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President Trump’s Ban on Transgender Military Service Members

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Andrew Vaz
August 18, 2017

Last month, I complied an article entitled Chelsea Manning and the Transgender Identity in the Military. I would be remised if I didn’t address the developments that succeeded afterwards on the President’s Twitter page. Trump announced last month that transgender service members would not be permitted to serve in the military and protect the country they love. These are his words: “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.” Although public policy cannot be implemented in 140 words or less, I was disappointed in the President’s decision. As well, I fiercely debated with average citizens who agreed with the President’s viewpoint — commonly expressing concern over the ability to provide medical treatment for trans service members… which is an overall fraction of the total cost of military budget expenditure. Is it truly an administrative issue or is it (as I believe) a smokescreen for what is really at issue: discrimination?

I always ponder how citizens who have never served in the military are quick transmilitarymake judgement on how it should operate effectively: 68 percent of U.S. voters say trans people should be allowed to serve in the military — only 27 percent disagree. How is it that we can truly say with affirmation a human being cannot serve and make that sacrifice without looking at themselves —enjoying the perks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that many have died fighting for. I ask these individuals: when does our pursuit to find our happiness end?

Many transgender activists and former military service members have expressed their outrage over the administration’s stance. Last year, many transgender service members came forward after being assured by the Obama administration that they could serve openly in the military. Pentagon officials have said privately they do not see how to expel current service members, or bar future ones from joining the military, without opening the Defense Department up to lawsuits.

Now, I could express the clear irresponsibility this administration is demonstrating towards the public. I believe though there is a lack of understanding and education towards the transgender community that must be addressed. Let’s call it woeful ignorance — it is not simply a misunderstanding, it is a deliberate expression of ignorance. That’s why as a society we need to address this problem now. It starts with discrimination against gender, then it will include race, nationality and religion (just to say a few).

Ever since the announcement, there has been an explosion of transphobic comments being made in the media. This didn’t just start; this discrimination was initiated from an administration that emboldened hatred. Let’s be very clear: there is no expense to big or any issues regarding military readiness concerning transgender Americans in serving in the United States Armed Forces. There are no problems associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country that they reside in and love.

Also, let’s leave politics out of the conversation. Regardless of anyone political belief and leanings, our service members require our support. I feel this will turn into a bigger problem in terms of how our government looks out for its defenders. When we think of that small fraction of Americans who have been willing to raise their right hands and swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution—who have offered to put their lives on the line, and proven they have the ability and character to serve—how do we deny them? Where is it within us to say to someone they do not have the right to protect my country from danger when we can’t even do the same?

It is time for military leaders to call on the President to reverse course and allow transgender citizens to serve with pride in our armed forces. As I stated earlier, policy is not implemented from Twitter (or social media). Our Congress and our leaders in Washington must take a stand and protect all our service members from discrimination — our democracy depends on our action. If our soldiers are fighting to protect our ability to live in a democratic society, but our policymakers are not upholding the freedoms these soldiers are dying for… then what is the point? It is time for Americans to remind themselves of the brilliance of our nation and its creed: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Author: Andrew R Vaz, M.Sc., M.P.A. is a doctoral student in the public policy and administration program at Walden University. He is a graduate of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Public Administration double master’s program at Florida International University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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