Why “Letting” Trans* Folks Serve In The Military Isn’t Progressive or Radical


According to a “Breaking News” article on HuffPost the military is considering plans to permit Trans* 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 a 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 to 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 closer to the systems and institutions that have historically ostracized them, these institutions are positioning themselves as evolutionary and modern; “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.

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 good work, by recognizing the ability of Trans* folk to participate like everyone else; we must remember what we (trans* and queer 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? We cannot simply be satisfied with recognition, if that recognition is the noting of our ability to participate and direct the repetition of the violence supporting the master’s house.

Follow Tabias Olajuawon on Twitter @BlaQueerFlow. Like our page on Facebook at BlaQueerFlow & Tabias Olajuawon Wilson.

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