CommunityPam's House Blend

Autumn's thoughts about community, activism, and the direct action with GetEqual at the WH today


Coverage and photos by The Advocate are up now.

NOTE FROM PAM: As I knew well in advance about this direct action, I asked Autumn to share her thoughts about what she was about to do. I’m proud of her, particularly because as a member of the transgender community, she has steadfastly stood by the progress and pain that affects LGBs, I wants that to be remembered when trans issues come to the fore, something we all know garners much less attention, and much less activism by LGBs. Autumn puts not only her military pension at risk; being arrested now subjects her to detention; being transgender, will be placed in harm’s way many will never know. Thank you, Autumn.

What Autumn told GetEqual to say about her participation in this protest for repeal of DADT.

Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen is a transgender veteran. Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will not result in the allowing of transgender servicemembers to serve openly. Autumn Sandeen believes; however, that the transgender subcommunity is part of the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community: Issues that effect lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are LGBT community issues, so disabled, transgender veteran Autumn Sandeen is here as an intra-LGBT community ally.

Autumn’s words to me a day ago that she asked me to share with readers:

I encounter a lot points of view on the web, that being true within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) netroots as much as anywhere else. I’ve seen lesbian, gay, and bisexual people appreciate when straight allies support their causes. I’ve also seen gay fellows get upset when non-gay people use the antigay f-word epithet. I’ve seen LGBT organizations like GLAAD and The Task Force move to fully include trans people in their mission statements and their actions; I’ve found wonderful intra-community allies at the grass roots. I’ve also watched the HRC in September of 2007 go from mouthing the words of strong support for trans people’s civil rights, to by early 2008 fully supporting the version of Employment Non-Discrimination Act that didn’t include gender identity or expression protections. I’ve also read articles and comments LGBT media sites and forums, as well as on sites ran by gay bloggers, that at times have called for removing the T from LGBT, and at times have blasted GLAAD and others for taking up fights over when antitrans epithets are used in media — heck, they don’t want trans issues taken up by “gay and lesbian community” at all.

But I remember what Martin Luther King Jr. said:

The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.

One of my communities is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. If just one subcommunity of the broader community finds an issue to be an important issue — even if that issues doesn’t affect my community or me personally — then it’s my issue too.

Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is an issue that will not directly effect those who identify as trans, nor will it directly affect me. If DADT were to be repealed tomorrow, lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers would be able to serve openly, but trans servicemembers wouldn’t.

Currently, when a servicemember is identified by the military as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, he or she is usually given an discharge that indicates their service was honorable. Currently, when a servicemember is identified by the military as transgender, he, she, or ze is often subject to a discharge that indicates that the trans servicemember has a personality disorder. Those trans servicemembers who are unfortunate enough to be given that discharge that indicates that he, she, or ze has a personality disorder find that pedophiles are given the exact same kind of discharges indicating personality disorder.

Repealing DADT won’t change anything for trans servicemembers. They still won’t be able to serve openly; they still would be subject to discharges that indicate personality disorder.

But, the good neighbor looks beyond him-, her-, or hirself, discerning those inner qualities that make all humankind human, and therefore, siblings. Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell may not help my trans siblings, but it helps my other siblings in the LGBT community. Their issues are my issues.

“We are confident. We have ourselves. We know how to sacrifice. We know how to work. We know how to combat the forces that oppose us. But even more than that, we are true believers in the whole idea of justice. Justice is so much on our side, that that is going to see us through.”

~Cesar Chavez

So what do we know how to do regarding DADT? We know how to have an inside game — we have LGBT civil rights organizations lobby Congress. We know how to have a “15-minute activist” game — that is, we know to talk to our congresspeople and tell them we want DADT repealed. And, as GetEqual has begun reminding us with grassroots action, we know how to engage in the outside game of civil disobedience, with all the consequences that go with engaging in civil disobedience.

So, is it reasonable for trans people — members of an LGBT subcommunity who won’t be directly impacted by repealing DADT — to sacrifice for their broader community?

Well, as a disabled, transgender veteran who retired after twenty-years of service, I choose to engage in civil disobedience with GetEqual for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I choose to engage in personal sacrifice for others’ civil rights in the broader LGBT community in the exact kind of way I would hope that others in the LGBT community would sacrifice for my subcommunity’s civil rights.

I don’t choose to fight for civil rights because this is about me, I choose to fight for civil rights because this is about us; this is a lot about being the good neighbor in the LGBT community.

As a military retiree who receives a pension, I am considered by the United States government to be receiving lesser pay for lesser work. I am still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) because I am a military retiree, and I amreceiving that pension. Dan Choi is a reservist, and he too is subject to the UCMJ. For both of us, there could be real consequence for engaging in the type of civil disobedience in which we’re engaging. But, we know how sacrifice; we know how to combat the forces that oppose us. And, justice is so on our side, that justice is what is going to see us through.

If a man hasn’t discovered something that he would die for, he isn’t fit to live.

~Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist. He discovered something worth dying for, and he died for it. I’m not likely to die this week for engaging in civil disobedience with GetEqual. But that said, it doesn’t mean I don’t voluntarily sacrifice to achieve the LGBT community goal of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s my broader community neighbors that I choose to possibly sacrifice for.

So, to challenge you here at Pam’s House Blend, have you discovered something for which you would die for? Or even for which you would just engage in significant sacrifice for? Would it be your family? Your personal goals? The goals of your community neighbors and siblings that might not directly affect you?

If you’re gay, lesbian, or bisexual, would you sacrifice for your trans neighbors and siblings? If you’re trans, would you sacrifice for your gay, lesbian, or bisexual neighbors and siblings? It’s something worth knowing about yourself and those around you.

When I was in the U.S. Navy, the Navy core values were honor, courage, and commitment. In engaging in civil disobedience this Tuesday against a government policy that harms real lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers within our LGBT community, I feel I’m engaging in an act of honor, courage, and commitment for my broader community neighbors and siblings. For me, enaging in civil disobedience for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is just the right thing to do.

President Obama needs to show leadership on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; he needs to be serious about repealing DADT this year. President Obama needs to demonstrate his commitment to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year by adding language to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in this year’s Defense Authorization budget.

Warmest thoughts,




* Autumn Sandeen’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Story

* About Autumn (Autumn Sandeen’s Pam’s House Blend “About Me” page)

* Autumn Sandeen: Binding Up Our Wounds

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