Passively accepting evilBottom Highlights, Trans Progressive Thursday, April 18th, 2013
Commentary: Trans Progressive
In the week since I wrote my last column, scheduled Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) performer Ubaka Hill released a statement in response to the Change.org petition asking that this year’s performers at the festival boycott the event.
She stated, “My response to your courageous request that I cancel my Drumsong Workshop and the Drumsong Performance by participating in a strategy of a boycott against my own employment, my fans, my students, my peers, my musical, spiritual and cultural community of womyn and against the collective MWMF community is this is not the method of change that I want to participate in. The old ones would say, ‘Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.’ ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.’ I do listen to the teachings of the Elders. I speak only of the method and not the essential cause of which I want more inclusion in the discussion of change through peaceful dialogue and interaction. We must be watchful of horizontal hostility. There’s got to be a better way!”
As I opined recently, the womyn-born-womyn policy (WBW) has been in place for 36 of the 38 years of the festival’s existence. If talk alone could have changed the anti-transgender discriminatory policy born of prejudice, the policy would have changed long before now.
I’ve been thinking of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in the I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech because of this situation. He talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan in the speech given on the day before he was assassinated, and how it applied to the civil rights struggles of his day. He said, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But … the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”
It was three years ago this month I took to the White House fence with five other military veterans toward repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). I put on the line in that protest.
Being retired from the U.S. Navy I receive a pension, and therefore I’m still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Navy Uniform Regulations state that as I’m a retiree I’m not allowed to protest in uniform. Failure to obey that regulation meant that if convicted at court martial, as was possible, I could have received as a maximum sentence forfeiture of my military pension, a dishonorable discharge, and confinement at a military brig for two years. And, if sentenced to the brig, I would have been confined with men because at the time the Department of Defense (DOD) considered me male.
I’m also a disabled veteran with service connected disabilities. If the character of my discharge changed from an honorable discharge to a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge, it would’ve resulted in my losing my VA disability pay and my VA health care.
Repeal of DADT didn’t change the DOD regulations on trans servicemembers. If one is trans, one isn’t allowed to join; if one is found to be, or admits to be trans while serving, one is discharged.
Yet knowing about the possible consequences of protesting, and knowing that participating in the protest wouldn’t change things for trans servicemembers, I still chose to act like the Good Samaritan, and not like the Levite of the parable. I chose to serve my LGB community siblings in their struggle toward them being able to serve openly.
What I’m discussing the MWMF WBW policy in this context is the three evils of prejudice, discrimination and segregation. I’m not asking the Indigo Girls or Ubaka Hill to do more than I did to join the struggle against a discriminatory policy born of prejudice.
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. again, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
It pains me to say that the performers at the MWMF – performers I know that are just trying to make a living at what they do well – are cooperating with those three evils, but they are free to do so.
But, trans people are just as free to apply pressure toward them not passively accepting evil.
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