Should Open Trans Military Service Be A Trans Community Priority?

In my most recently published weekly column for LGBT Weekly, I wrote a piece with the headline. Open trans military service: Is it really so important now? From the opening paragraphs:

Quite a few columns ago I wrote a piece outlining what I understand to be the six priorities of trans-community activism. In the column, Transgender Activism Goals, these priorities, in no particular order, were listed as:

  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Public accommodation
  • Full access to education
  • Full access to healthcare services
  • Legal recognition of appropriate gender

There are two other priorities that could be significant goals of transgender activism. Those are marriage equality, and open service in the armed forces. The question becomes one of where to expend our community’s scarce activism resources. Should marriage equality or open service for trans servicemembers be on the short list of issues upon which the trans community expends its limited resources?

I first indicate that marriage equality is a broader LGBT community issue, so trans specific civil rights organizations aren’t needed to be organized or utilized directly for a concerted marriage equality push. That doesn’t mean trans people shouldn’t care about marriage equality. Trans community members can work within the preexistent, broader LGBT community coalition to achieve marriage equality for all.

Next in the article, I spell out some arguments for and against adding open service for trans people to the short list of trans community civil rights priorities.

[More below the fold.]

Arguments for making this issue a top priority for the trans subcommunity of the LGBT community are similar to arguments for allowing lesbian, gay and bisexual people to serve openly. This is an ordinary equality issue allowing those who wish to potentially put themselves in harm’s way to defend their country to serve openly.

Barriers against open service by trans servicemembers include 1.) Accommodation issues for those trans servicemembers just beginning the transition process, 2.) The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR) still lists “gender identity disorder” as a mental disorder, and 3.) The Department of Defense instruction 6130.03; the instruction that “Establishes medical standards, which, if not met, are grounds for rejection for military service,” indicates “transsexualism,” “transvestism” and “change of sex” are grounds for rejection.

We, within trans community, have six community priorities that we don’t have enough resources to address adequately as it is. Trans community depends a great deal on being linked up with lesbian, gay, and bisexual donors and activists in LGBT community to push forward trans community legislative and regulatory equality goals. In my opinion, trans community has the critical mass to be a community, but our community’s mass is frankly not a large enough, moneyed enough, or politically powerful enough mass to accomplish our community goals without a significant amount of aid from our broader LGBT community siblings.

I ended my article this way:

Perhaps, in a perfect world, we would have enough community resources to achieve all of the LGBT community’s equality and civil rights goals. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Resources are limited. Speaking specifically of the aggregate of resources available to the LGBT community, only a small portion thereof are allocated to trans issues.

Is the issue of open service for trans servicemembers important enough at this point in our struggle for equality to warrant expending those very limited resources, even if doing so [may] significantly diminish work on the other six or more overriding challenges we face?

The trans community [members haven’t] asked ourselves that question yet. It’s probably time we do.

And that’s where I’ll leave it — the trans community needs to ask itself if open trans service is important enough to bump up into our top handful of community issues.

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