On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman took a major step forward in the struggle for equality in the United States by issuing Executive Order 9981 that abolished racial discrimination in the Armed Forces and eventually led to the end of segregation in the services.
On July 26, 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced — via Twitter, of course — that transgender people will be banned from serving in the military in any capacity, reversing a President Obama administration policy that supported and allowed transgender troops to serve openly.
See where we’re going with this? Backward.
Trump’s latest blatant effort to undo anything associated with his predecessor directly will affect an estimated 7,500 to 15,000 transgender troops already serving and countless others who were considering service. The Commander-in-Chief is using the need of the military to focus on “decisive and overwhelming victory” and the “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail” as cover for his actions.
No supporting data or details were offered and the Pentagon, caught off guard by the announcement, scrambled to provide answers. Proponents of the ban as well as Trump’s base of support were buoyed by the news.
Support for the rights of the LGBTQ community on this issue, however, has been resounding. From U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to the American Civil Liberties Union, the question is being asked, “Why shouldn’t any citizen who wants to fight for those rights be allowed to serve in a volunteer military?”
The ban would remove the U.S. from a list of 18 other nations – mostly allies – that allow trans military personnel. They apparently are focused on their forces’ lethality — not gender. Oh, and a Defense Department-commissioned report estimated annual medical support for trans personnel to be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million. By comparison, the Washington Post, citing an analysis by the Military Times, reports that the military spends $84 million annually on erectile dysfunction medicines.
Transgender expert Abbie Goldberg, professor of psychology at Clark University, told Fox News “no one wins under Trump’s plan.”
“Some people will not serve, which is a loss to the military and the country,” Goldberg said. “Others will serve, but not openly, and thus they will be at risk for discharge or verbal, physical and sexual abuse.”
What is certain, however, is that America definitely loses. This administration’s quest to “otherize” those who apparently are not capable of making America great again rolls on. Technically, that would be rolls back, to a simpler, less enlightened time.
G.E. Branch III is the Online Editor for Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.