The President’s war on transgender service members

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Rev. Irene Monroe
Rev. Irene Monroe

This week LGBT Americans received a one-two punch from the Presidents administration. The first punch was the President’s ban against transgender service members. In his inimitable style of communicating to the American public, the order came in the form of a tweet.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” The President tweeted. “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. Thank you”

Ironically, the President’s tweet came on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman’s executive order desegregating the U.S. military in 1948, and from a Vietnam draft dodger who received five deferments, one of which was a medical diagnosis for bone spurs in his heels.

The second punch occurred on the same day of The President’s ban. The Justice Department filed court papers citing Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” but it does not bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

For LGBT service members, the fight for LGBT employment non-discrimination protections was never more urgent than now. An execution of the President’s ban would immediately put approximately over 15,500 active-duty transgender service members at risk of losing their jobs not to mention the shock and outrage it would bring to their fellow service members.

Since the military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 allowed LGBTs to openly serve, unfortunately military medical polices continue to discriminate against our transgender population. Evidence has shown that the military spends 5 times more on erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra and Cialis, than it does providing medical services for transgender troops, the bias persists nonetheless.

The President’s binary views of gender, along with the perceived exaggerated cost of gender-reassignment surgery give rise to his notion that transgender healthcare is a “tremendous medical cost and disruption” to the military.

While the President’s ban caught the Pentagon and Capitol Hill off guard, the announcement was enthusiastically applauded by numerous anti-LGBT hate groups across the country that have long advocated for it, promulgating the fear that healthcare services to our transgender troops would gravely hurt defense spending.

In a recent ad by the Family Research Council, for example, Chelsea Manning is pictured next to a military jet with the question “Which one do you want our military to be spending your tax dollars on — transgender surgeries or equipment?”

The Catholic League, being in lockstep with Pope Francis who compares transgender people to nuclear weapons, tweeted, “Kudos to the President for banning men and women who switch genitals from the military. The armed forces are not a lab for sexual engineers.”

It is surprising to me that amid several wars that need every able person who wants to serve, that our transgender patriots would be excluded. Back in the day, LGBT service members who served our country were either closeted about their sexual orientation or gender identity, or they were discharged under “honorable conditions” called “Fraudulent Enlistment.”

Military readiness is not a heterosexual cisgender calling. The President’s ban reverts to the military’s history of intolerance eerily reminiscent of the same argument used when the military did not want to racially integrate its ranks.

Transphobia, like racism and sexism, in our armed forces is militarily dangerous because it thwarts the necessary emotional bonding needed amongst service members in battle, and it underutilizes the needed human resources to make a strong and democratic military.

Our transgender service members are prepared to defend this country with their lives. Without them, America would not be able to present itself as a united front on the battlefield. The real war in America is with itself.