4/27/08

Lesbian politics: Bathrooms and the Fine Line of Activism

Beautiful, beautiful butchie women. Do you know the power you wield over people with bad gaydar? Thank you a million times wherever you are for challenging the norms of femininity, and I have no words sufficient to thank you also for courageously putting up with women shrieking at you in bathrooms.

I'm sure many people have written about this issue more thoughtfully than I, but wow! I never considered before the activism inherent in taking a piss sometimes, nor the consequences of such actions. I feel like I have been so naive about it that I need to share my revelation with the blogosphere.

I met two fascinating and beautiful ladies yesterday who are in the U.S. Navy. They both possess athletic frames and wear hot short military haircuts. I mention their appearances [because they continue to be of prurient interest to me but also] because they both shared with me the same story--independently of each other--unique to women with similar features to theirs. When the first one told me that women screech at her in restrooms--"You're in the wrong room, young man!"--I said, "Naaaaah, that actually happens to you?" She replied yes, at least once a day!

I'm always a fan of stickin' it to people with narrow mindsets, so I naively and stupidly thought, How cool! She doesn't have to wave a rainbow flag to get up in people's faces; all she has to do is use the bathroom! And she can do that, like, 3 times a day! Awesome!

The second woman with whom I spoke told me almost the same story in the course of our conversation. Again, I said, "No way; for real? People do that to you?" Both women then shared with me clever ruses they had devised to project their femininity in non-threatening ways (e.g. grab a femme friend and talk about tampons on the way to the ladies' room), while also both had picked ages they sometimes mischievously proclaim to be. ("I go with 13 most of the time. What age are you, young man?? 13.") Obviously, these were not isolated incidents; these women had had to develop whole strategies around this recurring problem.

This time, I let my stupid thoughts out of my head via my mouth, and I said, "Wow, how frickin' sweet that you get to be an activist just by being who you are!"

Then one of the women reminded me: Don't Ask; Don't Tell.

I am a schlubby civilian with a desk job. I love keeping my hair short short short, and on a couple of occasions, young children have mistaken me for a dude. (The parents in these instances were good-natured enough to correct them.) On the whole, though, I have a round feminine booty with a teeny waist that I think underscore my gender beyond a doubt. I went through a job search recently, and I let my hair grow out with the reasoning that I had a better chance in an interview for an executive assistant position if I appeared more femme (less threatening). I got a job finally, so maybe I was right.

When I met these ladies yesterday, my immediate reaction was, Oh, what I would give for a job where short hair would be encouraged! After speaking with them, it occurred to me that with the stupid trans-exclusive ENDA in place alongside DADT, I'm allowed to talk about being gay but not look like a butch woman; these women are allowed to be butch but not talk about it.

A dishonorable discharge for these women would mean the inability to ever get another government-contracted civilian job. Ever. For their noble service to our country--for volunteering while my schlubby butt is at home playing videogames and smoking kush--they would get nothing.

As the brilliant John Forster once wrote:

When you're on maneuvres
You'll peek through the louvers
At the straights who get to be
Exactly who they are, while we
Get to serve our country
And maybe catch a bullet
And possibly meet our makers
In the Closet.


This is a violation of both first and second amendment rights. The first amendment protects freedom of speech, while the second protects the right of the people to form militias. If lesbian militarywomen speak their minds (first amendment), they are kicked out of the military. If they are kicked out of the military with a dishonorable discharge (first amendment violation), they are barred from owning firearms (second amendment). In application, a freedom of speech punishment results in a second amendment punishment. This would mean (theoretically) that the people most able and willing to defend lesbians in times of trouble would, by law, be unable to do so (second amendment violation).

I don't know what else to tell you about it except please vote Democratic in the fall. Both Hillary and Barack have pledged to repeal this hateful piece of legislation. And out and/or butchie women everywhere, please keep on being out and/or butchie where our closeted and military sisters cannot; we influence our environments by doing so. I, for one, am going to get a haircut.

UPDATE: As an alert Anonymous reader pointed out, I was wrong about dishonorable discharge; however, lesbians can still face losing educational benefits, pensions, and in some cases can face criminal charges. Service members discharged under DADT are barred from ever serving in any branch of the military, and as I pointed out in my comment below, I don't know if this includes community militias or not. There's a great reference here:
http://www.sldn.org/binary-data/SLDN_SECTIONS/pdf_file/19.pdf

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

where do they get the idea that you can get a dishonorable discharge from violating the "don't ask don't tell policy"? Trust me, it ISN'T POSSIBLE. There are five discharges:

Honorable General, under honorable conditions General, under other than honorable Bad Conduct Dishonorable

violating the policy will result in you getting out on one of the first three. The latter two require a criminal conviction.

Then among the first three you will pretty much always get the first. You see in the regulation is says that you are to be given what you would have gotten if you got out of the army because your time is up. If you don't have a history of troublemaking you can expect to get out with honorable.

Trust me on this.

Ma'amselle Lezident said...

I stand corrected! Thanks for your vigilant reading.

Occasionally lesbian servicemembers do face criminal charges when in violation of the UCMJ (reference http://www.sldn.org/binary-data/SLDN_SECTIONS/pdf_file/19.pdf). ). Service members discharged under DADT are barred from ever serving in any branch of the military. I don't know if this includes community militias or not.

Anonymous said...

i thought this was a very thoughtful article. It expressed the struggle that continues to be had for GLBT people in the military. I know because i was in it. btw, i finally figured out how to post:)

Paula 's Dad said...

I am a long time reader, first time commenter.

While the person who pointed out the degrees of discharges is correct, that is the military does tend to grant Honorable Discharges on DADT cases, these discharges are coded to note that the discharged person is barred from re-enlistment in the US Military Services. If a person can read these codes then they will probably receive a red flag.

As a career Air Force officer and a long time member of the military establishment, I long supported DADT, but as the father of a gay child I can see that I was very misguided in this support.

From my own experiences with my daughter I now see that whom she loves has absolutely nothing to do with her worth as a person or an American citizen.

I now see that DADT is an incredibly waste of a resource… one that could be well employed at this point in time when our country is at war.

I also know now that just because a person maybe gay does not mean they cannot be a patriot as well.

Jero said...

I have issues in public bathrooms all of the time. It used to be tough, but now I actually enjoy it.

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