Despite Trump's looming ban, I know that transgender people are fit to serve
It's a symbolic gesture but one that means a lot in the current climate: MTV have invited transgender military service members to appear at their VMAs tonight after Donald Trump signed a directive on Friday which moves forward his trans military ban. My colleagues, like US Army Captain Jennifer Pearce and Air Force SSGT Logan Ireland, who starred in a brilliant documentary about being trans in the military, and Airman Sterling James Crutcher, will be walking down the red carpet with the same grace and poise with which they conduct themselves every day as members of the US military. They also walk in defiance of an awful policy that would sooner see them fired just for being who they are.
It was a Tuesday in January 2010 when I stood up and took my first oath of public service. Six years later, I would transition in my workplace, becoming one of a much smaller population of defence intelligence professionals who were openly transgender.
At the time, I was working as a “civilian” for the US Army (not on active duty military), which put me in direct contact with uniformed service members on an a daily basis. Any given day, I came in contact with uniformed service members from throughout the United States, all of whom saw me every day during the most awkward stretch of my transition. All of whom who treated me with respect. I also came in contact with a handful of uniformed service members who were themselves transgender. These people showed up to work every day and got their mission done regardless of anything else happening in their lives – including the pressure of untreated gender dysphoria.
“I came in contact with uniformed service members from throughout the United States during the most awkward stretch of my transition. All of whom who treated me with respect”
The Obama administration’s announcement that the ban on transgender people openly serving would be lifted brought a feeling of happiness for my colleagues who I watched suffer in silence. But, only a few years later, President Trump’s disorganised and spontaneous announcement that the military would reinstate the ban was confusing and not at all consistent with respectful military governance. The snap calculus behind suddenly reinstating a ban which would pull the rug out from under thousands of transgender service members was terrifying.
It was sold to the public as many things, including a concern about unit cohesion, lethality, and efficiency. Apparently unconvinced by the peer-reviewed evidence of a study concluded in early 2016, Trump claimed that he was concerned with how allowing trans people to serve openly will impact the military’s effectiveness. The ban was also sold as a budgetary concern, with claims that the cost to cover the medical care for transgender service members was unreasonable, and that the skill and expertise of serving transgender members of the military didn't outweigh their “burden” on.
But the re-enactment of this ban is likely to turn out to be the most burdensome measure of all on national security. The Trump administration intends to trade an $8.4 million price tag for trans-related medical care for a $960 million price tag to reinstate the ban (and that’s without taking into account the associated fees for the legal challenges that have already been filed by groups such as Lambda Legal). Not only is that bad management, it’s bad math. For a man who won the presidency on his alleged business skills, nothing about this transaction adds up.
Clearly, this ban is not about making decisions on the basis of peer-reviewed studies, historic information or anecdotal evidence by current service members. It’s about appeasing the prejudiced whims of his dwindling base of support who have loudly crowed their opposition to allowing openly transgender service since Trump’s election. In doing so, he has chosen to place the needs of the few over the needs of the many.
“For the president (a man who feigned injury to dodge military service) to deny a specific group of Americans the right to serve in uniform on the inaccurate basis that we are defective is laughably ironic”
A president who demands to be convinced of something that hard facts are available that already prove, isn’t a man who is looking for truth before he makes decisions. He’s a man who has concerns that are at odds with what’s in the best interest of the people he has been elected to serve. Introducing chaos through his wandering policies on North Korea, The Middle East, and at home is profoundly dangerous to all Americans, and his stance on transgender service members is just one more red flag of that poor decisionmaking.
The military has always been a place for those in search of many things. Discipline, glory, medical coverage, or even just a steady paycheck. For the president (a man who feigned injury to dodge military service) to deny a specific group of able bodied Americans the right to serve in uniform on the inaccurate basis that we are defective, or somehow inherently unfit is laughably ironic.
Transgender people who have been deemed fit to serve by the physical and mental standards governing all who hope to enter military service should be allowed to serve. Once they’re in uniform, they should be given care consistent with their medical needs the way that any other service member is afforded. That’s what’s fair. That’s what’s right. That is what is best for America.