Op-Ed: Supporting ROTC Supports Queer Rights

Opinion by and
Feb. 11, 2011, 12:18 a.m.

As The Daily reported in an article titled “SSQL gathers signatures to protest ROTC’s return” (Feb. 7), Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL) has been mounting a campaign against the return of ROTC on the basis that the military still discriminates against transgender individuals. As queer students and supporters of greater transgender rights, we applaud SSQL’s efforts to draw attention to these issues. That being said, we are concerned that the antagonistic approach taken by SSQL is not representative of the larger queer community and may halt further progress for queer rights in the military.

The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was an unquestionable victory for gay rights advocates. It marks a significant milestone in what has been a recent and dramatic shift towards increased support for gay rights. Rather than celebrate with rest of the queer community, SSQL simply moved the goal posts back in its aggressive anti-military campaign.

For the first time in the history of this country, representatives are taking queer voices seriously. Their consideration will do much to further social justice, but it merits a response of gratitude and reciprocal action from the queer and allied constituents. By continuing to antagonize the military, SSQL sends the message that no serious concessions will ever satisfy the community. This kind of approach undermines organizational credibility for future advocacy work. Negotiation requires compromise from both sides, and SSQL refuses to acknowledge that reality. In doing so, they obstruct further progress at the Congressional level.

Allowing ROTC’s return demonstrates that the queer community understands that progress is a process and that it is willing to continue that stepwise process, including promoting equality for the transgender population. We must be willing to work with those that disagree with us if we are to have permanent change.

Furthermore, Stanford University, as a premier institution of learning, trains the future leaders in practically every field. Its students carry with them the values of tolerance and equality that are embodied in its mission and forward-thinking culture Stanford ROTC graduates will be future military leaders who are equipped not just with military training but also the values of this institution. Their courageous leadership will undoubtedly promote progress from within the organization.

We would like to reemphasize that the repeal of DADT is not the final step in the struggle for queer equality in the military. Transgender students deserve equal access to ROTC’s benefits, and we should continue to press our leaders for this legislation. We cannot expect this change to be immediate. No civil rights movement has ever happened overnight. What we can do is accept DADT’s repeal as a step in the right direction and use this progress as a stepping-stone for further progress.  We hope that the queer community will recognize the opportunity for exchange and learning that ROTC’s return will bring and support the members of our greater Stanford community who will be the emissaries of our values.

Warner Sallman ’11 and Marloes Sijstermans ‘11

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