Worth Fighting For

It’s been a real week in the news, huh?

Two things that have come up over and over again on my news feed: the supreme court has allowed the ban on transgender folks in the military to go into affect, and South Carolina is now allowing adoption agencies to deny services to LGBTQ couples and non-Christian couples.

Let’s not beat around the bush, both of these decisions are rooted in bigotry and hatred, and anyone trying to say otherwise is probably trying to conceal the same bigotry and hatred in their own actions. We all knew that, right?

But I want to talk about this military ban for a second, because there’s two angles here that I haven’t seen covered elsewhere.

The justification for the military ban is twofold: we don’t want to subject the military to the costs of transition, and we think that transgender people in the military would make the military less lethal. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but… isn’t the point of the military to not kill people whenever possible? Don’t we want to limit to the absolute extent that we can the number of people killed in the process of establishing global peace? Don’t we want to reduce civilian casualties, and bring people to the negotiating table and hand control of disputed territories back to a peaceful coalition group of local parties? Gosh darn it Donald Trump it’s almost like you enjoy the whole killing thing.

“But noooo,” I hear people whine, “It will take soldiers out of deployment for over a year at a time, and then we wouldn’t be able to do as well in combat.” … Where on earth are they getting that figure from? I have absolutely no desire to serve in the military, but I’m a professional athlete and I’m maybe a month away from being back at my pre-surgery capabilities – it would be a whole lot sooner if I didn’t have to spend so much time standing on my hands.

What I think people are trying to say is that only real men are good soldiers, and no-one transitioning can be a real man, either because they were born in a body with a vagina or because they are not a man and want their body to reflect that. The military is one of the most entrenched safe havens for toxic masculinity, and allowing it to develop its ethics at a pace with the real world is not something that those making this decision find desirable.

So that’s point one.

Point two is that most Americans don’t go into the military to kill people. In fact an overwhelming reason that folks in America go into the military is because it’s one of the only ways to access socialized healthcare and education.

Living here as an immigrant, I really don’t think Americans realize just how hard they are being screwed over on this one. The cost of an undergraduate degree here is CRIPPLING, and student loans are much harder to pay off or have forgiven than they are in other loan-dependent countries like the UK. My parents refused to give me any financial help with going to dance school, so I would up taking up the maximum amount of student loan I could get, and working a couple of jobs while I did my degree. Total loan when converted? $35,000, which includes all my living expenses. That doesn’t even cover one year at the university where I’m currently enrolled. The second thing is that my loan is frozen until I’m earning $24,000 a year and I’m out of school – I don’t have to pay back a thing yet. If I haven’t managed to repay the loan 25 years after I took it out, the rest gets forgiven.

Healthcare… don’t even get me started on American healthcare. The amount you guys are charged for life-essential services and medication… it’s cruel, it’s inhumane and it’s totally unnecessary. In 24 years of life before moving here I never, ever had to make a decision between poverty and medication. Ever. The fundraising for insulin and chemotherapy and surgery and everything else just breaks my heart over and over and over again. Foreigners look upon the USA as a horrific nightmare, and you smile and defend your system to the world, it’s the most shocking disconnect I’ve ever seen.

But the military can help you with that. It will send you to school, it will give you good healthcare benefits. In fact I’ve seen it argued elsewhere – convincingly – that the main reason for maintaining such an inequitable provision across basic human needs is to force poor people to sign up for military service.

Except that now transgender people can’t access either of those things.

You’ve told pharmacies and shops and schools and adoption services and landlords and employers that they don’t have to serve us, and now you’re saying that even if we offer to pay for basic services with our lives, that our lives aren’t good enough. You’ve cut off a road to getting out of poverty, and while you made the poverty trap, and the road is a shitty one, at least it existed… and now it doesn’t for trans people.


And then there’s the blinking shut down.


Goodness America, I love you so much, I want to stay here so much. But you’re really telling me loud and clear that you’re not any kind of place I want to be. More and more people are starting to act like you, America – they’re wallowing in self-righteous hatred, enjoying the pain they cause if they think it gets them what they want. What happened to the country I fell in love with back in 2010? I miss you. You know what, I’ll even fight for you, if it means living in the best country you can be.


One comment

  1. This is good stuff; I prefer to emphasize the utilitarian than the charitable argument against military discrimination (DADT both loses good soldiers and makes existing and retained soldiers less effective; eg. forced closeting was partly responsible for Chelsea Manning’s decline and thus possibly responsible for her espionage), but this puts your argument well.

    The one quibble I’d have is that the military/ poverty thing was more true in the US before Clinton’s 1990s peace dividend (or in the UK). Today, being in the US military is positively correlated with economic/ educational privilege. See, eg. http://freakonomics.com/2008/09/22/who-serves-in-the-military-today/

    And correlated with male privilege, obviously, but ever less so on that front, with women being both ever more numerous and ever less segregated from their colleagues. This is one of the things that makes transphobic arguments particularly ridiculous here; even if one believed, wrongly, that masculinity was to be highly prized (as distinguished from, say, athleticism, stoicism, and other variables often conflated with masculinity) the argument that trans men are unacceptably less masculine than acceptable cis women is really very hard to support.
    Happily, it seems better than even odds that we will have the policy reversed in a couple of years. Unhappily, there’s a lot of harm to be done to the military and to its members in the meantime. 😦


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