Bringing change to the transgender military ban at the ballot box

Vote early and wisely. Real change is a ballot away.

LGBTQ+ News Politics Simon Elstad

This article was published on September 12th, 2020

An estimated 2450 to 15000 transgender people serve in the military. That the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people in the military is still in effect is mind-boggling and an atrocity to these individuals’ rights. They have dedicated their lives to serve.

To quote the late Sen. John McCain, decorated veteran and former POW, “When less than 1 percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome those who are willing and able to serve our country.”

Neither cost nor military preparedness justifies the ban, according to experts. While it has faced pushback, including ongoing litigation, the ban serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go in ensuring equal rights for all.

As we wait for the courts, the onus is on you to influence change through the ballot.

How we got here, and how we get out

Back in 2016, the DoD under President Obama ended the ban on transgender service members. However, just a year later, President Trump announced that the DoD would reinstate the ban on transgender service.

On January 22, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the administration’s request to reinstate the ban, even as legal challenges continued. That effectively cleared the ban’s way to take effect a few months later on April 12, 2019.

In effect, the Trump ban makes transgender service “impossible or uniquely burdensome,” according to a Palm Center memo.

It affects both aspiring and current transgender troops, whether they’ve been grandfathered or not. (Grandfathered transgender people are exempted from the ban. They form an estimated 1600 transgender troops.)

So how does the ban affect serving trans troops?

  • Service members are prohibited from transitioning gender, forcing them to give up their identity as a condition to serve.
  • It denies trans troops their statutory entitlement to proper medical care.
  • Grandfathered troops must endure the stigma of serving as an exception to the rule.
  • The policy also contains an explicit threat to revoke the grandfather exemptions.

The numbers don’t add up

The transgender military ban is ridiculous and irrational.

One of the main sticking points in favor of the ban rests on the cost of transition-related care. However, the DoD reported the total cost of transition was about $3 million per year over almost three years of inclusive policy. That’s less than a hundredth of one percent of DoD’s annual health care budget, far lower than the $41.6 million the military spends each year on Viagra.

The numbers don’t stack up either. 67 percent of the American public favors inclusion according to a Palm Center polling average. Likewise, most military personnel surveyed in a recent, Pentagon-funded study—66%—also support allowing transgender service.

The nation’s foremost medical and mental health organizations have repudiated the administration’s rationale for the transgender ban, with the American Medical Association stating that “there is no medically valid reason” to ban transgender troops, and the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association rejecting any medical rationale for a ban.

Currently, eighteen foreign militaries allow transgender troops to serve. None has reported any compromise to readiness.

The ballot – A promising way out

As the transgender military ban cases drag through the courts, thousands of trans troops continue to suffer. Despite their willingness to serve, they have to choose between the love of country and their very identities – a decision no one should have to make.

The only way to reverse the ban is through a change in the administration. Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has pledged to reverse the ban “on day one” of his presidency if elected. In contrast, the Trump administration has reiterated its continued support to the existing ban that puts trans troops in a precarious position.

Further down, the Democratic-led House voted this year to end the ban by blocking the use of funds to implement it.

Incidentally, according to a Palm Center memo, the Trump ban could be reversed in under thirty days. Everything needed for fully inclusive service “already exists in current military guidance” because DoD had to leave guidance in place to govern grandfathered transgender troops.

However, effecting the changes requires inclusive leadership. Clearly, the current administration has failed on that front.

What you can do

Vote wisely.

The upcoming U.S. election is not only a battle for the soul of the nation but also for the rights of trans troops who’ve endured untold discrimination under the current administration. It’s a battle for your rights, the LGBTQ+ community, marginalized communities, and the world. Don’t mess it up.

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