Fighting or not as the trans military ban unfolds
By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
I have an admission to make. The Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military has put me once more into an uncomfortable position.
You see, I was raised a good hippie kid. My hippie parents taught me the importance of peace and love and non-violence. My parents were also, in many ways, a second generation of this sort of thinking. My gram further reinforced this by stressing the importance of settling disputes through peaceful discussion, debate, understanding, and empathy. Basically, I was taught to always seek any conflict resolution that provided an alternative to violence.
I also heard stories of my grandfather, who I never knew, because he died when my dad was young. Apparently, he had served in the Marines, in the Pacific, during World War II. But though he was offered an officer’s commission several times, he consistently refused it. He believed in non-violence. And, while he was willing to fight for his country himself, he would not order another man to fight or kill.
As a child, I went for several years to a summer camp run by the Unitarian-Universalists, which was basically staffed by a bunch of old hippies, assisted a younger generation of punks, hippies and wonderful weirdos—almost all of whom were strongly anti-violence and anti-war. Who I am today was deeply molded by my overwhelmingly positive experience with those folks and by the upbringing I received from my family.
A month after I turned 18, and was required to register for “Selective Service,” the first Gulf War started. I immediately met with The Quakers and researched all my options to stay out of the military as a conscientious objector.
I also led a walkout from my school and joined a local anti-war march. Thankfully, the war was over, at least that first round, before any of this became a serious issue.
All of this is to express to you how deeply uncomfortable I have been when it comes to the fight to allow trans people to serve openly in the military. I do not, and cannot support violence, particularly of the nationalistic and militaristic variety. It’s not a cause I talk about often, but I have deep, deep problems with our history of sending our military forces into countries that often neither need nor want our help and the centuries of occupation and colonial expansion our military has been such an integral part of. Further, I strongly believe that our military has an ugly history of exploiting the most marginalized and poorest of our people to fill its ranks.
I tell you all this so you know, absolutely and without a shred of a doubt how fundamentally and deeply problematic it has felt for me to actively fight, or even support the fight to allow my trans sisters, brothers, and siblings to join and serve openly. I strongly believe that no one should join, trans or cis.
I recognize the reality of our military. It is unlikely we will be able to disband it anytime soon. Our military is simply too deeply entrenched in our society and our national world-view. It’s also unrealistic to think we live in a world where eliminating our military forces wouldn’t be an absolutely disastrous thing to do in terms of security and stability. Though, I will seek and strive to build that world where that is possible till my last breath.
Frankly, for all the violence and imperialistic actions our military engages in, there’s still a lot of good work they do, and a lot of very good people who do believe in the mission of our military, who serve us with honor and with high principles.
Plus there’s, y’know, the Coast Guard. It’s easy to forget they’re one of the main branches. But they are and they do some of the most dangerous, most important, and least recognized work of any branch.
So, I’ve never been ideologically happy with this fight, but I think it’s incredibly important. No matter what I, or you, might think about the military, we cannot deny how glaringly terrible, how unjust it is for such an entrenched American institution to blatantly discriminate against any good and qualified person who wishes to serve—Especially trans people!! I mean seriously, you read my whole diatribe about how strongly I believe in non-violence and how I’ve been marching practically since I could carry a sign! You won’t be surprised to know that I didn’t exactly hang out with, or even know, many military or ex-military types.
That is until I transitioned and started spending time in the trans community. Suddenly, I was practically surrounded by ex-military folks and even still-serving members of the military. There are so many trans people who have served or are actively serving in the military. I don’t even see how it’s realistically possible to have a functioning military if you were to boot out all the trans people!
You’d end up with one guy named Jimmy, alone in Afghanistan.
I joke, of course. But even if you discount the incredible number of trans people who are serving or have served, even if you take that out of the equation. It’s still a fundamental conflict with the whole basic concept of equality to specifically exclude any one group of law-abiding citizens from serving.
You just can’t. It’s not right. It’s not just.
So despite my objections, that’s why I believe it’s so important to fight this fight—why I fight this fight, to allow trans people to serve openly and proudly, in the military. And it’s why I would encourage you to fight too.
I just, well, I thought we had settled this already. But here we go again.
* Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at [email protected].