SSQL’S ROTC Argument

We appreciate and acknowledge the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), but despite this historic change, transgender, intersex, and disabled people are still systematically excluded from the military.   We oppose the return of ROTC to campus, because it constitutes a violation of Stanford’s non-discrimination clause, which states “Stanford University admits qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the University.”  This is an issue of access, of civil rights.  Stand with us, and stand with your marginalized peers against explicit discrimination.  The rights of a minority should not be subject to the prejudices of a majority.

Frequently raised concerns:

1.      Your argument is simply a foil for anti-militarism. Those of us involved in the SSQL effort against the introduction of a discriminatory ROTC program span the political spectrum in our support for the military.  Political opinion about the military, furthermore, is irrelevant to an argument about civil rights.

2.      Transgender individuals are unfit for military service and therefore for the ROTC program.  Often this concern is based on the unfounded view that transgender identity inherently results in poor mental health.  According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, high rates of suicide and mental health conditions in the transgender community is a result of institutionalized stigma, and lack of community support, not an innate disorder.  Yes, “Gender Identity Disorder” is still included in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, but the American Psychological Association and several LGBT organizations are staunchly against this unfortunate pathologizing of transgender identities.

3.      Intersex individuals are unfit for military service.  Intersexuality, on the other hand, is a physical condition diagnosed at birth based on ambiguous genitalia and/or hormonal status.  Neither of these factors have an intrinsic effect on the ability of an individual to serve in the military.   Indeed, the exclusion of intersexuals is really based on fundamental prejudice and phobia.

4.      Disabled individuals are unfit for military service.  While it is true that many tasks in the military require a certain degree of physical fitness, like other ability-differentiated activities on campus, it is the responsibility of the organizers to provide safe alternatives (such as training for civilian positions).

5.      The military will never be able to accommodate all these different identities.  This is a fairly pessimistic view isn’t it?  We were at the same point a few decades ago with LGB servicemembers but we pushed through (though not without concerted effort).  The military, as one of our nation’s largest employers, can and should embody the non-discrimination.

6.      Stanford-educated military leaders will make the military inclusive to transgender, intersex, and disabled individuals.  This idea offers a fairly slow and problematic narrative of progress.  Why not speak out against oppression now, in coalition with our marginalized peers, instead of waiting for an uncertain trickle-down effect?  Transgender, intersex, and disabled people have been left out of our civil rights clauses long enough, and it is time we speak up for justice.

7.      You are enacting discrimination against ROTC cadets by not allowing the program on campus.  We are ready to work with the military community in reducing the stigma around veteran or cadet status, but we do not believe the de facto (or social) discrimination against military cadets (who choose their military status) is comparable to the de jure (codified) discrimination against transgender, intersex, and disabled individuals.  Fighting de facto discrimination requires social transformation but de jure discrimination requires a simple (though often difficult) change in law.  Working for military students’ community and opposing ROTC on the basis of discrimination are not mutually exclusive.  We propose a military student VSO as an alternative for those who choose to enlist.