A moment of silence for trans servicemembersTrans Progressive Thursday, September 15th, 2011
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Living in a town that’s often called a Navy town, the LGBT community will have much to celebrate on Sept. 20. That’s the day when lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers will officially be able to be out and proud while serving in the United States military. I know I’ll be celebrating this community victory for our LGB servicemembers.
But as one famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr. goes, “All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” And so we, as a community, find ourselves face to face with new problems as a result of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).
One problem we’ll be face to face with in the wake of the repeal of DADT is already being discussed broadly in the LGBT community. And that is that same-sex spouses and domestic partners of lesbian, gay and many bisexual servicemembers will be legal strangers in the eyes of the Department of Defense due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That means not having housing, health care benefits or family travel benefits; that means no Post Exchange or Commissary benefits.
And worse, many of the children of these couples that include a lesbian, gay or bisexual servicemember won’t be recognized as the child of the servicemember. This is again because of DOMA. The federal government will, no doubt, in many cases require the child of a union sanctioned by a state or the District of Colombia be adopted by the servicemember partner before the child can receive benefits.
But, that problem that we are face to face with as a community is one we’ve been discussing within the community. We, as a community, will work to solve that problem and at some point soon; we will see that problem solved because we are as a community, focusing on that problem.
But there is another problem that the LGBT community is now face to face with that we, as a community, are discussing less. And, that problem we’re now face to face with involves transgender servicemembers. The repeal of DADT was a victory for open service of LGB servicemembers, but that victory doesn’t mean T servicemembers also can serve openly.
Monica Helms, the president of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), has created a Facebook page entitled “A Moment of Silence for Trans Service Members on Sept. 20, 2011.‚To quote Monica Helms from the Web page:
“The Transgender American Veterans Association wants to first congratulate all the people who worked tirelessly on getting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed and helped the Administration and the Department of Defense to smoothly integrate LGB people into the services. Our members worked alongside LGB people to put this terrible law to rest and we are proud to see our work not go in vain.
“On this day of celebration, TAVA has one request for all of those who will be cheering and partying. We ask that everyone take a moment of silence to acknowledge that the fight is not over. A moment of silence for all of those trans people who will still face discharge when being outed. Take a moment to remember the trans people who gave their lives in silence to protect this country. TAVA stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in celebrating this historical day. All we ask is for them to stand in solidarity with the trans community in our struggle to end ALL discrimination in the U.S. military. The fight is not over. We live in a wondrous time for LGBT Americans. We are in a time when we can see our community’s long struggle for civil rights result in us being ever closer to the ordinary equality that we seek. But, all progress truly is precarious, and the solution of one of our community civil rights issues brings us face to face with further civil rights issues.
On Sept. 20 when we celebrate the very first day that lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers are able to lawfully serve openly in America’s military services, let us in the LGBT community hold a moment of silence for those transgender servicemembers who with repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will still be required to serve in silence.
To quote Cesar Chavez, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community ….Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”
Transgender people are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; transgender people are among the LGBT community’s own whose ambitions and aspirations should be remembered.
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=15061