Like many Americans, on Tuesday, I watched President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address. Though he didn’t spend much time on LGBT issues, Obama did give a nod to his LGBT (and allied) supporters with an oblique reference to the recently passed repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), a long-awaited victory for the LGBT community.
After acknowledging that gay men and women can now serve openly, Obama then called on all colleges to allow ROTC and military recruitment back onto their campuses, which many schools had forbidden in the past due to policies that forbade discrimination based on sexual orientation. While other bloggers have called on colleges to reject this proposal for the sake of peace and student safety, there’s a more obvious and pressing issue that many have missed.
Transgendered individuals can still not serve openly in the military.
Despite popular opinion, the repeal of DADT has no affect on whether transgendered individuals can serve. Individuals whose gender identities or expression do not match their biological sex can still be discharged from the military, due to discriminatory policies held by the United State’s military.
Hopefully these policies will be addressed in the coming years, as it has in other countries throughout the world. In Canada, Australia, Israel, the Czech Republic, Spain and Thailand there is no barrier for entry for transgender soldiers, and many are even supported through diversity programs.
But, in America, the day where the entirety of the LGBT community can openly serve in the military has not yet arrived.
On the majority of the campuses where ROTC is banned (Yale, Brown, Stanford, and Yale, to name a few), gender identity and expression are also protected under non-discrimination policies. Reinstating ROTC and allowing military recruiters back onto their campuses would be in direct violation of their own policies, as well as hypocritical, and openly discriminatory towards their transgender students.
President Obama believes that the repeal of DADT will allow us to “leave behind the divisive battles of the past” and “move forward as one nation”. However, this battle is not over, and will not be until transgendered individuals can serve openly, as gay and lesbian soldiers will soon be able to.
Until then, Mr. President, I respectfully disagree. Colleges should not open their doors to ROTC and military recruiters until all of their LGBT students can serve their country openly and proudly.