Yes, the military-industrial complex is a problem — but that’s not all we should talk about when discussing the unjust transgender ban

I am anti-war. I’m not a pacifist, exactly. I believe there is some power in nonviolent resistance, and I believe in both individual and group rights to self-defense against oppressive forces. I support the troops — I believe veterans deserve to be compensated and cared for. But I don’t believe that governments have the moral authority to decide — based on their own financial and political interests — whose death is justifiable.

Yesterday, when Trump tweeted that transgender people would now be banned from the military, I saw a lot of Twitter users make statements about supporting all the troops bravely defending their country.

I also saw a lot of online cheering from people on the left, saying that Trump was doing trans folk a favor by kicking them out of the military — and that bothered me.

I admit, part of me agreed — that defiant part who sees a better world as one where the military-industrial complex has been dismantled, who thinks that we would be better off if no one was willing to die for those institutions. (For those who may be unfamiliar, the military-industrial complex refers to the government’s use of constant war and excessive military spending to turn a profit, first discussed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower).

But what are people really saying when they make light of Trump’s dehumanizing act, and force trans people to the front of their anti-war revolution?


According to The Williams Institute, there could be more than 15,000 trans people currently employed by the Department of Defense.

These numbers are contentious, because there is no real way for us to know.

If these numbers are accurate, that means trans people are overrepresented in the military. The military solicits a disproportionate number of poor and working class people of color. Trans folk, like other marginalized groups, are more likely to be in a vulnerable position and accept military service for access to basic human rights and dignities, like healthcare and education. Regardless of the exact figures, the Department of Defense is arguably the largest employer of trans people in the U.S.

All this seems to have started out of “concern” over government money being used for health care related to gender confirmation, as if financial reasons allow you to somehow dissect one aspect of a person’s physical and mental health from their whole being. (Also, it’s simply not true that trans health care is too expensive for the military budget.)

Trump’s threat would create a hostile environment for trans people serving — by forcing trans folk using hormone therapy to de-transition or to foot the bill themselves, by forcing any trans person who wants to remain employed (or who wants to avoid a dishonorable discharge) deep into the closet.

Trans people aren’t a burden; we are people deserving of care. We aren’t a distraction.

We aren’t your martyrs, either — we are fighting our own way and waging our own war against a violent cisheteropatriarchy.

If you want trans people to lead your revolution against the military-industrial complex, you better get up and do your part.


Support trans lives. Include us in your marches and your rhetoric. Fight for the Black trans women who are being targeted with extreme violence, who are being murdered and never receive justice. Use whatever power and wealth you have to make a world where vulnerable people don’t need to rely on military service for the basic rights and dignities their government should be giving them for free.

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