Trump's ban on trans military service hurts our country's most marginalizedBy Ruben Tarajano | 08/02/2017 10:29pm
The White House has become a series of smoke and mirrors, from the unprecedented restricted filming of some press briefings, to the maneuvering of Donald Trump Jr.’s interrogation to be held behind closed doors and not under oath. It is also a house divided, as reflected by Sean Spicer’s recent resignation and the continuous embarrassment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by President Trump in an effort to have him resign. In the midst of all of this chaos, the president decided that attempting to bring down an entire marginalized group could help his situation.
On July 21, 2016 at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump stated, “As president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” This gave the queer community a glimmer of hope that the GOP would not work against the progress already made for LGBTQ rights. Almost exactly one year later, on July 26, 2017, President Trump announced in a series of tweets that trans individuals will no longer be allowed in the military. Not only did President Trump go back on his promise to protect the LGBTQ community, but this transphobic policy hurts both the military and the trans community.
With the increase in states attempting to pass “bathroom bills”, it is clear that the new offense in the attack on civil rights is the existence of trans folks in our country, specifically the existence of these individuals in the military.
Setting aside the complex issues of the American military itself and the industries which rely on it, excluding trans individuals from enrolling and being a part of the military denies their ability to not only fight for their idea of our country, but also denies their ability to receive benefits they may not be able to afford otherwise.
When trans troops are removed from the military because of their gender identity (as was done before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011) they are given a “General Discharge” because they are “mentally unfit for service.” As a result, they are not allowed to receive any benefits, including health services, grants, scholarships, and veteran housing.
Homelessness and unemployment are an immense issue within the trans community, in part because our nation does not have legal protections for LGBTQ people in regards to employment and housing. Oftentimes, trans individuals enlist due to the need for these benefits. 1 in 5 trans individuals are or have been in the military, twice the rate of the general population. Our leaders in Congress and the commander-in-chief are unwilling to provide the simplest of health services to those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in our armed forces.
The U.S. military spends over $40M each year on Viagra. The yearly cost of providing trans troops with necessary health services is estimated to only be about $8M or less. It is clear that stigma and transphobia have won in the president’s mind, rather than logic. This policy also sets the dangerous precedent for trans healthcare nationwide as an “optional” expense and burden.
A nation can often be judged by how they treat their most marginalized community. Pushing trans individuals out of the military or back into the closet only weakens our military and tarnishes the true image of America that many hold. America is diverse- Black, White, Latinx, Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, straight, cis, queer, and trans. These soldiers should have the right to fight for this ideal like anybody else.
Trans folks, especially those who are black or brown, are being killed on our front lines and in our streets and simply ask to be respected for their identity and to receive the benefits they deserve. Nobody has the right to “debate” an individual’s gender identity or their rights, and no one, including the commander in chief, should be able to strip veterans and current soldiers of their benefits simply because of their gender identity. These benefits often are not simply “rewards” for service for trans folks, but unfortunately, this is how many have to survive in a country and system pitted against them.
Remember that trans rights and voices should always be heard and supported, not just when its “trendy” or under attack.
Ruben Tarajano is a sophomore majoring in Public Health.