Guest Blogger

Is Dan Savage Really This Naive & Uninformed?

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 20, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics
Tags: Dan Savage, Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC, trans in the military, trans servicemembers

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 SavageDan 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.

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Here's what I just did in response to this post, Angela:

[=My tweet to Dan Savage=]

If he gets about a thousand of these, maybe he'll get the message.

Tweet Dan at @fakedansavage

Or you can re-tweet my tweet above ...

And everyone, you can follow me on Twitter at @ajlopp
 

Not that this excuses anything, but this is a complicated issue that you also do not explain well (which is maybe what Dan Savage is also doing). DADT covers sexual orientation, not gender identity. So yes, technically trans people are affected by DADT if they identify as gay or lesbian. It covers their sexual orientation identity, just not their gender identity. I think this is often the problem when we co-mingle the two. Both sides are sexual minorities (which is why there is a joint attack on most issues) but fundamentally there are some differences between what each side are fighting for...one is who you love and one is who you are as a person. I think both are equally valid rights to fight for, but sometimes it can complicate the issue at hand. Now I don't know Dan Savage and I haven't talked to him about this issue, but maybe it's possible that he is only speaking about sexual orientation in reference to DADT (which would be *legally* correct even if the bigger issue is still there). This would be a great opportunity to create an educational opportunity and promote trans awareness and continued discrimination but I think it's overkill to assume that he is ignorant and/or intentionally trying to demean and slight trans folk.

I think Angela was too nice to Dan. He has in the past, shown a total disregard to trans people and their issues. It is an educational moment, but are we going to try and educate someone who thinks he know it all and has not shown a willingness to be educated in the past.

The primary focus of Angela's concern are those trans people still serving who may listen to him and get kicked out because of it. And, trans people fall into every sexual orientation, but that wouldn't have mattered anymore yesterday then today. Straight trans people would have been kicked out along with their lesbian, gay or bisexual friends. Today, it'll be just them. What has really changed for trans people? Nothing. DADT didn't affect trans people before, and its removal doesn't affect them now.

Well it seems to me that her primary concern was to bash a potential ally. If it were just about educating and correcting mis-information she wouldn't be using his name and referencing him in every paragraph except 3. If she had written instead "Dan Savage said this, I think it was a mistake (and even a pattern of mistakes), let me tell you the facts," I would believe that her concern was about something other than maligning him personally. I personally think that we would better served pursing issues in a civil manner and spend our time attacking those who are truly against us (ALL of us) rather than trying to destroy each other from the inside.

Dan Savage has a history of disrespect for trans ppl, and to a lesser degree, lesbians. And has been publically corrected many times. Unless he undergoes some kind of personal conversion, it is not likely that he is a 'potential ally'.

"Is 'Guest Blogger' Really This Vindictive and Myopic?"

And it seems the answer is yes. I can't really see any reason the tone of this rant/article had to be so anti-Savage other than the author having a severe 'axe to grind' with Savage.

Not being a trans person myself, I'll refrain from returning much more vitriol, but to my experience, Savage has been a powerful voice of visiblity and acceptance/tolerance for MANY types of sexualities/orientations/gender issues...if he has not performed his spokesmouth duties 'perfectly'...well, how about at least SOME benefit of the doubt extended to him, with a more supportive education and encouragement to keep trans issues in his consiousness as he continues his advocacy. Is that possible, or are we committed to blaming our allies for every perceived slight, rather than supporting them?

If this had been some random oversight from someone with no history at all regarding trans people and issues - you could be right is expecting a kinder more educational tone. In this case, Dan has stuck his foot in it on a number of occasions, gotten the education served with a smile on a silver platter (speaking from direct experience), and not only continues to do the same old stuff = he has been openly dismissive and hostile to even the most polite education. So.. at this point, its all on him.

LOL. If this is your idea of an educational effort, good luck with ever convincing anyone to change their attitudes on trans people serving openly in the military.

P.S.,as "Vice President of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA)" would you care to detail specifically what you or your organization has done to change the military regs forbidding trans inclusion in the military? I've searched around a bit, and can't find a single thing you've done. Please educate us.

Om, other than trolling literally every trans-related thread on Bilerico, would you care to enlighten us what you've specifically done relating to this issue?

