Here in my adopted hometown of San Diego, California, I was asked to speak at this year’s San Diego Pride Stonewall Rally about open service for transgender servicemembers in the U.S. military services. The rally was held on July 20, 2012; the 20th through 22nd is Pride Weekend here.
This was an important LGBT year in so many ways: one interesting way was at the Stonewall Rally this year we raised San Diego’s new monument to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and LGBT community civil rights: a large rainbow flag was permanently raised on Normal Street. Perhaps it’s incredibly fitting that the flag pole is situated on Normal Street in between Harvey Milk Street and University Avenue — perhaps a fitting commentary on normality of LGBT people, LGBT activism, and the legitimate academic importance of queer studies.
In my speech at the rally, I called on community activism towards open service for transgender servicemembers. Below is the prepared text of that speech:
As you just heard, my name is Autumn Sandeen — and I am a transgender American.
I’m not monster of tooth and claw, scales or deformity: a predator of my peer women in public restrooms. Instead, I am a human being — a citizen of the United States of America. I’m a Persian Gulf War Veteran who retired in 2000 after 20-years of service; I have a 100% VA Disability rating: my invisible disabilities are service connected.
Although I’m not a monster, I’ve engaged in the activism of the monstrous. With GetEqual in 2010, I twice joined lesbian and gay veterans as we handcuffed ourselves to the White House fence over repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We at GetEqual fought for open service for lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers as did many other LGBT activists, such as those activists at the HRC, SLDN, and Servicemembers United.
And yet, it’s an incomplete victory.
One of the ways it’s incomplete is that military service for trans people wasn’t impacted by the repeal. We trans people are functionally seen as monsters by the Department of Defense: If we’re diagnosed as transsexual, then by regulation we’re considered mentally deficient for service. If we have had surgeries to align our bodies to our true genders, then by regulation those surgeries disqualify us from service.
I knew all of this when I took to the White House Fence — that repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell wouldn’t mean open service for trans people. But y’know what? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell effected three subcommunities of the LGBT community, so as a transgender veteran I was glad to work by and for my LGBT community siblings. For me, if an issue is an issue for even one subcommunity of the LGBT community, then it’s my issue.
Do you feel the same way LGBT community issues as I do? Do you?
Then let us, as an LGBT coalition of the willing, say “The issue of open service for trans people is my issue.”
Tomorrow I’ll be marching in the active duty servicemembers and veterans contingent — proud to openly march with my LGBT community peers — many in uniform. Some didn’t want us to march at all last year, and some didn’t want us to march in uniform this year, but the Deputy Secretary of Defense said today that we could have our active duty peers march in uniform. And, we’ll be proud of all of them.
And, with me I’ll be carrying me this tiny rendition of the Transgender Pride flag as a tiny, quiet, nonpolitical reminder to community: We’ve come so far on LGBT military service issues, but we’ve still not achieved ordinary equality for all of us. We won on open service for lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers with the aid of activism of the monstrous; with hard work and perseverance we’ll win on open service for trans servicemembers because we are, as a broad LGBT community, monstrously self-empowered…monstrously powerful.
And, as we march forward tomorrow, and the many days after tomorrow, let’s remember we shouldn’t leave anyone behind; let’s remember we shouldn’t leave the transgender servicemembers behind.