Trans Spirituality – Memorial Day Special

Trans Spirituality – Memorial Day Special

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By Rabbah Dr. Rona Matlow

I made note to my Seminary class on Jewish Diversity just last week, that many trans people go into high risk careers such as the military to subdue our trauma. This was certainly my story. I have noted in my autobiography that boot camp was like a stress reliever for me, because of the abuse I was experiencing at home. Those of you who know my story, know that I wasn’t aware of my transness back then, even though I was expressing my trans identity in various ways.

As a percentage of the population, trans people are very highly represented in the military. We join for a number of reasons. As we honor Memorial Day, I do not know statistics on the number of trans identified military personnel who were killed in action overseas. I also do not know the number of trans identified veterans who have lost their battles since coming home. Some lost their lives due to service connected conditions, but many to suicide due to the systemic oppression that we face, or to the unmitigated pain they were experiencing from the physical and psychic traumas they suffered in combat.

I have severe combat trauma even though I’m not a combat veteran. I already had complex PTSD, making me very vulnerable. I counseled combat veterans and active duty soldiers, including a number of trans folx, for many years, leaving me further traumatized. For obvious reasons, I don’t do this work anymore, and instead focus more on academic work and social media activism now.

Further, my physical condition is declining due to my military injuries. The betrayal by the government, in refusing to manage chronic pain, and in cutting our healthcare benefits across every plan we have, just increases the trauma.

On one of the tattoos I have, I wear the Hebrew letters  ? ? – 22 – which stands for the roughly 22 veterans a day we lose to suicide. This is a sign of the betrayal of the government to support those of us who have served, because we no longer earn money for “Raytheon and Haliburton…”

As we go into the Memorial Day weekend, PLEASE do not say “Happy Memorial Day,” and correct people who do say this. This is a somber day, where we remember all of our military siblings who have gone before us. We can’t remember specifically all of our trans military siblings because we just don’t know. Many, like me, transitioned after getting out of the service. Others never were able to transition, because of evil policies of the Trump and other administrations, and were killed before they could ever actualize their true identities. But we remember them! Even though we don’t know them, we remember them!

So, if you go to a National Cemetery to plant flags, please bring some trans flags along and plant them somewhere, because someone in the National Cemetery was trans, and needs to be honored. And if you fly a trans or queer flag on your house, fly it at half staff this weekend, to honor those queer and trans veterans who have gone before us.

In a beautiful image in Isaiah, the Prophet teaches: They will beat their swords into plows, their spears into pruning shears, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they again experience war. (Is. 2:4)

Let us pray that this comes speedily in our day, and is not simply limited to a theoretical messianic era that none of us will ever see.



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Category: Transgender Opinion


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