Trans People and the Military

I fully support the right of Trans people to have the same rights to employment and housing that everyone else has. No one should lose their job due to their gender identity. No one should lose a promotion or not be considered for employment due to the particular health care needs that gender transition might require.

But, I have to admit that I kind of hate the fact that this issue has to come to a head – thanks to the President’s Twitter declaration this week – over the military. I had a similar mixed feeling over the fight by many Pagan and Polytheists over the right to have their religious symbols used in military cemeteries.

My reaction is “I support your equal rights, but…”

I have a lot of problems with the US military. I am not strictly a pacifist, and I see the value of having some kind of national defense. But, in my lifetime, the various involvements of the US military have gone so far beyond defense of the US homeland that it almost seems laughable to think about that as their mission. Vietnam and the second Iraq war are just the two largest examples of long US military engagements that had massive costs in terms of lives and fortunes and it’s difficult to see how US citizens benefited in any way.

Our military intervention around the world has largely been to advance and preserve the US economic hegemony and the global economic systems that are the very ones that are damaging the environment and propping up deep inequality. We send bombs across the world to keep up our way of life, instead of questioning whether we need to change our way of life to live in a more reasonable way, in better balance with the resources that we have available.

I do not support the US military as it exists today. And while I understand that these large strategic decisions about where we go to war are not in the hands of the regular soldiers and personnel, the choice to be a willing and obedient cog in the system is the choice of the individual recruit – or at least it has been since the draft ended.

I am very uncomfortable with our culture of obligatory vocal gratitude, bordering on worship, of those who have served in the military. They are people who made choices and took risks, certainly, and I hope they feel that what they have gained is worth the risk. But I often think this feverish rhetoric around revering those who served in the military is an attempt to avoid thinking about how fruitless many of their sacrifices were.

So, I’m sorry if I didn’t jump on this issue instantly, decrying the unjust treatment of trans people in the military. I do think the President’s proposed policy shift represents injustice, and it’s awful. I’m just having a hard time advocating for anyone to have that particular job.