so many people believe they have the best theory of how to deal with those changes. Sometimes those ideas work, and sometimes they don't. But it is the effort and actions taken by ordinary people who are trying to be the good that they want to see in the world that gives us a fighting chance even in the scariest of situations. President Obama then spoke about the very pressing topic of next week's transfer of power, saying that his administration is doing everything it can to keep it peaceful. No matter your opinion of the current of future president, I admire Obama for attempting to remind the citizens of this country to keep in mind one of it's most special qualities.

Solidarity, the President said, is necessary in a democracy. It calls the people to put some of their individual ideals and desires aside in order to help move things along and fight for a greater good. Reminding the nation of the necessary compromises that need to be made is pivotal, especially in this political climate. Anyone who watched this speech should take this fact to heart. We all take in the information that we have at the time and formulate a response that works best at the given moment, and should not be afraid to adjust that as times change. Most importantly, as President Obama said, "There are no quick fixes."

Of course, a speech on the state of the country would not be complete without addressing the differing views on racial diversity. While he did speak about affects on things such as the economy and education, the part that struck me the most was when he proceeded to quote one of my favorite literary characters, Atticus Finch. Laws will not be enough, as we have known for a long time. As Atticus said, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view." Most importantly, our nation is made stronger by diversity, as I have come to know in the past few months. Having different perspectives and different beliefs surrounding you is so interesting because you learn to accept and empathize with other's positions and struggles, something I believe can make the world a better place.

The President ended his speech on a very optimistic note, something that has been uncommon in the world for a while. He spoke about the people that he has encountered who are unselfish. This was my favorite part because he was recognizing the good that is still in the world during a time in which most of the news that you see is so vicious and pessimistic. I hope that those who have seen this speech (if you haven't, seriously, it's worth watching just for when he talks about the Michelle) will take a moment to put political views aside and think about the openness and diversity that has always strengthened not only our characters, but our countries as well.


Cover Image Credit: UPI

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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To My Parents Who Traveled Across The Globe For Opportunity

I'd say the 17 hour plane ride was worth it.

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Dear Mom and Dad,

April, 1998: an important and historical month for the Mugeta clan. It was in this month that you, Mom, (eight months pregnant), and you, Dad (definitely not pregnant but definitely exhausted), left the familiar and bustling city of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania and flew over some 8,000 miles over 17 hours, to the land of 10,000 lakes: Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dad, you were lucky enough to get selected for the U.S Diversity and Lottery program (which, cough, a certain president is trying to eliminate) and had friends here in Minneapolis who were willing to let a few stranglers stay in their apartment for a few months.

Coming to Minneapolis, you guys just wanted the chance to explore. The United States is incredibly hyped up across the globe. "America this, America that, the American dream." Mom, you told me that you jumped at the chance to fly here because, "It's America, and who doesn't want to come here?"

In the 20 years that you've lived here, you've done so many things. You guys had me, Dee and Chris, got jobs, bought a house, Mom, you got a degree and, of course, dealt with the rebellious American generation kids you were raising. Doing all these things isn't easy; too many people make it sound as if moving across the world is easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy when it is far from that. It is shockingly expensive when it shouldn't be, incredibly selective and terrifying. But you guys still make it seem easy.

The judgment that immigrants get from "American Natives" is embarrassing and makes my skin crawl. People, like you two, have uprooted your lives for better opportunity and experiences, yet people will still label you as "job stealers" and other dumb things. It took nine years for us to visit family, to see the Grandmas, Aunt, Uncles and cousins. You didn't just move here for the "American glamour."

It's easy to get caught up in Western cultures and ideas. I'm guilty of it. Sometimes, I take what you do for granted and I feel ashamed thinking about it. I can be selfish and extremely headstrong. Mom, I know you're reading this and laughing because you know this already and know how I always think I'm right about everything.

It's thanks to you guys I get to study a major I love, have all these connections with so many people, have two places to call home and have a stronger bond with others thanks to the experiences we've faced together.

Thanks for being the most genuine parents ever. Seriously. You guys teach me so much and make me want to do everything the world has to offer. I feel like I could be an engineer, teacher and even astrophysicist from all the encouragement you give me. I might be bad at math, but you make it all seem like it's possible.

People who don't have immigrant parents are missing out: the dual languages (even though I can barely stutter three sentences in Swahili), traditional clothing, music that makes you want to dance out of the planet as well as other aspects of culture that just make your everyday life more diverse. And I'm thankful for the culture in my life. I'm privileged to be able to teach and show my children the culture I grew up with and will continue to embrace for the rest of my life.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being the best. And for not making me be a Doctor.

Sincerely,

Sera

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