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.
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.
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.
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.)
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."
In addition, the ban on trans service members was based on incorrect and outdated medical rationale.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.)
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."
(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.”
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?
“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.)