obama’s war on queer and trans youth

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Image: zinelibrary.info/files/bb_queercounterrecruitment.pdf

Editorial by Ariel Attack, originally written for the Queers Against Obama blog, March 9, 2009. Some edits made.
Taken from: Bash Back Denver: Be one of those queers you've heard about: undermine the army's ability to fight! Queer Counter-Recruitment, May 2009

If a George Bush policy had had the systematic effect of bringing death, injury, sexual assault, harassment, psychological trauma, and suspension of civil rights to poor queer and trans people, while expanding the might of the military, there would have been widespread outrage from queers, anti-war activists, and liberals. Yet President Obama is able to push forward such a policy under the guise of equal rights and with the hearty encouragement of spellbound liberals and wealthy gays.

Fox News reported almost two months ago that Obama will repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), the law under which openly gay (or suspiciously queer) soldiers can be discharged from the military (1). According to the Washington Post, about 10,000 soldiers have been discharged under DADT in the decade-and-half of its existence (2).

Meanwhile, the military is facing a severe troop shortage. Obama's surge brings troop levels to over 50,000 in Afghanistan, and he plans to maintain 50,000 troops in Iraq past 2010 (3). Over 34,000 US troops have been killed or wounded in Iraq alone, numbers that need to be matched by new recruits (4). The poverty draft is in full effect; soldiers are serving multiple tours without leave; white supremacy in recruitment, deployment and military hierarchy continues to put the brunt of war on US communities of colour. And in an under-reported historical first, a battalion has been deployed within US borders ready to squash civil unrest (5). With Obama’s surge of 17,000 new troops in Afghanistan, soldiers on leave are now being called in for redeployment.


lt’s the recruiters’ job to keep the war machine running through the shortage. Military recruiters work under intense quotas and are legally permitted to lie to potential recruits. Even with all their work and deception, they still run short of "bodies."

In the eyes of the military, the queer community is an untapped resource. Since 2001, we've seen that DADT discharges have been scaled back from 1,273 discharges in 2001 to 612 in 2006 [6]. In other words, queers are already being allowed in the military because of the troop shortage. Moreover, queer and trans youth - out or not - are already vulnerable to recruitment through programs like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts which are little more than military recruitment programs and heavily attract gender- and sexuality-questioning youth. The repeal of DADT would usher in a new rush of queer soldiers. Conservative "gay rights" groups have set the stage so that when DADT is repealed, some queers will see it as a new opportunity, a new equality, the granting of their "right" to be gay in the military. Military recruiters will not miss this opportunity either. Recruiters are already at work developing programs to target queer and trans youth, but these plans await the repeal of DADT before they can be deployed.


The Obama brand of "change" comes into sharper focus. The move to allow gays in the military, touted as a liberal gay rights reform, is in fact exactly what the military needs to make Obama's troop surge work.

This is an old kind of “inclusive” liberalism that has been used to enlist African-Americans during the Civil War and non-citizens during the "War On Terror."
To be clear, the queers who will be recruited are not the same folks lobbying for their "right to marry." This is how it works: the upper-crust gays of the Stonewall Democrats and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sit pretty in their boardrooms, gentrified gayborhoods, $1 ,000-a-plate fundraisers, art auctions, and "gay-friendly" corporate health care plans, while queer youth of color, queer youth who’ve been kicked out of home, and gender-questioning youth are the ones who will be heavily targeted by recruiters, hear false promises, sign their rights away, and serve time in Afghanistan and lraq.


The wealthy gays of the HRC are fighting for inequality. They work hard to maintain their positions of wealth and power near the top of a system of inequality. The lobby to repeal DADT, however cloaked in language of "anti-discrimination," is a bold move to strengthen the US military, a pillar holding up their thrones.

The dawn of Obama's presidency calls for incisive criticism that cuts to the reality of the mechanisms of power. If we perform this surgery will we discover that liberalism is a sophisticated form of repression that uses reform to maintain systems of inequality, and the rhetoric of hope, change, and equal rights to distract and pacify grassroots movements.
Obama, it seems, is one of the most accomplished practitioners of liberalism in history.
Trannies, queermos, it's time to get out your scalpels.

case study: britain

Since the government of the UK removed the ban on queer people in the military in 2000, in part because they were being sued by “Stonewall” (a mainstream “gay rights” group), the military has launched multiple queer recruitment programs:

  • At the 2004 Gay Pride in Manchester, the Air Force took part in the parade, the Army joined in 2005. They set up recruitment stands and marched in uniform. The RAF even had a float of a fighter jet “with an oversized cockpit” (emphasis addedl). [8]
  • In the next few years, all three branches ofthe military joined the “Stonewall Diversity Champions” program, in which they receive training and the ability to tout themselves as LGBT-positive employers [9]
  • In 2008, the “Stonewall” lesbian & gay recruitment guide, a booklet for LGB graduates to find employment, featured the Army for the first time. The Navy and Air Force were already featured in the guide. 20,000 hard copies were distributed to gay graduates in addition to the online version. [10]
  • The Air Force has championed its “acceptance” of trans people, even covering the cost of gender-confirming surgeries. [11]

Unfortunately, there is little information available about the effectiveness of these campaigns or about any resistance movement. Still, some lessons can be gathered:

  • Trans and queer recruitment in the US will be more active and more intense. The UK does not have the same imperial needs or troop shortage as the United States.
  • The recruitment programs in the US will be researched and cutting edge, targeting the queer community from within. In targeting Latin@ communities, the Army uses what they call “barrio anthropology” and grassroots ‘viral and guerrilla marketing” methods to “go deep into the neighbourhoods and barrios” for recruits. [12]
  • Organizations like HRC will ally with the military in recruitment, just like “Stonewall” has in the UK.
  • US military branches will attempt to portray themselves as a “gay-friendly” employers.
  • They have enormous resources at their disposal in terms of funding, marketing research, and experience.

defend our communities

lt’s obvious why we don’t want trans and queer people to join the military. We already face enough violence in civilian life. Soldiers, especially queer and trans, have even higher rates of injury, death, abuse, and sexual assault.


And militarism promotes homophobia and transphobia. Militarism and nationalism are in opposition to trans and queer liberation. In the nationalistic frenzy after September 11, 2001, for example, homophobic violence increased in the United States along with racist violence. Like nearly all institutions, the military promotes binary gender and heterosexism. Boot camp is an especially hateful environment where homophobia and racism are used as tools to strip recruits down so they can be easily trained.

undermine military infrastructure

Valid criticisms have been made of the anti-war movement’s inability to cripple military infrastructure even as it succeeded in mobilizing millions of people. The problem was a reliance on “having our voices heard” rather than making our impact felt. Direct action strategies, including port blockades and the Stop Lake City idea are the right direction, and counter-recruitment follows this kind of strategy.

Troop shortage is one factor that could feasibly slow or halt the US imperial program. If this were not the case, why would the military be working so hard on recruitment? It is not true that queer soldiers will weaken the military, but queer counter-recruitment will.

Geographic terms: