Moving Backwards: Trans Military Service

July 28, 2017
Michael Litrownik

Co-Written by Outten & Golden LLP Paralegal Toby Rae Irving

In the six months since his inauguration, President Trump and his cabinet have been pushing forward to fulfill his myriad of campaign promises, with mixed success. Two days ago it became evident, however, that his continuity from the campaign ends with his supposed support of the LGBTQ community.  Members of the trans community face challenges and lack of legal protection around the primary concerns of most Americans: employment, housing, and healthcare. Instead of addressing these issues central to daily life, President Trump has, once again, rolled the clocks backward on rights for trans people by banning transgender people from serving in the military. The President cited concerns around medical costs and “disruption.”

The announcement (published in the form of tweets, without, apparently, prior notice to the Pentagon), came on the anniversary of President Truman’s announcement in 1948 (issued in the form of Executive Order) of the desegregation of the armed services. As Katie Reilly writes, “Trump said the U.S. Military ‘cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.’ In 1948, some military officials similarly pushed back against Truman’s order in the interest of “military efficiency.” But, in its final report, published in 1950, Truman’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services concluded that ‘inequality had contributed to inefficiency.’” Mirroring that push-back, President Trump has chosen to bolster the narrative peddled to his white, Christian base: that their potential for success is predicated on discrimination.

Despite the lessons of segregation, concerns regarding the potential “disruption” caused by diversity and inclusion in the military have continued to be used as a basis for discrimination. Only two months before the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was signed into law in 2010, the Obama administration resisted, claiming the relevant Court decision “threatens to disrupt ongoing military operations”. But only last year, showing signs of growth and the positive impact of increased trans visibility, the Department of Defense issued a policy that, “Effective immediately, transgender Service members may serve openly, and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military solely for being transgender individuals.”

Considering President Trump’s recent $15 billion increase in military spending, promises to commit to veteran care, and The Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly in the U.S. Military stating that transition-related expenses are not of significant cost to the military (not to mention that they spend ten times as much treating erectile dysfunction), it is clear this not really about trans people. It’s not even about the military. By appealing to fear and bigotry while emphasizing national security concerns, Trump’s agenda becomes more closely aligned with the particular populist, nationalist worldview of Steve Bannon. Meanwhile, the most vulnerable members of the American population and workforce, including the The Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly in the U.S. Military trans people currently serving in the military or in the reserves, have their rights stripped away and are put in harm’s way. Please see below for relevant resources.

•    National Center for Transgender Equality – Military & Veterans Resources
•    The Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly in the U.S. Military
•    SPART A – community of LGBT people who currently serve or have served in the military.
•   Sylvia Rivera Law Project

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)