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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Unfounded, Hypocritical Blabbering: President Trump's Tweets About Transgender Military Service


 

President Donald Trump recently tweeted that he would ban trans military service. Trump said in a series of tweets: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

Not only do Trump's remarks represent a step back for LGBTQ equality, but also they have absolutely no evidence behind them. Like many of his tweets, this vicious attack was made without thought or without understanding. It also is very hypocritical considering Trump made a promise during his campaign to support the LGBTQ community.

Current Policy

On September 20, 2011, the military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) ended, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to serve openly. Yet, military medical policies still excluded transgender people from serving openly in the US armed forces. These medical policies laid out exclusions for what are deemed to be “psychosexual disorders,” including transsexualism, crossdressing, or a history of gender transition.

Therefore, transgender individuals who wish to join the US armed forces are prohibited from doing so if their transgender status is known. Furthermore, those already serving can be medically discharged if suspected of being transgender.

However …

After the issue had been thoroughly studied, the Obama administration moved to lift the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military in 2016. On both the military readiness and cost fronts, the findings were clear: Allowing trans people to serve would not be disruptive, nor would it entail tremendous medical costs. Perhaps the main reason for these findings – trans people simply aren’t that large of a population. And, in truth, there is no documented medical reason for the U.S. armed forces to prohibit transgender Americans from serving

Ash Carter, the defense secretary under former President Barack Obama, announced the ban allowed for a year-long review process to allow the Pentagon to determine how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military.

Yet, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced in June 2017 that he was delaying the July 1 deadline set by Carter to review the military's policy on allowing transgender personnel. Then came Trump's Twitter announcement.

Service

We can establish the long service of transgender individuals in the United States military. Research analyses from several data sources (2014) estimate 15,500 transgender individuals are serving on active duty or in the Guard or Reserve forces. The research also estimates that there are an estimated 134,300 transgender individuals who are veterans or who are retired from Guard or Reserve service.

The ban itself is an unfair barrier to health access for transgender personnel who currently serve in active, Guard, and reserve components.

(Gary J. Gates and Jody L. Herman. “Transgender Military Service.” The Williams Institute. May 2014.)

A new study that utilized data collected through the National Transgender Discrimination Survery (NTDS), shows that twenty percent of transgender people have served in the military, which is double the percentage of the U.S. general population that has served. As the largest employer of trans folks – a group that already experiences disproportionately high rates of unemployment and homelessness – a Defense Department ban on their service would threaten thousands of trans peoples' livelihoods.

The ACLU tweeted in response to the president's comments, "Thousands of trans service-members on the front lines deserve better from their commander-in-chief."

Findings

A study commissioned by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter found that a small portion of service members are transgender and that allowing them to serve openly in the military would cost little and have no significant impact on unit readiness.

In addition, the ban on trans service members was based on incorrect and outdated medical rationale. Vox News reporter German Lopez said, “The concern was that a person's gender dysphoria – a state of emotional distress caused by how someone’s body or the gender they were assigned at birth conflicts with their gender identity – may interfere with someone's ability to serve, since it can lead to severe depression and anxiety.” 

(German Lopez. “Trump: allowing transgender military service would hurt combat readiness. Actual research: nope.” Vox. July 26, 2017.)

Now, medical experts, including the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, agree that hormone therapy and other forms of trans-inclusive care can treat those suffering from gender dysphoria. And, of course, not all trans people suffer from severe gender dysphoria in the first place.

RAND Corporation recently pointed out that 18 other countries – including Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom – allow transgender people to serve openly in the military with “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”

The RAND study said that if the Pentagon did not cover the medical procedures for service members – like hormone therapy and surgery – they would likely avoid seeking medical care and would have higher rates of substances abuse and suicide.

(Michael S. Schmidtmay. “Study Finds Few Obstacles to Lifting Military’s Transgender Ban.” The New York Times. May 16, 2016.)

Human Rights

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also released a statement responding directly to the military ban, calling Trump's decision "a dangerous and unpatriotic move to reinstate a ban on qualified transgender people serving in the military."

Combat veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, condemned the military ban in a statement: "When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind."


 
Tammy Duckworth

Eric Fanning, the first openly gay Secretary of the Army after being appointed by President Obama in May 2016, echoed Duckworth's sentiments, calling the ban "not just a setback for the transgender community, but a setback for the military, and a setback for our country, because this does not reflect the values upon which we were formed as a nation."

(Liz Stark. “Lawmakers, LGBTQ groups divided over transgender military service.” CNN. July 27, 2017.)

Other benefits to open service are evident. Retired Brigadier General Thomas A. Kolditz, former Army Commander and West Point professor on the Report of the Transgender Military Service Commission, stated, “Allowing transgender people to serve openly would reduce gender-based harassment, assaults and suicides while enhancing national security.”

(“Lift the Transgender Military Ban Now.” National LGBTQ Task Force. The Blog. May 26, 2014.)

Donald Trump's proposal is aimed at a political gain, and it has caused immeasurable stigma for the LGBTQ community. If Trump has his way, will those transgender people currently serving be dishonorably discharged? Will career officers who are transgender be forced out of their long-standing profession?

David S. Cohen of Rolling Stone magazine leaves us with important food for thought ...

“As president, Trump is commander-in-chief of the military. (The Constitution makes no exception for draft-dodgers or those who criticize American prisoners of war.) Because he's in charge of the armed forces, and there's no law from Congress on this issue, he can set these kinds of policies. Any military leaders who refuse to implement this new announcement could be forced to step aside by the president.

“Trump cannot, however, set aside the Constitution and its guarantees of equality. Though not many courts have ruled on the issue of whether the Constitution protects against trans discrimination, there is a small trend recently of courts finding that discrimination against trans individuals is a form of sex discrimination, something the Constitution prohibits unless the government has a really good reason for doing so.”


(David S. Cohen. “Trump's Trans Military Ban: What You Need to Know.” Rolling Stone. July 27, 2017.)



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