The Rainbow Center hosted a lecture entitled “From Trans Inclusion to Exclusion: Understanding the Scope and Impact of the Military’s New Transgender Ban” presented on Wednesday afternoon by graduate student Timothy Bussey. The lecture discussed the timeline and history of transgender rights in relation to the military, leading up to the most recent ban under Trump’s administration.
The lecture was a part of the weekly lecture and discussion series “The Out to Lunch Gender, Sexuality and Community,” which discusses a variety of topics related to gender identity, gender expression and sexuality.
This week’s speaker, Timothy Bussey, is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science. Bussey also works as a graduate TA in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program here at UConn and a frequent lecturer in the Rainbow Center.
Bussey is currently working on his doctoral dissertation, titled “Lavender Security Threats: Understanding the Histories of Discrimination against LGBT Persons in the Military and Intelligence Communities.” He explained that he had almost finished with his dissertation, but was compelled to expand his work after the most recent transgender ban.
The lecture explored the history of transgender inclusion in the military, starting with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy under the Bill Clinton administration. DADT was established in 1994 as a compromise, allowing LGBT people to serve, just not openly. It was definitely a step, but not a big one.
DADT met its demise starting in 2010, when former president Barack Obama was in office. Once DADT had ended, Obama reformed his Department of Defense (DoD) policies about inclusion and transition-related support for active-duty service members. The DoD released a handbook detailing the changes made. For the first time, procedures and policies were detailed, giving military officers a clear guide on how to address concerns such as harassment, bullying and hazing.
“It is important to note how drastically different this document is from the DADT… you now have a document that is detailing expectations,” Bussey said.
Healthcare was also a major part of Obama’s reform. For the first time, the DoD had made a huge step in reaching equality for all LGBT people.
Bussey emphasized the significance of trans inclusion in the military.
“Inclusion in the armed forces affirms the right for someone who is willing and able to fight in the military,” Bussey said. “Only 29 percent of 18-year-olds are qualified to serve in the military. I think this speaks volumes to why trans inclusion is necessary.”
Even though there has been some progress in the past, the nation’s current administration has taken some obvious steps back, Bussey said. Beginning with Trump’s candidacy, concerns towards exclusion rose. Finally, in Aug. 2017, Trump tweeted that he will be implementing a transgender ban starting in March 2018. This is a huge blow to all of the steps taken in previous administrations.
Despite the revert back to exclusion, the conversation is not over, he said.
“This is definitely something you are going to see more of and see more changes to,” said Bussey.
The lecture served as an educational synopsis of inclusion and now exclusion in the military. It is clear that working towards LGBT equality is certainly not over, and under the current administration change might be harder to achieve than ever. Despite the challenges, the community is striving toward change. “This lecture served as a huge wake up call,” one student in attendance said.
“Even though we’ve made so much progress, it’s now all being undone. This fight is not over, and we still have a long way to go to reach full equality.”
Melissa Scrivani is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.