Editors' Note:Angela Brightfeather is the Vice President of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA).
While appearing on the Lawrence O'Donnel Show on MSNBC last night, on the eve of the fresh demise of DADT and while answering questions about how he felt about the repeal, Dan Savage misstated the actual situation regarding DADT and transgender people in the military - on more than one occasion. (Video after the break) My question is, what does it take to get into GLB heads and especially Dan Savage's head, that Transgender people are still not able to serve their country openly?
Due to the original legislation to repeal DADT and the way it was written, no concern was given to transgender people serving in the military. At the time, and when questioned about this glaring omission by the Transgender American Veteran's Association (TAVA), we were told by the organizations who were pushing for repeal at the time, that it was an oversight on their part and that since the legislation had already been written, it was impossible to go back to Senator Lieberman, one of the sponsors, and try to get it changed - a song and lament from the GLB community that transgender people have heard on more than one occasion.
TAVA agreed to not rock the boat on DADT because we did come to the party late and we were given the usual reassurances by the other organizations that they would assist TAVA in the future to get similar equal status for transgender people to serve in the military. To give credit to that promise, SLDN, NCTE and the other organizations have agreed to take part in the moment of silence that TAVA has been asking people to participate in today, to mark the fact that the job is not over and to bring attention to the fact that transgender people still cannot serve.
Apparently, Dan Savage was to busy celebrating, appearing on television, or just didn't care enough to understand why TAVA called for the moment of silence today.
Instead, Dan Savage goes on the airwaves and starts to talk in totally inclusive terms about how this is such a great occasion for GLB & T people. He may be right about all GLBT people being happy to see the end of DADT. But then he goes on to state that it, by association, directly affects transgender people affected by the repeal. My question is...what the heck was he thinking anyway?
What Dan Savage actually did in saying what he said, is to endanger the positions of every transgender person who is presently serving in the military today, and there are plenty of them. He actually stated that up to 40% of GLBT people will be coming out to others they serve with, within the next few weeks. He included transgender people as being positively affected by DADT on at least four separate occasions.
This could have disastrous effects on transgender people who may not know the difference and might be so misinformed as to heed what Dan Savage said seriously and decide to come out of their closet. The end result would be immediate dismissal from the military.
Based on the existing Uniform Code of Military Justice, combined with the erroneous belief that DSM IV, which states that being trans is a mental disorder, similar to how they described being gay back in the 80's, transgender people get discharged immediately. Unknown to Dan Savage, transgender people were never even mentioned in DADT, either on purpose or by mistake, it makes no difference, Transgender people serving in the military are just as much victims of discrimination today in the military, as gays were yesterday.
Somebody, if you're close to Dan Savage, reach over and slap him in the head for me and tell him to wake up. If you don't know what you're talking about, either ask, or just keep quiet.
This is an inexcusable and totally irresponsible statement made by a so called GLBT national leader and inventor of the "It Gets Better" philosophy. He should know better than to appear on a national television show and endanger the positions and lives of transgender service members. As well as misinforming the general public, thus making everyone believe that it is "any better" for transgender people because DADT is now a part of our GLB history. I can hear it now when we next go to lobby in DC....."But I thought Dan Savage said on MSNBC, that transgender people in the military were protected now."
Sorry Dan, but while you might have had my respect in the past, you definitely lost it all, by being so misinformed and ignorant about transgender people. You have compounded the loss of my respect by airing your lack of knowledge on a national television show.
When Rachael Maddow came on her show next, she also applauded the repeal of DADT with a special segment and not once did she say that transgender people were included in the repeal. Congratulations Rachael on doing your usual superb job of investigating and reporting accurately on the subject matter. Now how about a special segment on why trans people are still not protected? Apparently Dan Savage never got the same memos you did.
I call on Dan Savage to swallow his pride regarding this matter and go back to MSNBC and ask that they revise his statements and re-inform the national public and service members that for transgender people in the military. No Dan, it does not get any better and uninformed national leaders who refuse to understand transgender people and support them, are not making it any better either.
Fix it now!!
If you want to make an impression, try informing people that in Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Thailand and a few other US allies, transgender people are allowed to serve in the military, but not in the home of the free and the brave.