Jamila Hammami, Executive Director of the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP), responds with this powerful letter:
The US Military Machine has resulted in the forced migration of our people; why support pitting oppressed people against other oppressed people?
As expected, Trump continues to infringe on our civil rights as trans people. But there is more to this situation than meets the eye.
Let’s break it down into three pieces:
- Transphobia and violence against Trans folks
- The Military Industrial Complex
- Forced Migration
Transphobia and violence against Trans folks
Of course, Trans folks should be allowed in the military. And to use the premise of healthcare as an argument as to why Trans folks can’t be in the military, is only a way to derail the real issue of transphobia and hatred toward the Trans community. To state that the Trans community is a financial burden is ludicrous and absolutely oppressive and hateful. Healthcare if a human right, and everyone should have complete access. This move has absolutely only pushed us two steps backward. But, again, there’s more here than that.
Many are arguing that the military is a viable employment opportunity for Trans people, so that we can’t take away that right. But is that truly Trans Liberation? Is any of this truly Trans Liberation? Intersectional imperialism will not lead to Trans Liberation.
#NoJusticeNoPride did a great piece on this. Here’s a great quote from the Medium piece that they released this week, “Trans Liberation, Not US Militarism: Selective Outrage Over Trans Military Ban Obscures Larger Failures to Support Trans Communities”:
“We reject the the idea that trans military service should be a priority for the movement for trans liberation. As other trans activists and scholars have pointed out, advocacy around military service only became visible after wealthy billionaire donors, “dedicated to celebrating the US military” put their money behind it. For trans individuals, the right to housing, jobs, food, healthcare, education, and safety should not be contingent on putting one’s life on the line in service of the U.S. war machine…. We refuse to make the ability of trans (and queer) individuals to serve as oppressive agents of the state a central part of our vision of trans liberation. Our liberation cannot and will not be achieved by gaining access to systems fueled by death and destruction. We reject the arguments of those who reduce this issue to a matter of equality versus inequality, because fighting for equality within a corrupt and oppressive system perpetuates injustice.”
They also have some incredible quotes that are worth reading from folks in the Trans community.
“This ban serves as a disturbing model for trans health care in the US and how institutions will further fail to protect us. To be considered a burden because we demand and deserve affordable and equitible care is nothing short of dehumanizing. BUT most importantly, where are y’all when TWOC are being murdered and abused on the streets? That’s the crux right there. We live on these frontlines daily, and if only cis advocacy could shift it’s focus to what’s really affecting us, we’ll actually feel like we’re heard rather than cis folks steering a ship that’s not theirs. Don’t get me wrong, cis folks do play a crucial and necessary part in all of this, but when an issue like this is what creates your yearning for allyship, then you’re missing the big picture”
“Don’t worry white trans people you can still join the border patrol and police if you really need to kill colonized people.”
The Military Industrial Complex
As someone from a military family that has seen the impacts of what the military, combat and war does to families, I ask you to be critical of the military industrialized complex. Prior to starting QDEP, my organizing work was focused on pro-soldier/anti-war work. I worked predominately with women, most of whom were survivors of sexual assault from their time in the military, and men of color. When women were granted access to the frontlines, the already incredibly high rates of sexual violence against women sky-rocketed. Was providing women access to the frontlines of war for gender equality? Or simply to provide more bodies to murder Black and Brown people abroad? For anyone interested in the sexual violence epidemic against women, I urge you to watch the documentary Invisible War.
QDEP volunteer and former fellow, Jorge Gonzalez, had a really amazing response to this, from the perspective of a pro-soldier/anti-war combat veteran, as well:
“As an Iraq combat disabled veteran, and former board member for Iraq Veterans Against the War and also Chicano and queer that got deep into anti-war militancy, I have an opinion that might not have been thought of.
I understand the need and right of inclusion of all oppressed people, and I understand my thinking comes from a cis man privileged perspective, but why fight for the right to have people join the military and fight and kill poor people of color in Arab and North African countries? Would people here be just as reactionary if there was a trans ban on joining the NYPD?
I understand this is probably not a popular sentiment but I thought it should be addressed somehow. When women in the military were allowed combat jobs, it opened the doors for a new slew of folks to be shooting and harming and perhaps killing civilians. This is why the civilian death toll in the Iraq war alone is estimated in the millions. Because there were people being brainwashed into joining military service.”
Let’s just let that sink in for a second.
The US Military Industrial Complex has done nothing but tear apart countries. The Syrian Refugee crisis was in large part caused by us, the United States. And now Syrians have been forced to re-settle around the world. Do we really want to fight for Trans folks to be included in the military industrial complex to fight and be a part of the murder and displacement of innocent civilians, millions of Brown and Black people, around the world? I’d like to think not.
QDEP is an organization that has many tenets, and one of them is that we are fundamentally anti-war and anti-imperialism, from Nicaragua to Syria to Palestine. We don’t believe that the United States should be deploying soldiers into foreign lands to commit acts of atrocity that ultimately result in displacement and forced migration.
And what happens when these folks are forced to migrate? Many attempt to come to the United States, where they are rejected by our government. The number of LGBTQ/HIV+ immigrants that we work with that are detained in immigration detention and that are refused asylum is huge. It’s telling of a larger issue of refusing some of the most marginalized people in this world seeking safety after their long journey to the United States, where they are held in cages and experience medical neglect, physical violence, sexual violence, and deplorable conditions, in the “Free World.” And many just end up deported in the end. Let’s be fully critical from an intersectional space. Otherwise, it’s time to stop organizing for communities that would rather you focus on what it’s like to barely live to 30 years old (statistically, trans women of color have a life expectancy of 30 in the United States), domestically, because of the epidemic of violence against trans women of color in the US.
Donate to QDEP here.
In Love, Power, Resistance, and Solidarity,
Jamila Hammami, MSW
Queer Detainee Empowerment Project
A proudly Queer, Non- Binary, Muslim, first generation Tunisian-American, with roots from a predominately Muslim Country