minute past the stroke of midnight on September 20th,
the long awaited repeal of President Bill Clinton’s 1993
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)” policy was lifted.
precisely 12:01 a.m. EST, the popping of champagne bottles
began, along with cheers and tears celebrating the end of
a repressive era that prohibited LGBTQ servicemembers from
honestly and openly serving in the military.
the celebration was bittersweet.
our lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) servicemembers now have
a policy in place to protect them from discrimination, the
repeal of DADT doesn’t protect our transgender servicemembers.
we are happy to see the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’
we are troubled that the military still expels some members
of our community simply because of who they are. Transgender
people continue to serve our country honorably, and our
country needs to do the same for transgender service members
by reexamining this outdated ban,” Mara Keisling, executive
director of the National Center for Transgender Equality,
stated in a press release weeks before the DADT’s repeal.
of the reasons for transphobia in the military is its rigid
adherence to antiquated notions of masculinity, manhood,
and gender roles. The military has a binary view of gender,
and unfortunately, with that perspective, transgender servicemembers
as deemed medically and mentally unfit because of Gender
Along with the military’s
binary view of gender, its transphobia
is institutionally maintained by its medical and conduct
regulations. For example, the medical regulation for all
enlistees is a physical examination. If an enlistee has
had or is thinking about having genital surgery, that decision
or outward expression of thought can easily become grounds
for disqualification. But that’s not the end of the military’s
egregious display of transphobia. If an enlistee has not
had genital surgery or isn’t thinking about genital surgery,
but identities as transgender, that too is grounds for disqualification.
The military deems the enlistee as having a mental health
it is easy to disclose the myriad ways in which the military
is egregiously transphobic, perhaps the same disclosure
needs to be done to us - the LGBQ population and our organizations.
So the question that
needs to be put on the table is this: Why is it, in another
historical civil rights moment won, ending discrimination
for all in the LGBTQ community, our transgender population,
once again, is left out? Did we not learn our shameful lessons
after the debacle of the 2007 Employment Non-Discrimination
Act (ENDA) fallout?
During an entire campaign
to win an inclusive ENDA, we didn’t learn. And what was
expected to be an historic vote on HR 2015,
the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, in the House, the LGBTQ community got a version of ENDA
that did not include gender identity.
Sadly, however, we have
done it again with the repeal of DADT. Our LGBQ civil rights
organizations’, in spite of their best efforts to explain
how and/or why transgender Americans are, once again, excluded
from this historical landmark decision, realize this is
not their endpoint on this issue, but rather it begins new,
trans-focused organizing strategies that will redouble their
efforts to do more.
“Today we’re one step
closer to full equality, but we’re not there yet. This victory
only strengthens our resolve to continue our work toward
open transgender military service. And with your help, the
Task Force will continue to push for that inclusion.” Rea
Carey, Executive Director of National Gay and Lesbian Task
Force, stated in a press release. “We’re mobilizing grassroots
efforts to help pass trans-inclusive nondiscrimination laws
in cities across the nation;… The DADT repeal serves to
remind us that, with a lot of hard work, we’re getting closer
but we can’t let up until we get there.”
Here in Boston,
LGBTQ activists and our allies are not letting up.
At the steps of the
State House on the first evening of the repeal of DADT demonstrators
staged a protest to draw attention to the fact that transgender
Americans are still unable to serve openly in the military.
“I’m out here supporting my trans and les (lesbian) homies
who are still DL (on the down low) in the Army because I
know what it feels like to be dissed at home, church, Army,
and the gay community,” Jamilla Davis, an African American
lesbian from Roxbury told me.
African American lesbians
have been discharged at three times the rate at which they
serve, and Davis
knows this from first-hand experience. To date, more than
13,500 LGBTQ servicemembers have been discharged under DADT.
I would like to say that with the repeal of DADT the number
of our servicemembers being discharged will stop. But it
won’t. Our transgender servicemembers were not included.
Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion
columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of
the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific
School of Religion.
A native of Brooklyn,
Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union
Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served
as a pastor at an African-American church before coming
to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow.
She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author
of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible
Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American
feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society
that is frequently invisible. Her website
to contact the Rev. Monroe.