Would you care to explain what Dan Savage has done to get DADT repealed and why he's any kind of a spokesperson about it?

It's nice to say 'I've searched online for your political action and came up with nothing' when you're hiding behind an alias. So I'm imaging if we knew your real name we'd be blown away by your activism.

Angela Brightfeather | September 20, 2011 5:08 PM

If you are an ally or a possible ally, you try and learn about who you are allied with. I think that is a reasonable assumption to make. As Monica has already stated, Dan Savage has not proven himself to be a well informed ally in the past and to get on the tube and imply that it is now OK for Trans people to come out in the military, is simply sewing the seeds of future disasters for those Trans people serving right now. If he assumes the responsibility for representing GLBT people, he should do it correctly and not dangerously.

As to being nice, you were not in the room with me when we found out that DADT did not apply to Transgender people. Nor were you with me when they stated that they could not possibly change the legislation as written, then over the past year, did exactly that. Nor do you receive the letters that I do from Transgender Veterans and active duty Trans people who are close to suicide because of losing their careers, or live in fear every day of their lives from the Taliban on one side of them to the UCMJ on the other side. Letters that literally scream at me to do something, and that tell me to fight for the end of DADT so they can finally start their transition process while still in the service, while not knowing that they aren't included in DADT and they must carry on the best they can.

I live in NC, about 40 miles from Ft. Bragg and I know three Trans people who are suicidal and on the edge. They are Transgender, have been diagnosed with PTSD, cannot mention that they are TS to their chaplain or their psychiatrist treating their PTSD, for fear of being turned in and being discharged with no benefits, into a civilian world where they cannot find a job and they have lost all hope. Then you want to be nice, when someone misstates their situation and actually alludes to the fact that it no longer exists becauase DADT has ended the fear and hate....you ask to much from me and you expect to much from those who are trapped inside a system that allows gays and lesbians to be themselves, but still holds Transgender people at the end of a spear. The time for being nice about all this is over. I'm not the least interested in spreading honey over a terrible situation, let alone allowing a so called ally the opprotunity to create more havoc in the lives of Trans people serving right now.

And to make it perfectly clear, there is no confusion between sex and gender issues here. If every branch of the military can understand the difference and cause reason to discharge Trans people because they know the difference, why would I not expect people in the GLBT Community to understand what the military already seems to understand? Why doesn't Dan Savage understand what the military understands? I'll tell you why. Because he is not much of an ally in the first place, if he hasn't gone to the trouble of trying to understand. You might sugar coat that and call that an oversight, but I call it just plain to lazy.

...you were not in the room with me when we found out that DADT did not apply to Transgender people.

Could you explain this statement? What year was it when you discovered that the 1993 DADT law had to do with "homosexual conduct," not with transgender identity?

I realize you are being strategically obtuse and all, but I took this to mean that the law ending discrimination against gay ppl could have also included an end to discrimination against trans ppl. Couldn't you just come out and say what you mean for once, rather than making all these little snipes?

Seconded. I wondered that too. The repeal of DADT couldn't include any trans language since it wasn't in the original DADT law. You can't repeal a portion of a law that isn't there. Wouldn't it require a separate drive to repeal that military regulation?

Bil,

I have to admit I havent read the new law, but did it really specifically say, 'the 1993 DADT law is no longer in effect'? Or did it say something more positive, as in 'service members may not be treated differently based on SO'?

I am taking the annoyance of the military trans activists to be that it could have all been done at one fell swoop. If I understand correctly, the policy prior to DADT was 'no fags, PERIOD!', which is what we still have for trans folks. So my understanding is that the desire was to have an 'inclusive' non-discrimination law, rather than GLB only. If I am wrong, then I apologize, and nvm. :)

Me personally, I am glad the anti-DADT passed, even without including trans ppl. When anyone is more free, we are all more free IMPO. My issue is with Dan Savage running off at the mouth and with ppl who feign indignation at one thing when really they have a different agenda.

It repealed the old law which specifically barred gays and lesbians from serving. Trans folk are excluded under a different policy that would have to be changed (there's not been a congressional law passed to deliberately exclude them). The repeal did not include a non-discrimination policy for LGB people because that, again, would be a military policy and not something to be written into legislation that is only meant to repeal previously passed laws.

Ah, ok, thanks! Then, I was wrong, sorry! :)

Angela Brightfeather | September 20, 2011 5:39 PM

Dear Om,

No, it is not my idea of an educational effort. In fact I expect representatives of the GLBT Community to educate themselves about all of our issues enough to accurately state them on a television news show.

Because I represent a Veterans organization I deal more along the lines over the last 10 years with letting people know that Transgender Veterans actually do exist. That has led me to other initiatives such as having two marches to the Vietnam Memorial by Trans Vets and commemorations at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington. After that we conducated the first survey of Transgender Veterans, which informed us of many instances of abuse and mistreatment, or even refusal of treatment of Trans Vets by the VA system. That led to an all out campaign to change that situation and culminated this year with the very successful VA Directive issued by the White House, that can be read at the TAVA website at www.tavausa.org. So to answer your question, yes, we have been changing and educating people about Transgender Veterans and what they face. In fact, we have been so successful at that, that we recently moved to add on to our mission statement and expand into the area of assisting active duty Transgender persons, because we succeeded in the previous mission.

TAVA has been hearing for the last ten years about DADT. Membvers of TAVA were arrested along with Dan Choi and others after chaining themselves to the White House fence in protest of DADT. We have leant our voices for years in opposition to DADT and we were not included, but we beleived it was wrong.

In the long run and all along the path to the end of DADT, Transgender Veterans have actively supported opposition to it. Now, to listen to Dan Savage, we have inaccurately been relieved of DADT. To me and to other Transgender Veterans who have lived int he military and now live in civilian life, we understand the inequities in both, so we have a unique perspective and understand the dangers of what Dan Savage has stated to our comrades, and we find fault with it.

As a Transgender person myself, I find what Dan Savage said about DADT and Transgender people, just as inexcusable as listening to those who used to say that Transgender people were included in the original ENDA legislation, when they should have known better. It was misleading and dangerous.

I repeat, what have you or TAVA done specifically to change the military regs forbidding trans inclusion in the military? DADT never applied to trans people.

Om, you're at it again. Basically, what we are now doing falls in the category of, "None of your business." We are working on something that we are not going to say anything about until we can make it public. You'll have to wait and read about it when it comes out. If you don't like that, then tough shit. This is on a need to know basis and you are at the very bottom of the need to know food chain. In face, we would probably tell Dan Savage before we would tell you. Getting upset will do nothing but point out your troll status that others have already mentioned here

It should be noted though that you're often in the comments thread here demanding that organizations divulge what they've been doing and what they're plans are. However, when it comes to TAVA you've been questioned multiple times about what your organization has actually done, but you've never answered - just claimed your group has been the most successful while we're left wondering, "at what?!"

How about giving it a rest? You got your licks in before, and now you're just being mean. By the way, this is not your issue and I'm not ragging on your pal, Joe. And, you violated your own TOS by calling me an asshole the last time. Why didn't you get banned for two weeks?

Bil, I don't mean to take sides ... but having aired your grievance once, I gently point out that keeping your feud with Monica public does not well serve your blog or its readers. I expect Monica and you have each other's email addy's -- so I kindly invite you two to go get a room.

Having dared to say this ... I hope I can still be friends with both of you.

Well, I don't have a "feud" with Helms, public or private, but her inability to carry on a civil conversation is particularly unattractive for someone who claims to be the public face of a national organization.

Worse, her inability to give even a single example of what her organization has done regarding changing the regs to allow trans people to serve is just gob-smacking.

I note that the other person (Angela Brightfeather) in this thread claiming to represent TAVA has the same stance.

Public Relations 101, anyone?

How could she have a feud with you considering you're totally anonymous? I don't know why you use the name of a famous Arabic singer... was "guest" already taken? Monica doesn't have to justify her organization to someone who refuses to even state who they are and what they represent. Whatever part of her cred you're challenging, hiding behind your little alias gives you ZERO cred.

As always....and not just directed at you, but anyone else who is persistently unable to engage on the issues.

"ginasf," I'm tired of making variations on this theme every time you try to pick a fight, so this will be the last time I respond to you.

When have you ever responded to my point... anonymous people who post have no cred when they rip on people who are 'out.' You want to make personal attacks against an organization, then they have a right to know who's attacking them. That you attack people for their supposed lack of real world activism when there's no way of even validating who you are and what you've done/not done.

"That you attack people for their supposed lack of real world activism when there's no way of even validating who you are and what you've done/not done."

Perhaps it has to do w/a a VERY real history of even QUESTIONING [[not "attacking"]] anything regarding T on the internet?? Are you kidding ME?? You claim to have a teen child... are you seriously willing to jeapordize your own CHILD to Andrea James tactics??

I am very, very easily traced. I have kept silent for YEARS regarding lesbian issues because this has happened to me. My children are older now and can defend themselves. But I empathize w/ANYONE who's children have been targeted because one disagrees.

It happens "ginasf" and you know it.
But don't let internet "reality" hit you in the ass.

And I already know... YOU are a staight/post op/ts woman/with children. So you don't care about lesbian issues.

You have it alllll girrrrlfriend.
**snap**

But I do care about lesbian issues and our children.

But perhaps my OVERWHELMING privilige as a latina/lez/woman/mother... on a GAY blog distracts me ??

AJ wasnt even talking about you. He was talking about Bil.

On the other hand, while I do agree with you about TAVA, do you ever take issue with GLB orgs in the same manner?

I don't know why anyone's surprised by this. Savage famously went on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" when it was still on MSNBC and told Olbermann that the only issues of concern for LGBT Americans were DADT and marriage. This is a man who makes it up as he goes along, focusing solely on the issues of concern to himself and his fellow white gay male elites, completely ignoring and devaluing the issues of lower and middle class LGBT Americans.

Really the saddest part of this is how the mainstream media considers Savage some sort of expert because he's gay and he's got a few books out. All the available evidence indicates that Savage really doesn't have a clue as to what's actually going on in this country for any LGBT American not in his own social strata and income range.

Yes, Rebecca, when I saw this post, my first disappointment as I pressed the PLAY button on the video was, "Why are those media people tapping Dan Savage for a discussion on DADT repeal in the first place?" -- and the only answers I can come up with are (1) media people can be lazy (sorry, Lawrence O'Donnell and your people who arrange your guests), and (2) Dan Savage has effectively mastered the elusive art of effective self-promotion -- and with all his gaffs, what he has done so right is a mystery to me. (Or maybe his gaffs draw attention, and that's why the media people like him?)

Dan Savage deserves to be peltered with complaints from transfolk and trans-allies far worse than Don Lemon did for the NAACP panel -- Don was a relative notive on the LGBT spokemouth stage, while Dan has maneuvered his way into the role for years, not bashful about throwing a few nasty elbow jabs when he feels like it, and not too conscientious with the facts even when he is knocked in the head with them.

So ... not only should we hold Savage accountable for this package of mis-information getting aired, we should also direct our wrath toward O'Donnell, MSNBc, and the media mechanisms in general when they feature spokespeople who aren't as expert as they present them to be.

Typo alert: I meant to type "Don [Lemon] was a relative novice", not "notive" -- Sorry.

so i'm hoping you'll forgive the ignorance here...but what exactly do y'all mean when you're talking about trans persons serving?

are we talking about the freedom to serve in uniform in a gender of the servicemember's choosing, or the freedom to be "out" off-duty while serving as a member of the gender of the service's choosing, or some combination of the two?

and, in an ideal world, how are the issues of "polygendered" and androgynous persons dealt with?

Don, under current military regulations any person who is transsexual (both pre and post op) or transgender in any way or physically intersex in any way or is deemed categorically unfit for service.

so assuming a change were to take place, what would you see as most desirable?

Section 3–35 of the Army Regulation 40-501 Standards of Medical Fitness needs to be amended to remove "A history of, or current manifestations of. . . transvestism, . . ., psychosexual conditions, transsexual, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex, hermaphroditism, pseudohermaphroditism, or pure gonadal dysgenesis or dysfunctional residuals from surgical correction of these conditions" from the list of conditions which render an individual administratively unfit to serve in the United States military.

Note that this is administratively unfit, not medically unfit. It's not that they have physical impairments that stop them from doing their job (that's a different section); it's because they're Icky. The idea that they exist upsets people.

Rachel Bellum | September 21, 2011 1:33 AM

Don,

I don't have the answers to your questions, but I can add a little to this piece of the discussion.

I have a medical condition which requires daily treatment. As such, I am considered "4F" (to use an old term) and unable to serve in any capacity. Many trans people begin to require medical support as they seek gender confirmation related treatments.

Even if the stigma related to transgender people was removed from the books today (yesterday I guess), many would still be deemed unfit to serve for medical reasons.

I have felt for a long time that given the changing nature of the military and the pre-existing need for support personnel, that, for instance, people who require no more than some daily medication shouldn't necessarily be prohibited from service. There are a number of eminently qualified people with relatively minor medical conditions (trans and not) who could contribute significantly if allowed. However, it seems I am in a small minority in this opinion.

i appreciate the insight, but some will point out that jessica lynch is an example of how there seem to be fewer and fewer front lines these days; that's because the support folks have become combatants as they face convoy duties and ieds and suicide bombers.

Rachel Bellum | September 21, 2011 9:16 PM

I was thinking of people on large established bases or even stateside. Keep in mind that this prohibition also includes doctors, lawyers, psychologists, engineers, researchers of all types, etc. While doctors and perhaps even psychologists may serve at, or near enough, to front lines to face potential problems from medical conditions, many personnel with advanced forms of experience, training and education, especially, serve distantly from immediate physical danger. (I don't intend any accusatory or derogatory implications. To reach for the easiest example, there would be good reasons for keeping research and researchers in the safest places possible.)

Perhaps some clause could be retained allowing for individuals to be released, honorably, if the forces feel they can no longer support those individuals medically. Other than the US being invaded, it seems like there would always be places for such people to serve if they wished.

Like I said, I realize this is a minority opinion. However to me it seems like a more enlightened examination of people's possible contributions would serve not only those individuals, including some trans people among many others, but the armed services as well.

There are in fact many diseases which could prohibit any kind of service, but as someone who requires daily medication for an otherwise relatively minor condition I can't help seeing some of this as more stigma related than necessary in this modern age. It seems a shame to ignore potentially talented individuals with relatively minor medical conditions who wish to serve.

They end up being scumbag contractors like me. I've worn the utility uniform of all three services at one time or another, without insignia or identifying markings of any kind. In theory, I should have had blue triangle sewn on to comply with various conventions, but never did.

Here's the US Regulations on the subject. From this you can deduce the kinds of things civilians working with the military do. When I was stationed at the officer's mess at HMAS Watson, my "equivalent rank" was LtCdr. But I only wore uniform in the field, at sea, in aircraft etc. US regulations are similar to ours.

30–10. Wear of uniforms by U.S. civilians

a. Authorized U.S. civilian personnel attached to, or authorized to accompany forces of the United States, including DA civilians, are authorized to wear utility uniforms only when required in the performance of their duties, and when authorized by the MACOM commander. The procedures for purchasing uniforms, footwear, and insignia are contained in AR 700–84, chapter 3. Only the insignia described below is authorized for wear on these uniforms.

b. Insignia for civilians.
(1) Description. The woodland subdued insignia is a black equilateral triangle, 11?4 inches long per side, with the letters “U.S.” in olive-drab color, 1?4 inch wide and 1?2 inch high. The triangle is printed on an olive-green colored cloth background, 3 inches long and 2–1?2 inches wide. If applicable, the insignia also indicates the designated assignment in black letters, 1?4 inch high. The desert subdued insignia is the same size, with khaki or tan letters on a black cloth triangle. The triangle is printed on a khaki or tan cloth background.
(2) The authorized designations are as follows.
(a) Scientific consultant.
(b) Operations analyst.
(c) War correspondent.
(d) Technical observer.
(e) Ordnance technician.
(f) Chauffeur.
(g) Messenger.
(h) Logistics specialist.
(i) Safety.
(j) Ammunition surveillance.
(3) Insignia for civilians performing duties not listed above, or when specific designations are not required, will conform to previously described insignia, except the insignia will not denote duty assignment
(4) How worn. Personnel will wear the insignia centered directly above the left pocket, or on the left sleeve on the utility uniform, and in a similar location on outer garments. Personnel will center the insignia on the front of the BDU cap.
(5) Nametape or nameplate. Personnel will wear a standard size nametape or nameplate in the same manner as for U.S. Army personnel

Ok. So I'm back to one of my original points. Why are you spending so much time on tearing down Dan Savage instead of educating, correcting mis-information and creating awareness? It's clear through most of the posters here that you believe Dan Savage to be willfully ignorant, unwilling to change, and a harmful spokesman...so why are you bringing MORE attention to HIM and not the issues you are so passionate about? If you already think that he is unwilling to change, then why are you wasting your time on him?

