Trans Military Ban: Some Early Thoughts

Content note: transgender rights, transphobia, transantagonism, LGBTQ discrimination

By now most of us in the U.S. have read of the president’s tweets about overturning an Obama-era decision allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military.

I am not trans, but some of my nearest and dearest are NB and/or trans. I have a lot of mixed and strong thoughts on this. I do not know everything. I can’t promise they will be coherent or consistent. I own that, and in writing I attempt to engage the problem and always be doing better than I was doing before.

By framing the ban as an issue of “medical costs,” the administration has adeptly pathologized the issue as one of  a medical defect, rather than identity. Further, if we do choose to frame it as a medical cost, taxpayer dollars cover prescriptions for the military. The military spends five times more on Viagra than on the combined medical costs for trans personnel. Certainly we aren’t going to stigmatize that, are we? Nope, because what goes on in their pants is none of our damn business.

Of course, there is a delay in implementation. Are we planning to dismiss these active duty service members, despite clean records? That’s a slippery slope of second-tier citizenship for the rest of the LGBTQ community. It sets a dangerous precedent. Would they still be eligible for veterans benefits? The GI Bill, introduced after WWII, discriminated against any soldier discharged for homosexual behavior. Are we willing to go back that far in stripping access and benefits?

The framing of “medical costs” is intentional, as we are currently embroiled in the healthcare debates. Transgender individuals are not a burden to the military, and they are not a burden to society, despite what this president tweeted. Be very careful how this is debated.

A few of my mixed feelings: I am non-violent. I consciously joined a Christian denomination with a peace history and a long line of conscientious objectors. This complicates the issue for me. I want to dismantle systems of power that kill and maim. Military service is not the benchmark for equality, equity, and justice in our society. Even with transgender individuals allowed to serve in the U.S. military, the life expectancy of Black trans women is 35. LGBTQ people in Idaho still do not have housing and employment protections. And both LGBTQ youth and veterans still complete suicide at an alarming rate. See the forest and the trees. This is only one step of likely more to come, toward making LGBTQ people second-tier citizens, or worse.

If you want to do more than just be mad, this is a great Medium post to boost, share, and read:

To the cis person angrily sharing news of the Trump transgender military ban



Content note: trans persons in the media

I am not a trans activist. I do not claim to know enough about the trans community. Thusly, I will be brief and stick to what I know at present: language. I’m shooting for roughly 350 words.

Yesterday the New York Times ran an article: The Transition of Bruce Jenner: A Shock to Some, Visible to All  (I used a proxy so the NYT will not log a page hit from you).

The blurb reminded us “he has not confirmed it.” Several paragraphs in, I read, “Advocates for transgender issues declined in interviews to discuss specifics about Mr. Jenner’s situation, saying that until he announces what is going on, it is wrong to make any assumptions.”

This reminds me of the ridiculousness of the episode of This American Life about “Batman”: include a single, passing statement wherein a source calls you out for your previous line of reporting to before moving along with your reporting.

If a person has not come out as trans, there is no article about their transition.

I don’t care if the rest of the article is a good “think piece.” If the first third of the article is premised upon speculation and tabloid journalism, the last two-thirds do not redeem the piece. If the NYT cared about the trans community, it would run a piece on the trans community without linking it to click bait. As it is written, the article is just one more that commodifies the presumed gender identity of a celebrity.

My closing thoughts come from tumblr:

I don’t care that media and tabloid coverage has suddenly become more serious and respectful because of reporting that Bruce Jenner might be transitioning.

Gaining some sort of confirmation (confirmation will only come from Bruce until then, let’s shut up about it) does not mean that the tabloid reports were not transmisogynistic and hateful in the first place. Because they were. They’re a prime example of how anyone who defies gender norms, but particularly those who are feminine-presenting, will always be the subject of ridicule and violence.