Thursday, January 20, 2011

Life in the Trenches

I was happy about the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, even though it is unlikely to benefit me as a trans person.  (And I have serious moral reservations about the military, but that's a separate issue.)  Trans people are still banned from serving openly in the US military.  

There is only one way in which this makes sense to me:  if you've just had, or are planning to have, major surgery then you are probably unfit for service.  However, if your transition is completed, or you're not planning to have surgery then why can't you serve?  Yes, you might still have certain medical needs.  But in general you would be perfectly healthy.  I've been trying to find out what kinds of medical conditions you can have and still be allowed to serve.  It's easy to find lists of what will disqualify you; not so easy to find out what is allowed.  One thing I did learn is that being HIV positive does not seem to automatically result in a discharge.  They won't allow you to enlist if you're HIV+ but if you contract it while in the service they will let you stay as long as you're medically fit.  If that is true then I really don't understand why other medical needs would necessarily disqualify you.  (Incidentally, according to their website, the Department of Veterans Affairs "is the largest single provider of medical care to people with HIV in the United States."  Why might that be?)

As the military sees it, being trans is more of a mental health issue than a physical one.  In other words, "transsexualism" is classified as a mental illness and they don't want mentally ill people.  Of course, it has been more than thirty years since homosexuality was classified as a mental illness, and only now is the US military reluctantly admitting that it might be okay to let homosexual people serve.  So it's not about mental illness as such - it's only about what's socially acceptable.  Our society creates its own definition of "mental illness," and that definition has more to do with cultural norms than actual psychological well-being.

Even knowing all this, I was surprised to learn that military personnel can be court-martialed for cross-dressing.   Yes, that's right, the US military has nothing more important to worry about than whether or not some guys like to wear dresses while off-duty.  (Other court-martial offenses include "Jumping from vessel into the water" and "abusing [a] public animal.")  Now, if it turns out that the military is founded on the principle of not transgressing gender norms . . . I wouldn't be at all surprised.  But seriously, what difference does it make?

So, I wouldn't be allowed to serve in the literal trenches even if I wanted to.  But it's okay.  I've got trenches of my own.  Here's a story about transphobia in the workplace.  The good news is that this blogger, who gives good advice on a variety of employment-related issues, is trans-friendly and supportive of dignity and respect for all.  The bad news is that somebody thought it was okay to come and ask her an ignorant question about a transwoman using the "wrong" bathroom.  The worse news is that this woman is being gossiped about and made fun of by her co-workers behind her back because someone, somehow, found out she was trans.  Not because she's done anything in that bathroom that anyone could find inappropriate.  Not because anyone looking at her can tell that she's trans.  No, it's simply because being trans is wrong, wrong, wrong, and making fun of people who are different is a wonderful thing, just like we all learned in elementary school.

I try to be understanding when my family and friends express a lack of comprehension about my transgender.  I know where they're coming from, because it was a hard thing for me to understand and accept about myself.  Plus, I've had more time to think about it than they have.  But it's stuff like this that causes me to despair.  It's stuff like this that makes me afraid.  It's stuff like this that makes me angry, because life is hard enough as it is.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Solstice Poem

Throughout the year the sun and moon
tack back and forth across the sky.
They tapestry of heaven weave,
the web that binds us all.

Nature, some say, is full of senseless rage.
She lashes out in fire, floods and storm.
Her only work is to destroy -
just ask The Weather Channel.

The calm eternal patterns of the sky
are not the story that they want to tell.
And peaceful sleep upon the breast of nature,
the starry breast of over-arching heaven,
Egyptian Nut who gazes down upon us,
is no fit background for their tale of woe.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Joyful all ye nations rise

I just came back from my grandmother's funeral.  Because she died on Christmas Day, one of the hymns played was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Although it might seem like a discordant choice, I'm here to say that it was very beautiful and powerful to hear a song celebrating birth at a funeral.