With a conservative Supreme Court on which Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., Neil Gorsuch, and Brett M. Kavanaugh have seats on the bench, it comes as no surprise that a 5-to-4 vote has revived President Donald Trump’s discriminatory policy on transgender service members, while the merits of the cases will continue to be challenged in lower courts.
Last year, Trump’s ban on transgender service members was delivered in his inimitable style of communicating to the American public—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. 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.
If Trump had his way, he would militarily eradicate transgender people from existence. Last week, his Supreme Court delivered his wish by supporting the exclusion of transgender people. Though the court doesn’t think so; its Orwellian argument is that the discriminatory policy is not a “blanket ban” since it only targets some transgender individuals, not all:
The policy does allow transgender troops to serve but only if they do so in their biological sex, do not have a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or can show a 36-month period of “ stability” prior to military service.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” does not bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, former President Barack Obama expanded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect LGBTQ Americans, including providing federal guidelines permitting transgender students to use “gender-appropriate facilities” that align with identity. Obama’s policy also opened the military to transgender service members.
Since Obama ended the military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in 2011, military medical policies have unfortunately continued to discriminate against our transgender population. Evidence has shown that the military spends five times more on erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra and Cialis than it does providing medical services for transgender troops, while the president’s binary views of gender, along with the perceived excessive cost of gender confirmation surgery, give rise to his notion that transgender healthcare is a “tremendous medical cost and disruption” to the military.
For example, in a July 2017 ad by the Family Research Council, 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?”
In November 2017, the Pentagon gave its first-ever approval for gender reassignment surgery. It should be emphasized: The medical cost for transgender troops is one-10th of 1 percent of the military’s annual medical spending.
Last year, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before Congress on behalf of transgender troops serving openly because of no known issues resulting from it. Today, it is surprising to me that amid several wars that need every able person who wants to serve, 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 when the military did not want to integrate its ranks racially.
Transphobia, like racism and sexism, is dangerous in our armed forces because it thwarts the necessary emotional bonding needed amongst service members in battle, leading to underutilized human resources that would make for a robust 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.
Rev. Irene Monroe can be heard on the podcast and standing Boston Public Radio segment ALL REV’D UP on WGBH (89.7 FM). Monroe’s syndicated religion columns appear and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail. She is a s a Visiting Researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University School of Theology.