(By Peter Johnson, Juicy Ecumenism). The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), released a statement criticizing President Donald Trump’s recent decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military. In it, he compared the transgender ban to the racial discrimination practiced by the military prior to 1948.
Many civil rights advocates have been reluctant to compare the struggle for racial justice to modern transgender activism—not only because there are obvious differences between the two movements, but also because some civil rights leaders have said the comparison diminishes their own struggle for racial equity. Rev. Nelson, who is the first African-American head of the PCUSA, demonstrates a conspicuous divergence from these civil rights leaders.
By comparing the fight for racial justice to transgender activism, Rev. Nelson invokes the darling of the postmodern academy, intersectionality, which aims to conflate social categorizations, like race, class and gender, in order to foster solidarity among marginalized peoples. In addition to the practical benefit of unifying various aggrieved parties, intersectionality also serves to reduce unique, often unrelated social movements to pieces of a broader tapestry of Marxist historicism.
Rev. Nelson, who is often described in PCUSA literature as a “prophetic voice for justice,” describes the famous verse from Micah as a clarion call to Presbyterians to “stand firmly” with transgender activists. According to Nelson, inclusion in military service is a way to affirm marginalized groups’ “citizenship and humanity.” It is unclear why Rev. Nelson, who is often an outspoken critic of the U.S. military, believes that this same institution is also “a bell tolling the advance of justice.”
Furthermore, in order to inject some statistical evidence into his case, Rev. Nelson cites a study, recently debunked by Politifact, which exaggerates the actual number of transgender service members.
Overall, he characterizes the transgender ban as “cruel” and that it is a “demonization” of transgender people.
Read Nelson’s statement: Stated Clerk Speaks Out on Trump’s Proposed Ban on Transgender Personnel in the Military