This piece was originally posted on July 14, 2015 in the wake of the Obama administration decision. It is being reposted due to a broken link and relevancy–with minor grammatical edits–due to a Transphobic announcement by the Trump administration.
According to a “Breaking News” article on HuffPost the military is considering plans to permit Transgender–hereafter Trans* to encompass the multiple identities implied–people to serve in the military. In many ways, this can and should be framed as a victory for human dignity. Trans* folk, like many other citizens, love the United States and have shed blood, sweat, tears and coin for this nation. Trans* people of all political persuasions have a history of putting their nation first, in ways many agree and disagree with. One of the most visible ways this has transpired was during the Stonewall Riots when the Queer community, led by Trans* folk and Drag Queens/Kings, waged a battle for human dignity that doubled as a redemptive fight for the soul of America. They not only demanded to be seen as human, sexually autonomous and worthy of the state’s respect and protection (for all queer folks); they also presented the country with an opportunity to regain and reclaim it’s own sense of humanity, freedom and equality. Therefore, in many ways, state recognition of the inherent equality and humanity of Trans* folk is long overdue.
It is not that Trans* people have recently become a part of the fabric of America, it is instead that America is finally acting as if Trans* lives matter. Emphasis on the “acting.” Much like recent celebrations over same-sex marriage, or so-called, formal “marriage equality,” the state has given a modicum of recognition to sexual minorities in order to further entrench it’s systems as valid, relevant and the grand officiators of normalcy. By continually beckoning racial and sexual minorities–as well as racial-sexual minorities– closer to the systems and institutions that have historically ostracized them, these institutions are positioning themselves as evolutionary and modern; “d/evolving” (as politicians do) with the arch of time, toward a greater justice. However, in practice, the system is simply doing what it must do to survive and remain beyond reproach, review or r/evolution. If ever the system, the state or its apparatus or officials determine otherwise, Trans* folks will again be marked and valued according to the needs of the state. This includes removing and erasing the current rhetoric around human dignity and American equality and reverting to the utilization of Trans* folks as unfortunate, yet sometimes useful, products and fuel for the perpetuation of the American state. This is not to say that we, Trans* and Non-Binary folk, will be publicly heralded as important, but instead that violence against us and the utilization of our pain, trauma and economic/political oppressions will continue to pay for American “greatness.”
This has been true throughout the history of the neo-liberal, colonialist, American project. From sociolegal power and the right to vote for landless white men, to the ending of slavery, to rights of women to vote and work, racial integration of the military, to the repeal of DADT, marriage equality, modicums of immigration reform (DREAM Acts) and (half-ass) rights to healthcare…the state has responded to threats to it’s omnipotence and de-facto necessity by first offering controlling images of the dehumanized as terroristic, violent, undeserving and non-human and–when that fails–offering access to the government largess on the condition of assimilation. This offer to the oppressed–the offer of (situational) state bestowing of humanity–is hard, if not impossible to reject. Therefore, the state offers itself as a parasite in a messiah’s clothing–depending on the (coerced) consent of the marginalized, in order to retain power to further divide, mark, maim and marginalize and other.
While allowing Trans* folk to openly serve in the military undoubtedly does a symbolically good work, by recognizing the ability of Trans* folk to participate like everyone else; we must remember what we (Trans* Queer & Non-Binary folk) are being called to participate in. Why, and for whom and what, are we being summoned to kill and die for? Do our lives only matter when positioned as a fleshy blockade between colonial thirst and the violence that quenches it? What honor is there, in participating in colonialism, genocides and unknown, state-sanctioned terrorism(s)? Despite our hunger, despite our need for coins for survival, despite the blood-stained erasure of place in this space, the military is not the way we make home, home. We deserve to be recognized, but we paid a price long ago. We cannot simply be satisfied with recognition, if that recognition is only facilitated by a temporary noting of our ability to participate in the politics of heroics, to perfect and direct the repetition of the violence supporting the master’s house. We are Non-Binary, We Are Trans*, We Are Not Conforming. If we do, what is left of our magical, radical, transformative nature, beloveds?