Trans Liberation, Not US Militarism: Selective Outrage Over Trans Military Ban Obscures Larger Failures to Support Trans Communities
We are frustrated but not surprised by Trump’s ban on trans individuals’ ability to serve in the U.S. military. This is a clear attempt to attack trans communities in order to drum up support among the administration’s transphobic base as the it seeks to distract from its failures and embarrassments. And the administration’s insistence that trans-competent health care is an unnecessary “financial burden” not a fundamental right sets a dangerous precedent when it comes to the future of trans healthcare.
While we are concerned for the well-being of trans individuals currently serving in the military, we are skeptical of the “outrage,” calls for protest, and fundraising appeals we are seeing from LGBT folks and their allies. Many of those coming out the loudest against the ban on trans military service have been silent as trans folks across the country continue to be killed, as they continue to suffer harassment and violence at the hands of police, and as they continue to be denied housing, jobs, healthcare, respect, and dignity.
We’ve been in the streets showing up for trans folks. Where have you been? What have you been doing?
We are deeply skeptical of the degree to which criticisms of the ban on trans military service ignore the grave injustices carried out by the U.S. military and the military industrial complex. It is possible — and necessary — to criticize policies that single out and attack trans individuals while refusing to endorse, support, or celebrate the U.S. military. Pandering to dangerous sentiments of nationalism and patriotism is no way to garner respect and dignity for trans folks. We will not allow the trans community to be leveraged to support U.S. militarism and imperialism.
We reject the the idea that trans military service should be a priority for the movement for trans liberation. As other trans activists and scholars have pointed out, advocacy around military service only became visible after wealthy billionaire donors, “dedicated to celebrating the US military” put their money behind it. For trans individuals, the right to housing, jobs, food, healthcare, education, and safety should not be contingent on putting one’s life on the line in service of the U.S. war machine.
When thinking about how to respond to Trump’s ban on trans military service, it’s important to listen to the voices of trans folks first. Today, we’ve been inspired by the words of some of our trans comrades on our newsfeeds:
There are trans people RIGHT NOW IN AMERICA who are homeless, jobless, without healthcare, being denied access to food and resources and you know this. There are trans people RIGHT NOW IN AMERICA who still have not received JUSTICE for the state sanctioned violence we face every day from this murderous regime. And you want me to give my life to a country that never gave a fuck about me? Now you all of a sudden y’all care about trans people? Because of the military… who are you and why are you here? Go ahead and make a difference! www.twocc.us/donate
-Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Trans Women of Color Collective
“This ban serves as a disturbing model for trans health care in the US and how institutions will further fail to protect us. To be considered a burden because we demand and deserve affordable and equitible care is nothing short of dehumanizing. BUT most importantly, where are y’all when TWOC are being murdered and abused on the streets? That’s the crux right there. We live on these frontlines daily, and if only cis advocacy could shift it’s focus to what’s really affecting us, we’ll actually feel like we’re heard rather than cis folks steering a ship that’s not theirs. Don’t get me wrong, cis folks do play a crucial and necessary part in all of this, but when an issue like this is what creates your yearning for allyship, then you’re missing the big picture”
“Don’t worry white trans people you can still join the border patrol and police if you really need to kill colonized people.”
We refuse to make the ability of trans (and queer) individuals to serve as oppressive agents of the state a central part of our vision of trans liberation. Our liberation cannot and will not be achieved by gaining access to systems fueled by death and destruction. We reject the arguments of those who reduce this issue to a matter of equality versus inequality, because fighting for equality within a corrupt and oppressive system perpetuates injustice.
And to those who claim that military service presents a viable employment opportunity for trans folks — we encourage you to take a moment to examine the systemic barriers to trans employment that make this line of thinking possible.
It is our sincere hope that those mobilizing today in opposition to the trans military ban also recognize their duty to mobilize in opposition to rampant discrimination against trans individuals everywhere. We implore cisgender allies to think twice before celebrating the possibility of trans folks putting their lives on a line for a country that has yet to affirm or respect their value as human beings.
To read more on this topic, check out these resources:
Sex, Gender, and War in an Age of Multicultural Imperialism — Dean Spade & Craig Willse (2014)
Transgender Activists Speak Out Against Campaign to End Trans Military Ban — Toshio Meronek (2014)
Against Equality: Don’t Ask to Fight Their Wars — Against Equality Collective (2012)
A Military Job Is Not Economic Justice — Queers for Economic Justice Statement on DADT (2010)
Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times — Jasbir K. Puar (2007)
To speak with a representative from No Justice No Pride, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
No Justice No Pride is an ad-hoc collective of organizers and activists from across the District of Columbia. We exist to end the LGBT movement’s complicity with systems of oppression that further marginalize queer and trans individuals. Our members are black, brown, queer, trans, gender nonconforming, bisexual, indigenous, two-spirit, formerly incarcerated, disabled, white allies and together we recognize that there can be no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.