In a revealing presentation at Claremont McKenna College, birth-control activist Sandra Fluke said the U.S. military should accept transsexual recruits. The demise of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” program, she said, should be only a first step toward a more inclusive American fighting force.
Referring to what she called “the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning” community, Fluke said lawmakers didn’t go far enough in ending the military’s official but often unenforced ban on homosexuals.
“We still don’t let trans-folk join the military,” Fluke said February 13. “That needs to change.”
The liberal activist also praised efforts to force universities to make gender reassignment surgery a required part of college health plans. (RELATED: In 2011, Fluke argued for sex-change-operation insurance mandate)
Fluke first entered the media’s glare when she told a House committee in Washington, D.C. in February 2012 that many of her Georgetown Law School classmates were without birth control pills because the university was not forced to provide a health insurance plan that covers those prescriptions.
At Claremont McKenna, Fluke recalled her mother’s advice that she shouldn’t accept an internship with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund because it might betray to future employers her “radical feminist beliefs.”
“You could argue that I now have a career based on my radical feminist beliefs,” Fluke said. “It’ll work out.”
“I tend to be a practical advocate,” she said, explaining the strategy she has used to get national attention. “So I think the steps that we have to focus on right now are some of the ones that will be the most impactful but also the ones that society is ready for. That’s important as an advocacy strategy — is to pick the right battle at the right time.”
But referring to her own gender activism at Georgetown, she said her successes would be hard to duplicate. (RELATED VIDEO: Fluke says free birth control will help career women, candidates shed “barriers” of unwanted children)
“I cannot teach anyone how to replicate exactly what went on, nor would I want you to replicate that,” Fluke explained.
“In college, I majored in public policy in social advocacy types of concerns … and I went to law school so that would help me have one more tool to be able to advance that fight.”
The result, she said, was the congressional invitation that put her on the map.
“So again,”she quipped, “yay, student activism.”
“There was a whole group of students and faculty members who were allies … we’re law students so, you know, we wanted to sue somebody right? … We found that the Affordable Care Act was going to be the most efficacious option for us.”
At the time, she recalled, the national conversation about birth control centered on objections from Catholic groups. “That’s an entirely appropriate conversation to have, but it was not a complete conversation,” she said.
Fluke also complained during her speech about sexual assaults on Indian reservations.
An audience member asked her about Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s opposition to a portion of the Violence Against Women Act that would allow the federal government to intrude on tribal lands and prosecute offenders.
“There’s a staggering amount of [sexual] violence on tribal lands and tribal communities within our country. It’s just astronomical,” Fluke said.
A typical tribal court, she said, will only prosecute members of its own tribe.
“It’s really terrible,” Fluke said. “It’s sexual assault, domestic violence, gender-related violence. And part of that the reason for that is there’s a cultural impunity. There’s an understanding that those crimes won’t be prosecuted. And they’re not prosecuted.”
The New York Times reported in May 2012 that U.S. Department of Justice statistics show one-third of American Indian women have been the victims of rape or attempted rape — a sexual assault rate that is more than twice the average nationwide.
Nicole LaFond contributed to this story.