On July 26th, 2017, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he will reinstate a ban on transgender people from serving in the United States military. This message fell 69 years, to the day, of President Truman’s order that desegregated our military. In Trump’s posts, he stated that these soldiers burdened the military with “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” LGBTQ groups are bitter about this move, considered a step backwards in the quest for civil liberties. According to a 2016 study, there are somewhere between 1,320 and 6,630 of the 1.3 million active duty service members that may be transgender. Annual transgender medical costs roughly equates to a thousandth of 1 percent of the Defense Department’s annual budget. As active duty soldiers question their futures, many are speaking out against the proposed ban.
Transgender veterans are infuriated by the news. Kristin Beck, a Navy SEAL Team Six hero, was deployed 13 times over the course of two decades as Christopher Beck. A decorated soldier and recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, Beck states she “defended for Republicans…for Democrats…for everyone.” When hearing of the President’s decision, she said “Let’s meet face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy.” Beck, who describes her fight with gender identity in her memoir Warrior Princess, is a respected war hero who devoted 20 years of her life to keeping America safe.
Shane Ortega, the US Army’s first openly transgender soldier, recently spoke to Bustle. He fumed that Trump does not “get to decide the right and ability to thrive for different groups of people, especially people who are dedicating their lives to the protection of the United States.” Retired Sgt. Ortega served as a helicopter crew chief for three combat tours- two as a woman and one as a man. He states that many soldiers are panicking about the news, feeling abandoned by the country they have given their lives for.
Jennifer Pritzker, retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army and billionaire heiress, announced in 2013 she was transgender. A Trump supporter and staunch Republican, Pritzker was saddened by the President’s tweets. Referencing research, Pritzker argues that transgender soldiers do not hinder combat readiness or morale. She feels that transgender soldiers have made an “enormous personal sacrifice to serve their country by subordinating their personal identities to service our nation.”
Actively serving transgender soldiers are trying to determine what this means for them-their job, their benefits, and the type of discharge they will eventually receive. John McCain released a statement that the Department of Defense “has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today.” As the government figures out what exactly the policy changes mean, trans individuals are wary of what the future holds. Transgender people, military and civilian alike, will fight the ban. They agree with Kristin Beck, who asserts that “diversity makes us stronger and diversity is what we need.”