WASHINGTON — In recent months, one of the key issues relating to transgender rights that has come up in public debate is that of out transgender military service. A leading trans legal scholar, however, tells BuzzFeed the focus is “likely to harm” other progress sought by the transgender community and is coming at “the whims of a few wealthy donors.”
From the decision by former Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, to come out as trans to the announcement by Chelsea Manning that she also is trans, trans military issues have received more attention than ever before. Also affecting the dynamic is the decision by Jennifer Natalya Pritzker, a former colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard who has since come out as trans, to back a $1.35 million donation to the Palm Center to study transgender military service.
For Dean Spade, who is trans and a leading left legal scholar on transgender and other inequality issues, the attention being paid to the military issues is part of a disturbing trend.
“Here’s the problem: Trans people, trans organizations, the trans movement did not choose this battle,” Spade noted. “[O]ne very wealthy individual has picked this issue and is funding advocacy about it.”
Spade founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project to provide legal help to trans, intersex and/or gender nonconforming people, regardless of income or race and has been an outspoken opponent of the military and criminal justice systems in the country — a position Spade links to his work to advance social, gender and racial justice. He also is an associate professor at the Seattle University School of Law who is currently a fellow in the Engaging Tradition Project at Columbia Law School and previously worked as a Williams Institute Law Teaching Fellow at UCLA Law School and Harvard Law School.
In an email discussion with BuzzFeed, Spade sought to push back against the recent focus on trans military service:
So, what’s going on here?
Dean Spade: The U.S. military has recently lifted the ban on women in combat and begun to let lesbians and gay men serve openly. Some see these changes as advances for equality, and some have identified the remaining exclusion of trans people from military service as a next target to change. Many universities are letting the military recruit on campus again now that it no longer officially discriminates against gay and lesbian employees, but on some campuses controversy is erupting because the ban on trans service has not yet been resolved. As the nation and world ponder U.S. military intervention in Syria, the LGBT movement in the U.S. is divided about its views about military service and U.S. militarism.
Why, in your view, is this issue reaching the headlines?
DS: This issue will continue filling headlines. But not because military service is the most pressing concern facing trans populations or the thing trans people want most. It is because one very wealthy individual has picked this issue and is funding advocacy about it — putting more money toward trans military inclusion than is currently devoted to any other trans issue.
That individual is Col. Jennifer Natalya Pritzker, billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune. In August, Col. Pritzker came out as trans publicly. The Pritzker family, which includes Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, are true 1-percenters. Colonel Pritzker, along with 10 other members of her family, are listed in the Forbes list of the “400 Richest Americans.”
Continue reading at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/meet-the-trans-scholar-fighting-against-the-campaign-for-out