Transgender Troops Allowed to Serve

Citizens fight for transgender people’s rights to serve in the military during a protest in Washington D.C.. Protests broke out nationwide in response to President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban last July.

Many residents of the U.S. look forward to serving their country. It is their chance to give back to the country that gave them freedom and opportunity. However, this hasn’t always been a reality for transgender individuals.

President Donald Trump announced through a series of tweets last July that transgender troops could not serve in the U.S. military because of the “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [people] in the military would entail.”

President Trump went on to tweet, “The United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in the military in any capacity. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened.”

Many Americans were outraged by President Trump’s tweets.

“For the President to deny an able-bodied, fully qualified person the inherent right to serve their country, potentially giving their own life for our freedoms, is doing this country an injustice,” transgender Air Force staff sergeant Logan Ireland told People Magazine.

Despite the controversy, the Pentagon is now allowing transgender people to enlist in the military. The policy was reversed on Jan. 1, 2018, because of the difficulty of enforcing the ban.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly blocked the Trump administration on Oct. 30, 2017, from enforcing its ban on transgender troops in the Doe v. Trump case. The case was brought forward by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders who challenged President Trump’s directive.

Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the plaintiffs’ claims were “highly suggestive of a constitutional violation,” as the president’s directive “punish[es] individuals for failing to adhere to gender stereotypes.”

Transgender individuals across the country celebrated this ruling as a victory.

“I absolutely know this is a step in the right direction for the transgender community and for our military,” Ireland said. “We are an all-volunteer military and we need to welcome every able bodied, qualified person who wants to serve.”

Starting January 2018, transgender troops are allowed to go by their preferred gender identity as long as they have documentation such as an updated passport or birth certificate.

Troops “will be addressed by their preferred gender name and pronoun,” according to a memo released by the Pentagon.

A transgender soldier’s room assignment, physical requirements, and medical testing will be based on their preferred gender identity. One’s physical transition status will not be a deciding factor.

“As always every applicant will be treated with dignity and respect,” Captain David Kemp, head of U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command, wrote in the memo.

However, transgender soldiers who have not undergone physical changes will still be required to wear the opposite gender undergarments and have the medical exam specific to their biological sex. Transgender men who are in the process of transitioning will also be required to take a pregnancy test to ensure they are not pregnant while serving.

Additionally, any soldier who has undergone sexual reassignment surgery or begun their physical transition will need to provide certification from a medical examiner showing they have been physically and mentally stable for the last 18 months.

Applicants who do not identify within the gender binary will be designated by their biological sex.

While many binary transgender people are now being accepted by the military, non-binary people are still disregarded.

“Ignoring [non-binary people] is a blow to the trans community,” junior and Pride Club leader Noah Rice said. “[At least] it shows that they are progressing with the trans binary so eventually we can work towards [non-binary acceptance.] It’s just unfortunate that it couldn’t happen today.”

Since the ban has been lifted, transgender individuals who have been unable to apply can now do so.

“All I’m waiting for now is a phone call back from my recruiter,” Nicolas Talbott, a transgender recruit who has been waiting to join the Air Force for almost two years, said.

While Rice acknowledges the military’s progress on LGBT issues, they also know that there is more work to be done.

“The LGBT community is certainly a fierce force that likes to be outspoken and they will be happy about these [changes],” Rice said. “While people might be celebrating, I don’t think it’s a time to rest, it’s more of a time to be looking for what is next.”


Photo By: Ted Eytan

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