I've seen a shocking amount of resentment coming from different quarters of the trans community over the repeal of DADT that to me is completely unjustified and destructively short sighted.  I’ve seen accusations of the trans community being left behind, and frequent statements of DADT repeal doing nothing for the trans community. I think we seriously need to look at just what was passed Saturday, and examine with optimism the opportunities it represents.

First, we need to look at the bill that the Senate passed Saturday, S.4023. The bill at its heart is little more than a simple repeal of the DADT law that was passed in 1993.  The real meat of the bill is defined in Section 2 (f):

(f) Treatment of 1993 Policy-

  •  
      (1) TITLE 10- Upon the effective date established by subsection (b), chapter 37 of title 10, United States Code, is amended–
  •  
    •  
        (A) by striking section 654; and
  •  
    •  
        (B) in the table of sections at the beginning of such chapter, by striking the item relating to section 654.
  •  
      (2) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Upon the effective date established by subsection (b), section 571 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994 (10 U.S.C. 654 note) is amended by striking subsections (b), (c), and (d).

In other words, all this bill does is to undo what was done in 1993, which means that legally, it will simply put us back to where we were before DADT went into effect.  It is of course not quite that simple.  DADT superseded existing policy at the time, so the existing policies have been discarded.  Secondly, there has been a cultural shift since then.  However, it is important to note that S.4023 doesn’t really do anything.  It only undoes something.  It doesn’t put something in place.  It takes something away.  So, to those transfolk who say it doesn’t do anything for the trans community, I will point out that it doesn’t really do much for the gay and lesbian community, except of course to loosen the rope around their necks that has been dragging them down for 17 years.

It further unties the hands of the President when it comes to setting policy in this matter.  Military treatment of gay and lesbian service members will become a matter of policy, not law, once again.  It is important to note that military treatment of transgender service members has been a matter of policy, not law, all along.  Viewed that way, all S.4023 does is to bring GLB service members back up to the place that trans service members have been at all along.  Considering that, complaints from the trans community that we’ve been left behind, we’ve been held down, and this is a bad thing for us start ringing pretty hollow.

Contrary to popular impression, DADT is not repealed with the president’s signature this week.  Section 2 (b) states that it will be repealed 60 days after certain criteria are met:

    (b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (f) shall take effect 60 days after the date on which the last of the following occurs:
  •  
      (1) The Secretary of Defense has received the report required by the memorandum of the Secretary referred to in subsection (a).
  •  
      (2) The President transmits to the congressional defense committees a written certification, signed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating each of the following:
  •  
    •  
        (A) That the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report's proposed plan of action.
  •  
    •  
        (B) That the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f).
  •  
    •  
        (C) That the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.

In other words, nothing changes with regard to DADT until a couple of months after the President and military commanders come up with new policies to replace it.  It doesn’t say what those policies should be.  We are all assuming that our fierce advocate is going to open the doors for GLB service members to serve openly and honestly, but there’s nothing in this law that requires that (and all he promised to do was repeal DADT without specific promise to what would replace it).  It is entirely within the President’s prerogative to reinstitute the exact same policies that were in place in 1993 when Bill Clinton first proposed opening up the military, and DADT resulted as a compromise to the conservative backlash.  Further, no matter what Obama does, a future Republican president can undo them with the stroke of a pen.

The one clear mandate that S.4023 does create is that some policy must be created.  There is no firm timetable, and they could pretty much take an eternity to do it, but there is an expectation that they do it.  That means that the books will be opened.  Policies will be discussed and debated.  New language is going to be drafted.  If that process is in motion, then that process can be lobbied, protested, and influenced.  While the trans community is complaining about being left out of DADT repeal, we are missing out on the opportunity to inject ourselves into the process of writing these new polices for GLB service members to get them to include friendly polices for trans service members as well.  DADT repeal has opened up the greatest opportunity to push for open service for transfolk we have ever seen, and are likely to see again for a generation or two.

It’s time for the trans community to start seeing this glass as half full and looking for ways of using it to our advantage.

azerica

azerica

27 Comments

Leave a reply