For what it is worth: While I opposed the draft and aided deserters during the war in Vietnam I support the right of all LGBT to serve in the military as equals and without discrimination.
By Toshio Meronek
Monday, 21 July 2014
Aaron Myracle was brought up in a military family, so enlisting in the Army National Guard in 2002 as a teenager was a natural choice. Myracle eventually served for eight years, including a deployment to Baghdad during 2007’s troop surge, often called the most dangerous period of the war. For those eight years, Myracle had to cover up the fact that he is transgender (trans), due to a longstanding Pentagon policy banning trans people from serving openly in the military.
On May 16, the White House said it supported a review of the trans military ban. But Myracle is not celebrating. Hiding his identity was often emotionally excruciating, he says. In spite of this, he believes the current push to end the ban is a misguided one.
Myracle, now a 30-year-old with a child, spoke to Truthout over the phone from his home in Tacoma, Washington. “As someone who cares very deeply about my fellow trans people, if what we really care about is strengthening trans people, military enlistment is not the way to go about that,” he says. Since leaving the army in 2010, he’s become active with the group Iraq Veterans Against the War, which, among other things, calls for reparations for the people of Iraq.
Thinking back on his first time arriving in Baghdad, Myracle says, “I really thought we were the good guys and that we were doing the right thing, and I learned on the ground that that really wasn’t the case. That kind of shook my understanding of the military to the core.”
Myracle says he “can’t endorse anyone joining the military, knowing what I know, and having seen what I’ve seen – the way sexual assault is covered up and hidden, and the victims are re-victimized by the system, and disenfranchised, and oftentimes punished to such a degree that they forfeit all of their benefits – I can’t endorse people being involved in that.” The Department of Defense estimates there are 26,000 sexual assaults in the military each year; less than 1 percent of those ever end up in military court.
Who Sets the Trans Agenda?
Since the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy in 2011 allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly, a few mainstream gay-focused organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have turned their sights on the trans military ban.
HRC spokesperson Allison Herwitt called current Pentagon regulations on transgender service “a de facto ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.” The ban, she said, “keeps skilled, hard-working transgender Americans from serving their country and keeping the jobs they’ve been trained to do . . . Our military, like employers across the United States, is best served by ensuring every qualified and talented individual can serve, without regard to gender identity.”
In 2013, the campaign for trans military inclusion got a huge boost from another trans ex-service member, a retired Army lieutenant colonel named Jennifer Pritzker.
Pritzker’s not the average Army vet. Forbes magazine recently declared her the world’s first trans billionaire, and through the years, the Pritzker family dynasty has owned a mixed bag of cash-cow businesses including the Hyatt Hotels chain, the smokeless tobacco purveyor Conwood, and the credit reporting company TransUnion.