Trans Rights are Human Rights – Transgender people in the military

James Cantu

September 13th, 2017

This political comic satirizes President Trump’s stance on transgender people in the military. (Comic by Sheneman)

President Trump’s ban on transgender people from serving in any capacity in the military is not only an exercise in ignorance, but is a step backwards from the progressive social standard set by former President Obama.
Although the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in September 20, 2011 was a major victory for Obama and the LGB community, the same protections that permitted gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to openly serve were not given to transgender individuals.

Transsexualism  was still considered to be a “psychosexual disorder,” and, therefore, a reason to be medically discharged, even if a person was only suspected of being transgender.
This all changed on June 30, 2016.  For the first time in U.S. history, transgender people could openly serve in the military without repercussion.

“Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly,” Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced. “They can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender.”
Now, President Trump  wishes to regress on social progress by removing protections on thousands of transgender service people. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that, until new policy has been created, current policy will remain in place, allowing current transgender service people to remain.

“The department will carry out the president’s policy direction, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security,” Mattis said.“… I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.”

Mattis’s panel will focus on, “What is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield.”

Transgender people are still people, and should have an equal opportunity to serve their country as any other individual fit for combat.

Being transgender does not inherently make them unfit to serve or reduce combat effectiveness. According to Forbes, “less than 2% of those trans service members will seek medical transition which has the potential to disrupt their ability to serve.”

Transgender people are still people, and should have an equal opportunity to serve their country as any other individual fit for combat.

According to a study by Rand Corps, there are 6,000 active transgender troops and over 4,100 troops in the reserves who now face uncertainty in employment and healthcare, pending the results of Mattis’ panel
Trump’s actions can only be classified as blatant transphobia.

He claims that transgender service people would have “tremendous medical costs,” while in reality, according to Forbes, transgender people only make up less than .51 percent of the military, and their healthcare expenses made up approximately .017 percent of the Defense Department’s $50 billion dollar healthcare expenditure in 2014,

According to Trump Golf Count, President Trump has spent roughly $64 million on golf outings since his inauguration, which costs the taxpayers more than the estimated healthcare costs for transgender individuals ($2.4-$8.4 million).

Another important reason why transgender people should have the opportunity to serve is that the military offers a chance of stability.

Transgender people are one of the most vulnerable groups in the LGBT community, and still face heavy stigma, as evident in Trump’s transgender military ban.

According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, compiled by the Williams Institute: 69 percent of transgender individuals experienced homelessness, 50-59 percent experienced discrimination or harassment at work, 60 percent were refused treatment by doctors or healthcare providers, and 57 percent have family who refuse to speak or spend time with them.

With such high statistics, it stands to reason why many transgender people consider, or turn to, the military.

Although I do not speak for all transgender people, as a transgender person myself, the military, to me, has represented a fail-safe if everything in my life came crashing down around me.

With the statistics in mind, along with an uncertain future, the military represented certainty and hope for a future.

While my circumstances did not result in my enlistment, other transgender people may not have the same narrative.

Whether their choice to serve was born out of a perceived lack of options, or it was their childhood dream to serve, both groups have the right to serve their country no matter what gender they identify as.
Under the Obama administration, being able to openly serve gave hope for progress in life– insurance to medically transition, a stable income, and possibility for higher education.

Under the Trump administration, that hope and certainty is dashed away with no other justification than blatant bigotry and ignorance.
For whatever reason a person chooses to serve, as long as they are fit to serve, they should have the right to serve. Being transgender does not inherently make them unfit.

Transgender related medical costs do not inherently make them a burden. Transgender rights are human rights.

James Cantu

Opinions Columnist

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