The danger of trans military inclusion
This is an essay I never felt I had to write. I’ve said the things I’m about to say so many times to nodding heads in queer and trans community and among friends on social media, in person, in activist circles. These are facts, statistics, and policies I thought we were all at least aware of on some level. I always felt like the vast majority of us were on the same page. But the recent news of the Pentagon deciding to openly welcome transgender people in the U.S. military proved me wrong. Publications, organizations, and people I know and respect trumpeted the announcement as a victory, a step forward for trans rights. Not just mainstream people and sources either. Queer ones. Trans ones.
Many did this with explicit celebration, positing trans people, or just more people and diversity in general in the military as a good thing, a step forward, a mark of justice. Many others did this with a tacit endorsement — neglecting to present any critique from those in the trans and queer justice movements themselves. This is often justified as an attempt at some form of just-the-facts journalistic neutrality, which does not actually exist. It is merely a reflection of the privilege and bias of those with the power to shape the discourse cherry-picking which “facts” they think are relevant. Or more to the point, knowingly or unknowingly choosing which facts will safeguard their continued financial security and power to shape discourse. As such, we only heard one side of this story: Trans people can serve openly now, and the military will treat them with respect and meet their needs!
Since the full, contextual story of what a minority faces in the military, what anyone faces in the military is criminally underrepresented in this discussion, we have to create it ourselves. Many of us already do this. Conversations happen between us in community regularly, but less so in more mainstream, accessible media. The few critiques that do circulate about this issue, fortunately, also call out why this is the case. But those critiques, incisive as they are and as often as we publicize and distribute them, are still an overwhelming minority, easily overshadowed and lost amid the mainstream media machine, with LGBT outlets increasingly part of it. We need more.
This is, apparently, an essay I very much need to write.