In just two days, the Trump Administration will begin discharging thousands of transgender troops from the armed forces, declaring them “disqualified for service”. In a series of July, 2017 Tweets that took the Pentagon by surprise, Trump asserted that transgender soldiers and sailors were a “burden” on military operations, and would no longer be permitted to serve in “any capacity”. That statement rapidly became policy, and the proposed ban survived several court challenges, clearing the way for its implementation. Of course, there’s a caveat: according to Pentagon Directive 19–004, trans troops can continue wearing the uniform, but only if they serve in their biological sex, not their authentic gender identity. Those diagnosed, the Defense Department orders, with “gender dysphoria”, after Friday, will not be retained, nor can those who have transitioned, are taking hormone therapy, or express their true gender identity, enlist.
The White House posits that trans soldiers and sailors can serve “like everybody else” as their “biological sex”, which presents the same dilemma all LGBTQ troops had to face before President Obama ended the ban on gays and lesbians in the military nine years ago: live a lie and stay in the military, or live your truth and be drummed out. Citing cost and “mental health issues” as justification for extirpating these troops from the military, Trump feels comfortable in his ongoing depredations against groups of vulnerable people who cannot readily fight back. As for that “mental health” canard, one of the oldest, most respected groups in psychology says, “hogwash”. That would be the American Psychological Association (APA), which sent out a strongly worded press release yesterday, opposing the ban and debunking Trump’s claims that trans troops “undermine military readiness” (incidentally, that’s the same argument used to keep gay people out of the Army).
The APA points out that “there is no scientific evidence of [trans troops’] adverse impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale”, and makes the case that transgender soldiers, sailors, and aviators have thus far performed their jobs just fine. Moreover, the association points out that “gender dysphoria is a treatable condition”, often therapeutically addressed with transition, rendering the government’s hyperbole both circular and misleading. Indeed, when Obama reversed the previous ban on transgender service — which was separate from Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell — in 2016, gender identity was thought to have ceased being an obstacle to defending our country. The election of President Trump, however, changed all that.
Trump stopped open enlistment for transgender individuals, and quickly leapt onto social media to make policy-by-Tweet. He felt emboldened to do this because he knew it was red meat for his base, and because marginalized groups like trans troops have little recourse in a society that understands little about them and is blissful in its willful ignorance. Trump sees the workings of transphobic hatred in America — laws dictating which restrooms trans people may use regardless of actual gender identity, and legislation making it legal for professionals like doctors or nurses to refuse treatment to LGBTQ patients, if their religious beliefs prohibit it — and he knows an easy target is in his crosshairs. When venerable organizations like the APA repeatedly declare their opposition to a clearly discriminatory, bigoted policy, however, it’s plainly apparent that such policies are wrong.
It was not a question when these troops signed up to go into harm’s way on our behalf, fighting for a country and government that now refuses their best interests, but when hasn’t this been the case? Gays and lesbians served a country that routinely jailed them for who they loved; likewise Black soldiers and sailors endured a segregated service until after World War II, and still defended Jim Crow’s America even after President Truman integrated the military in 1948. Now, Trump is rolling things back, shaming our country and our military by casting out those who willingly chose to do something Trump himself refused to do as a young, straight man. The trans men and women who enlisted when most Americans wouldn’t, are being dealt the harshest of injustices, and the APA should be examining the Commander-In-Chief’s mental health. His hatred and cruelty certainly argue for its necessity.