Let me start off by saying that I believe that transgender people are just as capable and just as able to meet the military standards as cis people and in a lot of areas we would excel and exceed cis people.
My argument is not based on skill. Also i’d like to add that I know Dean Spade is a douchebag and i don’t argue against that.
Next I want you to read what I write very carefully because if you become reactionary about this article and you haven’t actually read the words i’m just going to tell you to go fuck yourself. Disagree with me, thats fine but for fuck sake read all of what I write first. Argue based on what I wrote not what your brain put there.
I also don’t think transgender americans are any less or more patriotic than cisgender americans.
I also don’t think we should be denied the right to serve our country. In the long run.
I do however think that focusing on military inclusiveness right now is a bad tactical move for us for multiple reasons.
One, the fact that targeting an oppressed group like us for recruiting into the armed services is fairly exploitative considering how hard it is for a lot of us to find employment, instead of say solving the civilian employment issues we face you want to add even more economic coercion and bad choices to an already oppressed people. The day all trans people have the same employment opportunities cis people have in the civilian world is the day I will fight for transgender inclusion in the US Armed services.
That being said any trans person who winds up economically coerced into service does not deserve any scorn for this, doing what you must to survive is no dishonor. Nor will I try to tell any trans person not to join the military if they allow this. Those of you who might join because they lack any real opportunities elsewhere deserve our compassion and respect, they took a tough situation and tried to make the best of it. Your service is honorable in my eyes.
I also have empathy for service members who are still closeted with their trans status, I was one of those people myself for some time and they deserve every ounce of compassion for living through that hell.
My fight is not with you, nor the other people on the extreme edges of marginalization who don’t see any other way out. Do what you must to survive and feel no shame in doing so. I sure didnt feel any.
My fight is with the military industrial complex that seeks to exploit our marginalization to put warm bodies in front of enemy fire. The most marginalized among us are trans women of color and that is who is most likely to be affected by this. Racism intersecting with transphobia makes life as a trans POC very very dangerous and the Army by comparison will seem safer by orders of magnitude. A guaranteed paycheck, free medical care, housing, clothing ,food, and training all are attractive offers to any people who don’t have many civilian opportunities due to discrimination.
Think about who is funding this initiative, a white wealthy trans woman, is putting her millions she made into encouraging poor trans women of color to join the armed services. All the while she only came out long after she had made her money and gained power for herself. Her initiative is coming from a place of privilege.
Does that seem right to you?
yes she has done other good things for transgender people, but that doesn’t make everything she does right.
What focusing on this will do is not lead to more transgender rights but less, most Americans think that trans discrimination is already against the law, Gay INC. worked to make sure we were not included in those new laws. Yet most people believe we are already protected by law. 90% of Americans believe trans discrimination is already illegal.
Ninety fucking percent.
My own mother believed this was the case until 2 weeks ago when we argued about transgender rights on the phone. She also loves dan savage.
Adding this will in the eyes of cis people be “equality”
They will point to that and say “see we included you stop asking for special treatment”, this will be the end of the road for us in the eyes of cis people.
“You can be in the army and you can get gay married what more do you want?” is what they will say and we all know this.
It will turn into another method to silence and oppress transgender people in the US, it is only a token effort meant to silence the voices of the oppressed so they can be fed into the war machine without protest. it creates the appearance of progress without actually addressing the massive social ills we face.
Because once you have completed your service (if you even survive) you get a GI bill you won’t be able to use, you won’t be able to use it because it requires you to pay the college costs up front and then the military reimburses you after you pass the course. That’s right, you have to already be able to afford college to get college from the military.
Now some people might say “well you can take classes while you are in the military it says so on the pamphlet”
Ok, yes that’s technically true you can, but it requires your commanders approval and you have to re-enlist for the option. This is a reward commanders hand out very rarely and only to the biggest ass kissers. Chances are you aren’t getting any college in while you’re enlisted.
So that GI benefit is practically useless to people who came from poverty. There is a reason why most people never use this benefit, and it isn’t a lack of desire for higher education.
Another point I would like to make is the fact that the oppression axes we face will continue to follow us inside of the military, racism, sexism, homophobia and other bigotry run rampant and unchecked. In fact they are encouraged on an institutional level.
The racism was painfully obvious, all you had to do was look at the chain of command photos of most units.
Most of the NCO’s were people of color and most of the officers were white, whites were encouraged to attend OCS (officer candidate school) and mentored more often than POC soldiers while often given time off to take night classes to meet OCS requirements. POC soldiers were encouraged to take the NCO route, while being discouraged from taking higher education on their own time and dime, all while the army proclaims diversity. Good enough to hold a gun for uncle sam but not good enough to be an officer giving orders. Fucking disgusting.
The officer corp has its roots in the US’s white landed gentry class and still strongly echoes these roots today. I don’t often talk about racism because i’m not a person of color and i don’t want to appropriate or put my foot in my mouth, the racism in the Army was so painfully obvious it slapped you in the face regardless of who you are so i’m speaking about what I saw.
Sexism ran rampant also, so painfully obvious it slapped you in the face. Women either had to act like the stereotypical male or they were treated as less than human. God forbid you are a woman in the army with a healthy sex drive too, because if you were liberated about your own sexuality you were less than human too. Lots of slut shaming on against women, while pushing the men to fuck everything that walks whether they want to fuck or not.
Homophobia was so thick you could cut it with a knife, repealing DADT didn’t change the culture, it just changed a law. When I was in i had NCO’s and officers tell me that if DADT was ever repealed they would do their utmost to drive out homosexuals from their unit, and most people seemed to back them up vocally.
Other forms of bigotry ran rampant also, ableism is institutionally acceptable and the stigma for mental illness is so strong human beings in pain will refuse treatment because they fear the harm it will do to their careers often causing themselves more long term harm in the process.
So when you join the military you are not leaving your oppression behind, you are bringing it with you and putting it in a microcosm. And when you leave you will likely wind up right back where you started, plus with a good chance of having PTSD or some other untreated mental illness. Oh and chances are you are going to face the same kind of violence inside the military as you would have in the civilian world, the military already has a rape and assault problem against cis women thats near epidemic levels, with trans women it would turn into a blood bath and i can’t even imagine the horrors trans women of color would face.
Oh and you still won’t have any civil rights when you get out.
You still won’t be able to use public restrooms.
Jobs still won’t hire you because you are trans.
You are still going to be the butt of every joke.
You still risk being murdered and raped, your veteran status will not protect you from racism or transphobia.
Bigots don’t ask for your fucking DD214 (discharge papers) before they beat you to death.
Activism isn’t a zero sum game but strategy is a real thing and putting military inclusiveness before civilian protections and opportunities are acquired will only hurt us as a movement. We need housing and employment protections , we need healthcare equality, we need protections for trans youth. We need social changes to occur. We need to end white supremacy and cis supremacy first.
What we don’t need us the US government using us as weapons of war while they deny us our civil rights.
So no i don’t think we should be focusing our energy on getting transgender people in the military in the US right now. Perhaps when we solve basic equality in the civilian world and when our military is no longer the worlds bully, then perhaps. Until then i don’t want to see transgender people dying for a country that denies them the right to use public restrooms and won’t even acknowledge the fact we exist in a lot of places.