Trans Vets on the Trans Ban
BY Anne Balay ON August 1, 2017
This post contains the stories of two trans veterans, James MacGregor Halleman and Marilu Fanning, and is introduced by historian Anne Balay.
Since President Trump issued his tweet banning trans Americans from service, countless personal stories have surfaced about who this will effect, and how. Many have pointed out that trans people volunteer disproportionately for military service, and that this has always been true. Long before trans was a category, gender nonconformists and sexual outlaws of all kinds worked as soldiers.
What doesn’t get enough attention in these stories is that military service is work, and that access to enlistment, and service once conscripted, are labor rights issues. What follow are two accounts, one from a former steelworker and one from a former truck driver. Each demonstrates that Trump’s gratuitous rant serves not to limit trans people’s access to military service, but rather to make education, employment, and daily life harder for trans-identified folks. Given what we know about how many queer and trans youth lack financial support from families, and how few protections there are for trans and queer workers, Trump’s apparently casual words cause real and immediate harm.
By James MacGregor Halleman
In December of 1989 I decided dropping out of college was a mistake. Most of my adult life society viewed me as a very out butch lesbian; however, I always knew that I was male, and I decided to join the U.S. Army. The biggest incentive for joining the military was the Government Issued bonus for college called the G.I. Bill. The military entrance paper work had a question on DD form 1966/3 36 C. Character and Social Adjustment: Are you a homosexual or bisexual (“Homosexual is defined as sexual desire or behavior directed at a person(s) of one’s own sex. Bisexual is defined as a person responsive to both sexes.”) Well, what do you do when you’ve known your whole life you are really male not female? How does a person truly and honestly answer question C? I served in the Air Defense Artillery in Fort Bliss, Texas.
The military environment was hostile to “out” service members. I watched Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer’s legal battle to remain active and serve a country where she became a citizen. I was happy when she was permitted to keep serving. However, I knew enlisted personnel would not have such an easy path to continue serving. I cannot personally say whether hostile military experiences decreased during President Bill Clinton’s military policy of don’t ask don’t tell don’t harass don’t pursue. I was not serving when President Clinton switched to that policy. Nonetheless, I welcomed it.
I watched and celebrated but felt left behind when President Obama’s policy allowed our Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual brothers and sisters allowed them to serve our country. A part of me was still upset for being left behind as a Transgender man, and still not being allowed to serve my country openly, and honorably. As a transgender man some jobs and all colleges require me to show proof of registering for Selective Service. One example is the postal service. Since I transitioned over the age of 26 I cannot register, therefore I am asked by organizations or potential employers why I am not registered. I then have to present a letter and each potential employer or organization is allowed to make their own determination. This outs me again.
Colleges have R.O.T.C. programs, which provide money to pay toward tuition and textbooks. President Trump announced on July 26, 2017, that Transgender service members will be banned from serving. This most likely will have a devastating impact on Transgender college students who potentially want to serve, and earn money to pay toward college. This decision impacts Transgender students from receiving benefits from the G.I. Bill.
When I graduated last May the military brass was still undecided about accepting transgender recruits. In July 2017 military leaders requested six more months to decide policies for new Transgender recruits. I am under the impression there would be other Transgender people willing to return to the military service members who may have been oppressed by Don’t ask Don’t tell. I wanted to return to service with my graduate degrees, and serve in the National Guard. I even started the process by contacting House of Congress representative to discuss returning to military service. Those plans seem very bleak at this point.
The President may not have done anything real with his “ban” tweet, but nevertheless he made it harder for me and other transpeople to get educated, get hired, and serve.
By Marilu Fanning
I am a transgender woman. I have been transgender all of my life. I tried, for much of my life, to deny who I was and lead the life that I was expected to live. That included, like many of my Trans-sisters, a stint in the military. I am old enough to have had my time in the military be a product of the draft system during the Vietnam War. However, it was not. I volunteered to serve in the US Navy. Unlike the current President who was happy to buy himself deferment after deferment, I served proudly and was discharged honorably. A lot has changed since then. The Research has been done, and we (transgender people) are no longer relegated to the ranks of the totally misunderstood. The majority of our fellow citizens have been open to the advances in the understanding of who and what being transgender really means. Apparently, this current President is not.
At the beginning of the campaign I supported Trump on the Republican side and Bernie on the Democratic side. Neither was paid for by establishment money. I liked the idea of their independence from being bought and paid for. But Trump really showed that he wasn’t worthy during the campaign. Still, I thought that Trump would actually be friendly to us considering the part of society that he has always been a part of. He’s not all conventional and he likes to have fun, right?
Instead, I see his utter abandonment of the campaign promises that he made to protect the LGBTQ community to be an example of just how petty, vindictive and vengeful he is. If you dare to defy or disagree or criticize him, he will come down on you with all of the vengeful hate and fury that is the currency of all tyrants. These are the not the actions of a President of All of the American people. They are certainly not the actions of a great leader and protector of our Freedom. They are the actions of a very dangerous kind of despot that history has shown us to have the potential for the destruction of us all. It is time to stop the petty Partisan Bickering. Democrats and Republicans alike must unite as Americans, and together we must put a stop to this dangerous threat to all of our Freedom.
While I started out as a Trump supporter, I became disillusioned with him about half way through the campaign. He has proven to be more dangerous than I ever could have imagined. The transban is not policy just yet and hopefully it will not become policy, but his pandering to the religious right by handing them our heads on a platter has made him dangerous in a very real way. Real peoples’ lives will be ruined, assholes will think they have a license to hunt transgender people, and real people will die because of his ego, and the deaths won’t all be LGBTQ. We have second amendment rights as well and a lot more of us are arming ourselves.