‘No Trans Women in Female Spaces’ Is On Par With ‘We Shouldn’t Have Gays In the Navy’

And we realized how unnecessary and discriminatory that was decades ago

Elle Beau ❇︎
GEN
Published in
6 min readOct 28, 2021

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Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

My uncle John was a career Navy man. He joined in the 1950s right out of college and spent his entire professional life as a navigator. I can still remember a conversation we had once in the early 1990s when the Clinton administration’s “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy was being hotly debated.

“Gay people shouldn’t be allowed on Navy ships,” he told me. “It’s bad for morale and it can cause problems.”

“But don’t you already have conduct and fraternization rules?” I countered. “Isn’t it just a matter of enforcing those and leaving people’s personal sexuality out of it?”

All John could do was harrumph. He’d come of age at a time when homosexuality was seen as aberrant even as it was often a common aspect of the lives of seafaring men.

‘Homosexual’ is a relatively recent term. In the past, men had sex with each other but didn’t necessarily have a ‘gay identity’. Often shipboard same-sex relations were contingent. Crew, and officers too, became close. It was an extension of the comradeship that emerges when people’s lives depend on their co-workers. Homoerotic platonic love was not uncommon. And people sometimes loved or had various sorts of sex with each other as part of the ’Work hard, Play hard’ lifestyle, or to assuage loneliness. It could be akin to jails or public schools — fairly unremarkable. Dancing together, whooping it up in Duty-Free soirees, and dressing as females in the shipboard theatricals and rituals including Crossing the Line (Equator) ceremonies could extend to having affairettes together, and even ‘weddings’.

The Navy (and other military branches) are certainly within their rights to have conduct rules and to enforce them across the board as they apply to everyone, but the idea that an entire demographic of people should have specific laws made about them based on the potentially illegal behavior of a few is indefensible. We finally came to our senses around that about gays in the military. It’s time to do the same about trans folks, particularly transgender women and to stop the demonizing narratives that are unsupported…

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Elle Beau ❇︎
GEN
Writer for

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. "Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge." ~ Carl Jung