So currently Stanford has been arguing about the return of ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps), the student branch of the U.S. military. ROTC was at Stanford until the 1970s, before it was removed from campus. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which would allow gay and lesbian people to serve in the military, has revived the debate on ROTC. Many students argue that since the military doesn’t discriminate against gay and lesbian people anymore, ROTC should come back. Also, both The Stanford Daily and The Stanford Review have printed opinion pieces on the ROTC’s return. The Stanford Review’s Jan. 31, 2011, editorial, “No Excuses Left for ROTC’s Ban,” stated that transgender people will benefit from the military’s return to Stanford, because if we let more open-minded people in the military, eventually transgender people will be allowed to join.
It was while reading that editorial I realized that there was no transgender voice within this editorial, or within any of the opinion pieces presented in any Stanford publication so far. And if transgender issues are going to be at the center of an issue like the military, then some transgender person is going to have to get a word in — thus, this week’s column.
So there has been the argument that transgender people are not able-bodied due to the fact that their physical bodies don’t match up with their minds. Transgender people have Gender Identity Disorder, people claim. Gender Identity Disorder is a mental illness, which makes trans people unsuitable to serve in the military.
But this is not a matter of mental illness. I don’t disagree that many transgender people go through a period of mental and emotional distress. For some people, it lasts for years. However, it doesn’t last forever. Our emotional pain doesn’t ruin us or make us unable to live our full potential. In fact, it makes us stronger. It makes us never take anything for granted. It makes us work harder on our bodies and our minds. It makes us more determined. It makes us leaders. Now who wouldn’t want someone with this drive to work for them? The military is missing out on a small but potent subset of the population.
We deserve to be empowered and create change for ourselves. The only way that the military can be improved for us transgender people is if we are allowed to participate ourselves and make choices for ourselves. The National Center for Transgender Equality, the premiere national transgender advocacy organization, has released a statement in solidarity with efforts to prevent the return of ROTC to Stanford on the basis of continued discrimination against transgender people. How do publications like The Review feel as if they are more competent to decide what is “best” for transgender people than transgender students and transgender activists who have been working on transgender justice for decades?
Also, the ROTC members of Stanford will have to take their ROTC activities and training for academic units. ROTC will basically become equivalent to class for them. This is a blatant violation of the non-discrimination policy, which includes gender identity. If Stanford were to allow ROTC to return to campus, Stanford would be violating its own policy and taking a step back in its support for transgender people.
Have the Review state its argument to the transgendered young people who want to join the military. Its editorial told them that they cannot change the military themselves, that their voices do not matter, that if they want change, they need to shut up and let other people do it for them. Non-transgender people matter and have more power. But just because I take up a small minority of both the queer community and the general population does not mean I am no one. I am a human being. We have been marginalized for so long, in both the general and the queer community, and I am sick of it. Why should my existence somehow be less legitimate than somebody else simply because of a matter of statistics?
Placing transgender people into one group and telling us what’s for our own good tells us that we are not capable of making change ourselves. This is a blatant insult to our humanity. I refuse to be told to sit quietly and let people who do not know me tell me what I should and should not do. I reserve the right to speak my opinion as a human being. Only I know what is truly good for me, and only transgender people know what is good for themselves. Thus, I say NO to the return of ROTC to Stanford.
Agree or disagree with Cristopher about ROTC? E-mail him at [email protected].