Does advocating for queer and trans people to serve in the US military move the struggle for queer and trans justice forward toward liberation by improving the lives of queer and trans soldiers and increasing societal acceptance of queer and trans people? Or does it legitimize US military imperialism and increase the likelihood of more queer and trans people being abused and traumatized in the US military? This article consists of a conversation between Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, who has spent decades advocating for queer and trans military inclusion, and Dean Spade, a trans racial- and- economic- justice–focused activist and scholar who opposes military inclusion advocacy. The conversation examines fundamental debates about the possibilities and limits of legal equality for marginalized and stigmatized groups, drawing on critical race theory, women of color feminisms, anticolonial critique, and competing theories of queer and trans liberation work.
Queer Militarism?!: The Politics of Military Inclusion Advocacy in Authoritarian Times
Dean Spade is an associate professor at the Seattle University School of Law. He has been working in movements to build queer and trans liberation based on racial and economic justice for the past two decades. He’s the author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law (2015), the director of the documentary Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back! (pink-washingexposed.net), and the creator of the mutual aid toolkit at BigDoorBrigade.com. His latest book is Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity during This Crisis (and the Next) (2020).
Aaron Belkin is a scholar and advocate who, since 1999, has served as founding director of the Palm Center, which the Advocate named as one of the most effective LGBT rights organizations in the United States. He designed and implemented much of the public education campaign that helped end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and summarized lessons learned in How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which Arianna Huffington praised as a “best practices guide for civil rights fights.” He has written and edited more than thirty scholarly articles, chapters, and books.
Dean Spade, Aaron Belkin; Queer Militarism?!: The Politics of Military Inclusion Advocacy in Authoritarian Times. GLQ 1 April 2021; 27 (2): 281–307. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-8871705
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