So far, the Trump Administration has faced heavy controversy in the past six months. Marches and riots in the streets seem to be a never ending opposition to the administration, but the most controversy has many people from all walks of life engaging in a heated, somewhat moral debate—should transgender people be allowed to serve in the United States military?
The United States government is no stranger to having their say in who and who cannot serve in the military, based entirely off of sexuality alone. In 1950, former President Harry Truman signed the Uniform Code of Military Justice into action, which discharged homosexual active serving members from the military. Then, in 1982, President Ronald Reagan stated that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service” and that those who are homosexual, were to be discharged.
Under former President Bill Clinton’s administration, in 1994 the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, the DADT, was instated. The DADT essentially went something like this: military applicants were not to be asked of their sexuality, and conversely military personnel were not to know of or participate in any homosexual activity. Some saw the DADT as a compromise compared to the previous stance the government took, but it was only recently that these policies started to get contested.
During his first campaign, former President Barack Obama promised to repeal the DADT, and in 2011, the DADT was finally repealed. In a statement issued from the White House, the Obama administration stated, “Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.” Many praised the administration for allowing those who are homosexual to serve in the military, but some questioned whether or not this would extend to the transgender community as well. Many wondered how the new Trump administration would deal with these issues.
As of July 1, 2017, Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, pushed back the date in which would allow transgender applicants by six months, in trying to find a way to please both the military branches themselves, as well as ensuring a safe environment for all parties involved. This left many wondering about the future of transgender people in the military at all. President Trump, this past Wednesday took to his personal Twitter account to answer this question.
President Trump stated in a series of tweets on July 26th, the following: “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.”
President Trump, no stranger to controversy himself, and perhaps most notably on his infamous personal Twitter handle, sparked a heated debate that brought forth opinions from all across America. Many from the LGBT community felt personally attacked by the administration, with some believing to be a set back after previously making headway into what they felt were great strides towards equality. It is worth noting, that the military currently employs 15,500 transgender people, with 8,800 of those members being active duty military members, according to the Human Rights Campaign. This would make the United States Military the largest single employer of transgender people in the US.
Celebrities have also come out in defense of the community, with Caitlyn Jenner (who transitioned within the past few years), stating, “There are 15,000 patriotic transgender Americans in the US military fighting for all of us. What happened to your promise to fight for them?” Other celebrities Alyssa Milano, Andy Cohen, George Takei, Sam Smith, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and more have also shared there thoughts on the platform.
Despite this, it should be noted that there are many view points on this current issue. One of the most important views comes from those who have and who are served in the military. Drill Instructor John Burk, who previously served two tours in the United States Army, recently provided his opinion on the matter. Burk stated in an Instagram post, “The military serves as a fighting force that guards the nation and does not need to be burdened with the extreme changes it would be required to undergo to accommodate such a small demographic.” Burk further goes on to state in a later post that “the military is a stressful environment…a whole slew of things can ban you from [the military].”
Burk’s opinions are shared by current US Energy secretary, Rick Perry, who stated, “I totally support the president in his decision. The idea that the American people need to be paying for these types of operations to change your sex is not very wise from a standpoint of economics. I think the president makes some good decisions about making sure that we have a force that’s capable.” Presidential aide Sebastian Gorka states the move shows the president’s “warmth.”
Taking all points into consideration, this is not a completely black and white issue. The military does provide care and medical services to its members, so is it right for the American people to bear the costs? Alternatively, is it right to ban those who are willing and able to serve from fulfilling their hope and aspiration to serve in the military? It is hard to find a middle ground or a common space on the issue, but what can be said definitively is that this is a debate with no clear winner at the end.