By Tom Carpenter
October 24, 2012
I recently blogged about the unfinished mission after repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”law (DADT). Most of the blog dealt with well known issues related to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), family benefits, and instituting a non-discrimination policy to prevent hostile workplace issues. I also brought up transgender service – which has been allowed in the United Kingdom even before they were forced to permit lesbian, gay and bisexuals to serve – as one of the remaining challenges. One of my readers, Sharon W, vehemently disagreed with my support of the transgender community, and the opportunity to be in the armed forces.
Sharon W wrote:
If the “LGBT” ideologues had had their way, our side would have had to insist upon the right of cross-dressers to serve openly before any repeal could happen. Thus, there would have been no DADT repeal, just as there has been no ENDA and will be no ENDA any time in the near future.
The issues raised by “transgender” military service are wholly distinct from those raised by LGB service. Many transgenders suffer from a recognized mental illness, GID. Others have or are in the process of altering their bodies surgically and/or via hormone therapy. This raises real issues concerning fitness for service, at least in some cases. None of this has anything to do with gay servicemen and servicewomen, and it is entirely right that this issue was kept out of DADT repeal, even if it hurt Mr. Carpenter’s feelings.
It is unfortunate that there continues to be an unthinking assertion that gays and lesbians form one “people” with transgenders. In fact, LGBT is a recent contrivance. “Transgender” is an umbrella term (which is rejected by some of its would-be members) which encompasses various subgroups; the vast majority of the members of these subgroups are not gay. LGBs should be friends to trans people, but it makes absolutely no sense to continue to insist on using terms like “LGBT people” when there is no such thing.
When I read Sharon’s comments, I felt a lot of things. I was surprised there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about what transgender and gender dysphoria means. There was disappointment that some in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) community would so casually turn their backs on people who are on the same side as us on every major issue: the end of DADT, marriage equality, the end of DOMA, passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), and every form of legal protection for LGB people. The implication that trans people are ballast that should be chucked overboard at the earliest opportunity disturbed me greatly.