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Allow or Accept: Importance of Semantics in Trump’s Anti-trans Military Tweet

This morning Trump tweeted that the government will not allow or accept transgender people to serve in the military. Let me say this upfront; trans people are currently serving our military. We are there. The weight of his words doesn’t fall on the reasons why he stated the government would not allow or accept transgender people in the military. BTW, the reason was “tremendous medical costs and disruption,” neither are true. The weight falls on the words that the NYT highlighted, “accept or allow.”

Accept is consent to receive and allow is to give permission. Trump isn’t just saying that the government will not allow transgender people to serve in the military. He is saying our government will not accept their service.

As transgender people, we are often not allowed to do the things. We weren’t allowed to play football because we were assigned female at birth. We weren’t allowed to be in ballet because we were assigned male. We aren’t allowed to use the proper bathroom. Not being allowed doesn’t stop us, it motivates us. It inspires us to tear down the walls. We fight to be allowed. But acceptance is another story.

The use of “accept” regarding a government decision about the military holds a deeply personal feel. I’m sure for transgender people currently serving in the military, it has a familiar sting of rejection. This type of language is often used to renounce transgender people. When a transgender person comes out to an unsupportive family, they often hear, “I can’t accept it.” Acceptance is used as a tool to manipulate a trans person into feeling wrong. If your family or church doesn’t accept you, it makes you question who you are. It makes you doubt the decisions you’ve made.

Most of us have craved acceptance from family and friends, to society as a whole. We’ve wanted to be seen and accepted for who we are. Acceptance is a human need.

We have military trans folks who have devoted their lives and passions to their government. They have worked to make our country safe and free. After fighting their own personal battles of not being accepted, they are told their devotion and loyalty is not only not allowed, but it is not accepted. Their blood and sweat have stained government-issued band-aids and sheets. Is this type of devotion not accepted?

Our families may practice the deeply personal rejection of not accepting us. But our government, the one these transgender military folks have fought for, can not. You may not allow us in the military, but you certainly cannot say you do not accept it. We are there with or without your acceptance.

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