Who gets left behind?

Reading about the LBGTQ rights movement this past week only added to the realization I often had this past summer during The Moxie Project—coordinating and building a social movement that seeks justice both in it’s own organization and the wider society is so much harder than I ever realized. Some of the lessons important to social movements that I gleaned from our readings this week include the effectiveness of coalitions, the need for a sense of urgency to effect real change, and the need to use all opportunities—even one’s opposition—to forward the movement. Lastly, above all, the readings reinforced the necessity of true solidarity among different segments of the population in order to achieve change that benefits some people without oppressing others.

It was especially heartening to read Suzanne Pharr’s comparison of the LGBTQ rights movement of the late 60’s and the movement in the late 90’s, for I felt that she really hit on some of the characteristics that are necessary in any truly just movement. She writes about how the LGBTQ community must learn from the experiences during the Stonewall era and seek solidarity among queer people and people of color, support queer youth, fight for economic justice, and break down the gender binary. Even though some of these issues, such as class and the gender binary, may seem disparate, Pharr urges activists and the LGBTQ population to see connections among their varying struggles and view their liberation as “bound up” with all other oppressed peoples.

To me, Pharr’s ideas are incredibly necessary, but I can see how they become hard to implement, especially when reflecting on the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the activism around this issue. The repeal of DADT was officially implemented this past week, and seeing a fellow member of the Duke community blog about his desire to serve in the military and his experiences as a bisexual male in the ROTC program made the issue feel even closer to home. However, as I did some further research about DADT’s repeal, my excitement about this major step in LGBTQ rights waned a little bit because I soon found that transgender members of the military still face being discharged from the military if this aspect of their identity is discovered.

Transgender individuals are still seen as “unfit to serve” because they “may be considered medically unfit because of Gender Identity Disorder” and/or if they have had “genital surgery” (Transequality.org). Thus, even though the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” represents a huge step for LGB individuals, transgender folks continue to be left out of such progress. I think it’s too soon to tell if LGBTQ rights groups will continue to fight for transgender individuals’ right to serve openly in the military. I worry that securing this right for LGB people will be enough to appease the movement so that the issue (as it pertains to transgender people) will be conveniently “forgotten” for now. However, knowing that activists such as Suzanne Pharr and countless others in the LGBTQ movement understand the necessity of true solidarity gives me hope that transgender rights will not continue to come second to LGB rights.

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