As you read this, I’ve again began engagement in direct action with my peer activists over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Five of the six of us who handcuffed ourselves to the Whitehouse Fence on April 20th are again here — I’m here with Mara Boyd, Jim Pietrangelo, Evelyn Thomas, and Dan Choi. There are others here too, and these include Robert Smith, Geoff Farrow, Miriam Ben-Shalom, Michael Bedwell, Justin Elzie, Robin McGehee, Scott Wooledge, Chris Tina Bruce, and Ian Finkenbinder — among others. Eight of us are in military uniform, many who are not in uniform are here too.
I’m again at the same place in the sense I’m here in Washington DC, and in the sense that I’m emotionally and idealistically in the same place as I was last April.
I remember still what Martin Luther King Jr. said:
The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.
If only one of the subcommunities of the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community finds an issue to be an important issue — even if that issues doesn’t affect my transgender subcommunity or me personally — then it’s still my issue too.
Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is an issue that still will not directly effect those who identify as trans, nor will it directly affect me. If DADT were to be repealed tomorrow, lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers would be able to serve openly, but trans servicemembers still wouldn’t be able to serve openly.
We began the day by honoring Leonard Matloveich. Per Wikipedia:
Matlovich was the first gay service member to fight the ban on gays in the military, and perhaps the best-known gay man in America in the 1970s next to Harvey Milk. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet became a cause célèbre around which the gay community rallied.
We went to Senator Reid’s office next, asking when the Senator will uphold the promise to Lt. Dan Choi at Netroots Nation that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be repealed.
This afternoon, we are at the White House.
So again, I hold true that the good neighbor looks beyond him-, her-, or hirself, discerning those inner qualities that make all humankind human, and therefore, siblings. Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell may not help my trans siblings, but it still helps my other siblings in the LGBT community. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues are still my issues.
I still, as a disabled transgender veteran who retired after twenty-years of service, choose to engage in civil disobedience with GetEqual for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I still choose to engage in personal sacrifice for others’ civil rights in the broader LGBT community in the exact kind of way I would hope that others in the LGBT community would sacrifice for my subcommunity’s civil rights.
I don’t choose to fight for civil rights because this is about me, but instead I still choose to fight for civil rights because this is about us; this is still about being the good neighbor in the LGBT community.
As a military retiree who receives a pension, I am still considered by the United States government to be receiving lesser pay for lesser work. I am still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) because I am a military retiree, and I am still receiving that pension. There still could be real consequence for engaging in the type of civil disobedience in which my peers and I are engaging. But, we still know how sacrifice; we still know how to combat the forces that oppose us. And, justice is still so on our side, that justice is still what is going to see we in the LGBT community through.
If a man hasn’t discovered something that he would die for, he isn’t fit to live.
~Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist. He discovered something worth dying for, and he died for it. I’m still not likely to die in the next few days for engaging in direct action with GetEqual. But that said, it doesn’t mean I don’t voluntarily sacrifice to achieve the LGBT community goal of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It is my broader community neighbors that I choose to sacrifice for in the short term, and possibly into the long term as well.
So, I am still challenging those of you reading this at Pam’s House Blend to ask yourself if you have discovered something for which you would die for — or even for which you would just engage in significant sacrifice for. Would you sacrifice for your family? For your personal goals? The goals of your community neighbors and siblings that might not directly affect you?
I’m still asking you, my siblings in the LGBT community, if you are a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person, would you sacrifice for your trans neighbors and siblings? If you are trans, would you sacrifice for your gay, lesbian, or bisexual neighbors and siblings? I said last April, that this is worth knowing about yourself and your LGBT siblings, and I will say again that it is still worth knowing about yourself today.
And I ask this question too: Is the freedom, equality, and justice for LGBT people about your civil rights, your LGBT subcommunity’s civil rights, or is it about our civil rights? Is it about you, your demographic peers in community, or is it about us?
I choose to make my efforts towards achieving freedom, equality, and justice about us. When it comes to liberty and justice, I choose to put my efforts towards fulfilling the American ideal of liberty and justice for all.
We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.
Today I stand with many peer LGBT activists over the legislative repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Some are engaging in the direct action in front of the cameras, and some of us are supporting in strategy and logistics. those who are asking Senators and the President to make real the promises of democracy to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who wish to serve their country in military uniform. It is time for the Senate to vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell so that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may openly serve their country in military uniform. This is not the time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism — my activist peers and I are here to remind our Senators, our President, and the American public of the fierce urgency of now.