Angela, some of your best and most passionate paragraphs are the ones where you don't mention Dan at all! When I first read your article my reaction was "oh great, more bashing, yadda yadda" and I barely thought about the more important issue. Not that I didn't realize your passion and point from the beginning but rather I was focused on Dan and not on the exclusion of trans people from DADT. However, after reading your impassioned responses I was able to focus a little more on the actual issue. If you had started out your article by saying Dan Savage is wrong (and even throwing in his history of being wrong because yes you have every right to call him out on the statements you perceive to be wrong, unjust, phobic, etc.) and then devoted the rest of your writing to your passionate education I think you would serve a better purpose in educating others and creating awareness for change. Attacking Dan Savage isn't going to spur change and I just don't understand why you are devoting so much time and space to someone who you're already convinced isn't going to change? If you were hoping to use his name to get attention, I guess you accomplished that...but all of the "debate" happening in the comments is (again) about HIM and not about trans people and DADT. Maybe you FEEL better, but did you really DO better?

How stupid do you think trans people currently serving in our military are? They KNOW transgender is not a protected class within the DADT. Their being lesbian, bi or gay is, so yes that's a huge help. I am transgender and didn't find anything Dan said to be all that insulting.

The trans community is currently where the gay community was about 20 years ago. We are the current scapegoats of society, with an even larger "ick" factor than m/m sex used to carry. It's now our turn to fight our way to our share of civil rights. We need to be out, proud and loud to teach people to accept us. First major battle is removing us from the " big book of crazy". When that happened for lgb's is when life got better for them.

But to unbuckle us from being considered mentally ill is the necessity to revamp how we are allowed to access medical care concerning transition issues. It's one slow frustrating step at a time. And attacking other members of the LGBT world because someone got their piece of the civil rights pie and you haven't isn't nice at all.

Why is that Biki? How is that in the 1950's we were getting laws passed a fragging decade+ before Stonewall? How is that sexual orientation was removed from the DSM right around the time GID was added? It's not like the LGb doesn't have a history of trading trans people to get the stuff they want...

I also don't know your frame of reference for "ick factor" is. I mean, I just live in the world and date men. In my observations even the most progressive guys are put off my M/M affection. These same guys are more than willing to date my openly transsexaul self. Part of the issue is the constant refrain from the LGB that straight trans women are actually super duper gay men. What do you suppose that does to the straight guys who date us?

Finally, name a single anything that was done to advance a trans issue that was done with the aid of an LGB group (laws that get us caught up to the time when the LGB tranded us in so theirs could pass doesn't count). One.. any.. waiting..

Angela Brightfeather | September 21, 2011 9:42 AM

OK, there are a lot of good points and some great questions. To address some of them...
What I saw wrong about what Dan Savage did and said, was to appear on a national show and make erroneous and misleading statements that could prove to be dangerous for some Trans people serving right now.

Don't I think that active duty Trans people already know they aren't covered by DADT? No they do not and I have some of the emails to prove that. They come to the TAVA web address on a regular basis. Lets not forget that you can be 18 years old and serving in Afganistan right now. How many 18 year old, previously and still closeted Trans people know all the facts about DADT or in depth GLBT issues for that matter. Many of these young Trans people are stil coping with being Trans in the first place. Secondly, many of them have not seen the inside of a gay bar or been to any kind of Transgender education seminar to find out about anything. Many joined the service because they felt that it would "cure" them from being Transgender. Anyone who questions those facts is someone who doesn't know anything about Trans people and their issues in the first place, so please step back in the line until you do understand.

Don, I would like to answer your great question personally, because I think it is one of the most important ones asked so far.

Your question refers to a lot of the same questions that TAVA has also, and it clearly points out that the situation of Trans and Intersex persons serving in the military is a very complicated one that needs to be figured out first before and presented in a common sense, workable and informative way to the military and politicians.

