President Trump has announced that he will ban transgender people from serving in the military. Why is this bad for America?
America Should Keep Its End of the Bargain
Being a citizen of the United States comes with a balance of rights and responsibilities. On the rights side of things, we get benefits like voting and the freedom to exercise our religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs). On the responsibility side, we are asked to fulfill obligations like paying taxes and living in accordance with the law. Citizens who happen to be trans are just as much a part of this complex web of privileges and commitments. To deny them eligibility to serve in the military is failing to live up to America’s contract with its citizens.
We Are Lucky That Trans People Serve
Is military service right for everyone? Certainly not. Many people cannot meet the armed services’ rigorous demands in terms of physical excellence and personal discipline. Furthermore, many of us just don’t want to serve; we want the protection that comes from having a powerful military protecting our interests at home and abroad without necessarily participating in it, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who are willing to step up on our behalf. So why on earth are we potentially ending the service of an estimated 10,000 trans people actively serving or in the reserves and telling untold numbers of those who could serve in the future that they are not welcome?
Trans People Do Not Cause Disruption or Huge Medical Costs
Of late, the right-wing echo chamber has grown loud with voices warning about the alleged dangers of having trans people in the military for two major reasons. One of these proposed reasons is the idea that these trans men and women in uniform cause some sort of “disruption” to our military. This is a lie we have heard before. In the course of our nation’s history, it has been suggested that inviting women into the armed forces, integrating people of color into the military, and allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly would lead to institutional collapse. Yet here we stand with a military that includes people of different genders, races and sexual orientations that is just as strong as ever.
The other main scare tactic is that the cost of providing certain types of medical care to trans people will create an immense financial drain. This is patently apocryphal. Studies show that the likely increase in medical expenditures would be between 0.04 and 0.13 percent. So if the historical precedent and numbers show that the “medical costs and disruption” promised by Trump are not factual, why is he really doing it? The only logical conclusion we can draw is that it’s because his constituents hate and fear trans people, and he hopes that striking at their rights will translate into votes.
This Is a Cruel Reversal of Policy
What makes this latest decision particularly egregious is that, for the past year, transgender people have been successfully serving openly as part of the United States military as they were invited to do so by President Obama. Even terrible policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ostensibly were about granting rights — in that case the right to be gay in the military as long as nobody found out. In reality, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” became a terrible kind of witch hunt — in which gay and lesbian members of the military were often kicked out of the service if they were caught being gay. But the fact that many trans people are already serving openly means they don’t even have the choice to “not tell.”
Trans Service Members Don’t Discriminate
In response to today’s announcement, Congressman Joe Kennedy III eloquently said, “Our soldiers do not discriminate. They do not offer to pay the ultimate sacrifice to protect some lives and not others. Their government owes them that courtesy – that decency – in return.” I hope that you agree, that you will raise your voices in protest against this deeply unfair policy, and that you’ll consider supporting an organization such as the National Center for Transgender Equality (www.transequality.org) in their efforts to protect the rights of people who have fought to protect you.
Last modified: May 15, 2018