[Written by Declan Nolan, MTPC Summer Intern]
On July 26th, President Trump tweeted out a ban on transgender folks serving in the U.S. Military. First of all, what does this mean? Additionally what does this mean for you as a transgender person or an ally?
At the moment, transgender already-enlisted service members can serve openly, but civilian transgender people are disqualified from serving. It is unclear what this will mean for the openly transgender people currently serving. If this series of tweets becomes a policy, the military may choose to discharge openly transgender service members.
To many people this announcement came as a shock. A common misconception is that transgender people were included in “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” but this isn’t true. The LGBT community is often talked about as a single unit which can cause confusion when differentiating between sexual orientation and gender identity. Transgender people have been able to serve openly since June 30th of last year. This policy only applies to people who are already currently serving; not new recruits.
Currently, there has been no policy memo formally articulated to the Pentagon. This means that there will be no changes made yet to the way transgender people serve in the military. This may change in the near future, but so far all is the same. There are still debates going on about transition related healthcare and if it should be covered by the health insurance provided by the military.
The idea of not allowing transgender people to serve based on their gender identity alone is blatant discrimination. Even transgender individuals who have no indication of ever serving in the military should be concerned because of the precedent this sets. So what does this mean for you as a transgender person or ally?
On order to understand this potential ban’s full effect, we should educate ourselves about the needs and experiences of transgender veterans and service members. A great resource we have found is the Transgender American Veterans Association. They provide “unwavering support for our transgender service members and veterans past, present, and future.” We also found great information from the American Veterans for Equal Rights. Organizations like this are an important reminder to transgender veterans and service members that you are supported and cared for by your transgender community. This support comes regardless of the current or future policies put in place by the current administration.
You might be asking yourself, what can I do to help my community or the trans people in my life? There are plenty of ways to help: check out some great ones from the Advocate. If it is safe to and you are able to, get involved in some activism! If you are from Massachusetts, a wonderful campaign to get involved with is Freedom Massachusetts. They are fighting against an initiative on the statewide ballot in 2018 to repeal our state’s nondiscrimination law ensuring protection in public spaces for transgender people. They are always looking for volunteers to participate in phone banks, data entry, and in person recruitment.
To the allies of the transgender community, we need you. Keep the conversation going; educate those around you on what has happened, especially other cisgender folks in your life. Continue to learn; keep yourself educated on what this means and why it matters. Know that the fight for transgender rights cannot be won without the assistance of family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.