One of the most basic thoughts behind your question is how do Trans people serve in the military? What are the compromises that must be made so that they can serve?

The fact that there are more than one type of gender diverse persons who would like to or do serve, makes it all food for thought. What we can't do is to break down one kind of gender diverse person such as post-op TS's, and throw all other GD people under the bus, and the powers that be, will try and make us do that so their part of the problem (acceptance) will go away.

Can any Trans person hang their civilian clothes in the same locker as their military clothes, even if they express a different gender than is on their military ID? Can a gender diverse person be cited under the UCMJ for how they express themselves of duty or on post, but not on duty?

All these questions are challenging and they are beginning to be addressed now and thought about seriously by groups like TAVA, NCTE, SLDN, AVER and others. That is as good an answer as I can give you right now since no conference has been called together to discuss even the most basic questions so far. But I suspect that we are very close to doing that now that DADT has been repealed. SLDN, AVER and others has stated that they are willing to work with groups now to achieve Trans equality in the military. So this exciting process is just beginnng as I see it.

To address your other question of front line activity. I agree with you to a point. The front lines are dissapearing, in lieu of special ops squads and drone survielance and warfare tactics, plus support troops and duties being attacked. But isn't Hurricane Irene in Vermont and other affected areas also a front line? Also, might not the National Guard and Reserve forces be a good way to progress to introducing Trans people in the military on a regular and acceptable level right now? I think it might be. So why not begin there.

To those who think my rant was just about Dan Savage, understand that this is not the first time he has obliterated Transgender issues and claimed to be an expert about us. What he said does nothing to bring us all together in the GLBT community and does everything to point out that he is not up to speed on the issue he is representing as an "expert". MSNBC is also at fault for letting the point that DADT did not cover Trans people in the military, and not correcting him on it. I have little else to say to Dan Savage, or about him, until his next Trans-gression.

However I will point out that after celebrating and reading about the repeal of DADT and seeing it on every TV channel and on line, in all 26 reports. I have noted over the last 24 hours, not one of them has included Transgender people as being previously affected by the repeal. Not one!!!! So the good news is that everyone else seems to have gotten it right except Dan Savage. I guess that might be called progress.

First, I absolutely agree with Biki that the foundational issue is to get transsexuals out of the "Big book of crazy". This is where LBG could really help if LBGT is truly a coalition.

Secondly Repeal of DADT protects transvestites, drag queens and others "under the T umbrella" to the extent that those are not taking hormones or seeking any form of sex change. When questioned about their sexual identity they can truthfully answer that they identify as a member of their natal sex. This leaves us with the rather silly situation that a drag queen and an MTF transsexual can both put on a dress (off duty) and go to the same bar but when questioned by military authorities one will be allowed to remain a member of the military while the other gets booted.

And, as a final point I seriously doubt DADT could have been repealed if language had been added to make open service by transsexuals allowable. That goes back to the "big book of crazies" problem. To be blunt Congress is not going to tell the top brass they have to allow mentally ill people to serve. You can point to Canada, Israel and other countries all you want but those are different cultures. The good old superpower USA is in the grip of the military industrial complex and often in congressional hearings it is the top brass telling Congress what is going to happen instead of the other way around.

Good points about nuts and bolts issues.

Rachel Bellum | September 21, 2011 9:44 PM

Simply because someone has not yet begun hormone or surgical therapies does not mean that they can honestly answer that they identify as their "natal" sex. In fact for most the point is that they identify as something other than the gender they were assigned at birth. Thus even without treatments serving would require hiding and lying.

Also, while the occasional drag show or Halloween outfit may be ignored (hopefully), my understanding is that crossdressing alone, no matter how you claim to identify, is prohibited behavior that can still lead to a discharge as medically unfit.

In fact, this policy change could result in trans service members (and gay, straight or bi crossdressers) having to hide not only from their straight colleagues but from the LGB portion as well.

Angela Brightfeather | September 21, 2011 1:19 PM

"Secondly Repeal of DADT protects transvestites, drag queens and others "under the T umbrella" to the extent that those are not taking hormones or seeking any form of sex change. When questioned about their sexual identity they can truthfully answer that they identify as a member of their natal sex."

