Be Visible: Fight The Trans Military Ban, Support Our Own

Local PridesDeja Nicole Greenlaw at a former Pride celebration circa 2012.
Photo: TRT Archives

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By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/ TRT Columnist—

The transgender military ban is unacceptable. The ban effectively erases transgender identities as if transgender people don’t even exist. We were headed in the right direction for trans rights under the Obama administration. However, the Trump administration is trying to put a hold on our rights first by taking away the rights of transgender personnel who serve our country and make our country safe for us. Not only is this ban unacceptable, it is inhumane and frankly disgusting. And, it will affect the country as a whole too since there are over 15K transgender servicemembers in the military now. Who will enlist in such large numbers as our community does?

What can we do to stop this awful ban? For starters, we can contact our lawmakers and let them know the ban is acceptable. We could also sign petitions that support our transgender troops. But, what else can we do? In my opinion, it might help a great deal if trans people became more visible.

I believe that trans people need to be seen in all facets of everyday life so much so that after a while, it will be normal to see trans people everywhere and every day. I suggest that trans people ride public transportation, shop in their local stores, patronize their local restaurants, attend their local town and city concerts, and so forth. Be seen, be visible, be a part of everyday life and activities. People need to get used to trans people. I think visibility will get us there.

I realize that not everybody can be safe in public for various reasons. I completely understand and I do not wish you to put yourselves in harm’s way, so please be safe, even if it means you have to stay on the down low and hidden for now. Other folks who may not face these kinds of situations, though, can be safely seen in public. These are the folks who I want to reach and to whom I am asking to become more visible. We have to start somewhere and I figure that being visible in public is a good way to support our trans folks in the military. They are risking their lives to protect us, so we can at least support them by being visible.

It’s easy for me to be visible. I am a trans woman who is 6’3” and I have a low voice, so I am noticeable and visible. I don’t mind being visible because I know that by being visible I am showing cis folks that there are indeed, trans people in the world. There was a time, however, when I was deep in my closet and deathly afraid to go out in public. You see, I’m a baby boomer who was born in the early 1950s and the world was very different back then. It was after World War II and the “good times” were here. The economy was booming and most everyone seemed to want to start a family since the war was over.

With the “good times” there was also an attempt to control us, to control how we lived and how we acted. Coronet Films produced many social guidance films for young adults for those purposes, and these films were regularly shown in high schools from the 1940s to the 1980s.

The films taught us about dating, family life, courtesy, and citizenship, among other things. There was no mention of transgender people in these films but there was, however, a film about the “dangers” of gay people entitled “The Homosexual.” It definitely was propaganda against gay people. You can view the Coronet film here and see for yourself. Can you imagine what kind of films Coronet would have made about transgender people?

What I’m getting at is that many of us, older folks, have seen these Coronet films and, although we may not agree with the propaganda, these films may still be in the back of our minds. As a result, some folks may still have some prejudice against LGBTQIA folks. We need to change these minds and I believe the best way to accomplish this is to be visible and show that we are a part of everyday life. After we change enough minds, these people will most likely be on our side.

I do believe that this form of prominence can be an effective route in changing minds to gain and maintain our rights as trans people. Let’s start with first supporting our transgender military servicemembers since they are the ones now being attacked by the current administration. These trans military officers are protecting our country and us. Let’s support them. Please be visible, but be safe!

*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is retired from 3M and has 3 children and two grandchildren. She can be contacted at dejavudeja@sbcglobal.net.