This is a patently untrue statement and not to be believed for one second.
A lot hingers on the Commanding Officer if it is a one time happening. But instances of two active duty service menbers who are crossdressers and both discharged wqith dishonorable discharges comes to mind. They were both married with children. They were brought up on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, when each of them left their houses to go to a support group meeting. They were charged, their wives and children were grilled and the young children said they had seen their daddy dressed like a woman. They were both brought up on charges and one of them was sentenced to one year in Leavenworth and both have to report to a parole officer after being found guilty in separate military court marshall procedures.

Like the old saying goes, if they can't get you one way, they will get another way.

If an officer is found to be a crossdresser, thay can be brought up on charges in th4e UCMJ on "conduct unbecoming" allegations.

In answer to the title question: yes. And has been for a while.

I'll daresay he is not doing it out of animosity, but rather out of a lack of real interest in the matter of trans lives.

Tone arguments from his supporters are rather sad to see -- but not unexpected.

Om's commentary, while occasionally insightful, is just as aversive as ever, I see.

To Eeset Spady:

I disagree. An issue issue is to get Trans issues into the Big Book of Medical stuff. Then go on to your stated effort.

Stripping it just from the DSM puts trans lives into a somewhat more difficult space, especially where transsexuals and others needing medical treatment are concerned.

But doing that, alone, will not deal with the foundational issues. Those go much deeper, especially in the case of trans service in the military, than just the rather classist POV you cite.

Your use of stereotypes, your description of a "rather silly situation" (which, I'll point out, is neither silly nor really a situation except for those who are part of the foundational issues in dealing with trans people). Especially given that even off duty, one can be discharged using your example, for all of the above.

And the point here is on duty, as well, I'll note.

Interesting that you raise the different cultures point in a discourse that is otherwise limited by its ethnocentric and heterosexist understandings.

Angela Brightfeather | September 21, 2011 1:28 PM

"are we talking about the freedom to serve in uniform in a gender of the servicemember's choosing, or the freedom to be "out" off-duty while serving as a member of the gender of the service's choosing, or some combination of the two?"

Don, we are talking about equal rights and the details about the clothes are a non-issue because, outside of Class A uniforms, they are all government issue and all the same, only the underwear may be different. For the amount of time that Class A uniforms are worn in Afganistan, you might think we could work something out in that area.

One can look at the repeal of DADT as positive from a trans perspective, but only in a very general way that it signals that the military is becoming more willing to mirror, or at least draw from, the general population.

DADT was a statutory provision that was horribly misused. The way it was sold to Bill Clinton, who was prepared to permit open service, was that it would stop the witch hunts, and that gays and lesbians could serve as long as they did not out themselves, either by word or action. Unfortunately, the witch hunts only got meaner.

The repeal is a positive thing.

The issue with service by members of the trans community is regulatory,not statutory. The joint chiefs can make a few small changes to modernize the regulations barring enlistment or retention of persons who are trans - and *poof,* the issue will go away.

While the repeal of DADT does not have a direct positive effect for trans people, the indirect effect might help boost TAVA's efforts to achieve the needed regulatory changes.

(And no, I am not a member of TAVA, so I certainly can't speak to what that organization is doing, though I support their efforts. My own military active duty added up to about 18 weeks of training, mostly at Fort Bragg and Fort Knox, well short of the six month minimum, and I was honorably discharged because of a RIF in the post-Vietnam era.)

There are a lot of gays and lesbians who are dismissive of trans people, and refuse to acknowledge common cause.

Dan's one of them.

But he really lost my respect when he called Kathy Griffin horse-faced, unfunny, and a false friend to the GLBT community (oh wait, Dan would not include the T, since they're invisible to him). Kathy may be somewhat equine in profile, but she's hilarious, and has been every bit as good a friend to the GLBT community as Dan, and probably better, because I have not heard trans hatred or dismissal from her lips.

Paige Listerud | September 22, 2011 9:45 PM

The answer to your question is: yes, Dan Savage is this naive, uninformed and suffering from gay male myopia.

The bisexual community got him to minimize his biphobic sentiments in his column and on his public speaking circuits by getting bi-furious on his ass. I don't know what the transgender community will want to do. You deserve better from Mr. It Gets Better.